eCommerce, a disruptive force for years in the B2C space, is now seeing massive traction in B2B markets as well. It's not hard to see why—many of the benefits that have driven consumers to eCommerce channels also exist for business purchasers, just at a larger scale. Convenience, personalization, and accessibility are all reasons B2B buyers are seeking eCommerce buying experiences (we cover many of the reasons in this post). Yet, even though eCommerce offers a better experience for buyers and a more significant opportunity for sellers, many B2B selling organizations remain on the fence about implementing eCommerce channels.
Why, you ask? Surprisingly (or maybe not), most of the resistance for launching a B2B eCommerce channel arises internally. The decision to go against a B2B eCommerce channel rarely considers the benefit to the customer and business. It frequently comes down to the sales department's objections because they view B2B sales as a zero-sum game. They believe the sales attributed to eCommerce channels will simply cannibalize existing sales traffic and hurt quotas and commissions.
However, the data indicates otherwise. When properly implemented, B2B eCommerce channels improve sales outcomes, drive additional sales, increase order size, and deliver greater customer loyalty, which, in turn, drives word of mouth traffic and more sales. If your B2B business is considering implementing an eCommerce sales channel, read on to see how you can ensure success by championing adoption internally. After all, your customers may love it—but if you can't get your sales team on board, your eCommerce channel won’t achieve its full potential.
For sales teams, allowing B2B customers to conduct purchases online can strike fear in their hearts. After all, they've traditionally placed the sales process in the hands of reps who can handhold the prospect through the buying process. But what if we told you that B2B sales completed through eCommerce channels offer an opportunity to increase conversion rates and order value within your market?
First of all, it's important to remember that an eCommerce channel is a tool at your sales team's disposal rather than a competing sales channel. By offering eCommerce options to your B2B buyers, you can:
complete sales and orders outside of regular business hours
provide a personalized buying experience that is automated
complete orders in the field with a sales portal
B2B sellers who are finding the most success are mobilizing their sales teams as hybrid agents who help close sales and convert leads through traditional channels while also helping guide eCommerce customers through the platform, answering technical or pricing questions. Having sales agents on hand to help prospects navigate their digital experience or submit orders on behalf of the customer can drive channel loyalty, boost conversion, and grow confidence in the eCommerce channel, both internally and externally.
According to research from Forrester, "68% of B2B buyers prefer doing business online versus with a salesperson, and when they engage with sales, they want that experience to be in a more problem-solving, consultative manner". Rather than having your sales team act as order takers, free them up to focus on the problem-solving aspect of their role – helping your customers with meatier questions about which products are right for them or engineering custom solutions to help them solve complex issues. If closing the sale can be done through eCommerce channels, the labor involved in the B2B sales process can be focused on strengthening customer relationships and adding additional value.
Show sales reps the money
One best practice for getting sales agents to help with this process? Show them the money! Instead of positioning the eCommerce channel as an either/or proposition with salespeople, create a commission structure that gives sales agents credit for sales submitted for their accounts via digital channels. eCommerce should be a tool for salespeople (or their customers) to process orders more quickly and more efficiently than before—not only will salespeople earn commissions for sales closed through digital channels—they'll earn more of them.
eCommerce channels also offer opportunities to automate pricing negotiations, upsells, and contract terms throughout the digital experience, leading to increases in average order size or customer lifetime value—all without expending any human capital.
Best practices for B2B eCommerce for sales organizations
Enable salespeople to train buyers in digital order submission and place orders themselves on the back-end
Compensate salespeople for sales closed via eCommerce channels
Build automation into your eCommerce platform—upsell and cross-sell recommendations, personalized pricing, loyalty programs, etc.
eCommerce has already transformed expectations around the buying process and purchaser behavior—and as a result, B2B businesses need to adapt quickly—not only to meet consumer expectations but to ensure their sales organizations are focused on driving maximum value for the company. By creating a holistic sales approach, where eCommerce channels are a critical player with a strong supporting cast, businesses can build stronger relationships with customers, provide employees with more rewarding, high-value work, and reduce the overhead that goes into the sales process—a solution that benefits everyone.
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