How Sales Leaders Optimize B2B Digital Commerce

Sales leaders should work with IT counterparts to ensure digital commerce initiatives are implemented for optimal results.

As an office furniture supplier, you sell 1,000 office chairs to a company that’s furnishing its headquarters. With proper investment and implementation in B2B digital commerce, facilities managers can search for the right chair that fits their exact needs, find accurate pricing for bulk purchases and submit an order. This channel enables customers to navigate the buying journey without being required to pick up a phone, write an email or visit a retail location. In combination, sales reps and the commerce site provide the best solution for customer needs.  

Often, B2B digital commerce initiatives are approached as a way to “digitize” IT and back-end processes, but these initiatives should not only embrace new possibilities through a new channel offering, but also maintain distinct differences from previously available channels.

“By 2018, companies that consumerize their B2B digital commerce sites will gain market share and see revenue increases up to 25%,” says Jason Daigler, director at Gartner.

Leverage B2C shopping experiences, such as personalization, live chats, ratings and reviews

Although an initiative can improve a customer’s experience and simplify the buying process for both buyers and partners, successful implementation requires understanding how customers make purchases. In addition, the change must be seen as beneficial to the customer and worthwhile to pursue a new way of doing business with your organization.

Building B2B digital commerce to address challenges

“Sales leaders working with their IT counterparts on B2B digital commerce initiatives must map out not only where they need to automate internal processes, but also how B2B digital commerce can augment and even transform customer relationships and process,” says Daigler.

Take into consideration how your commerce initiatives address:

  • Automation: Benefits achieved through the normal efficiencies of being online
  • Augmentation: The ability to offer additional functionality through an online channel
  • Transformation: New business processes enabled through the coupling of technology

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Be sure that your initiatives do not solely fall into one of these categories to best leverage B2B digital commerce. For example, with a B2B digital commerce site, sales teams and prospective customers can access real-time inventory information and detailed product specifications, both of which were previously unavailable. This can lead to a more informed sales force and a more confident and satisfied prospective buyer.

The digital business initiative can provide many benefits to your customers, such as real-time inventory counts, 24/7 access and order confirmation, but if not executed properly can cause challenges.

Hurdles to overcome as a sales leaders

First, an investment in digital commerce shouldn’t focus on automating an already developed process; rather, it should represent a shift in the way the organization supports its digital business. Be prepared — this channel may not be the only channel your sales teams uses, and most of the time it won’t replace another channel. Digital commerce sites are meant to integrate, support and complement other channels. You’re likely to have customers who cross over between self-serving online and working with a sales representative.

Set expectations with leadership that digital commerce sites’ return on investment may be hard to measure

Second, don’t let this new channel be seen as a threat to your sales teams. Your sales teams should be informed on how this site will enable their success, empower customers and provide pricing clarification. Sales teams should be involved in the planning of the site, and the site should be incorporated into their sales processes.

Lastly, set expectations with leadership that digital commerce sites’ return on investment may be hard to measure. With various channels available to the customer throughout the buying journey, your efforts online may not have direct revenue attribution. Focus instead on how improved customer experience and sales team productivity can positively impact total organizational performance.

Enhancing your customer’s relationship with your organization should be a priority. Be sure to avoid the mentality, “If we build it, they will come,” as an experience that comes off as harder or more work for your clients will not be well-received. Leverage B2C shopping experiences, such as personalization, live chats, ratings and reviews, to explore new ways to transform B2B business transactions.

Gartner for Sales Leaders can read more in Embrace the Possibilities and Distinct Characteristics of B2B Digital Commerce for Optimal Results by Jason Daigler, et al.

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