Insights & advice

B2B eCommerce: Death of a Salesman?

Tempted to launch a B2B eCommerce site, but concerned it could negatively impact your existing sales team or muddy the waters with customers? While there’s been much debate about how eCommerce sites will negate the role of the traditional B2B sales rep, there’s also reason to believe the integrating a B2B eCommerce well into your current business processes can reap rewards for both your business and sales team, enabling them to focus on drive more strategic revenue and deliver a better overall customer experience.

Understanding Buyer Needs

Behaviours of business buyers are changing. Now more than ever, they’re expecting the ease-of-service sales processes that B2C buyers already have with online shopping. It’s a trend that’s left some wondering if sales reps would become redundant altogether

A 2019 survey by Forrester Research  shows that 68 per cent of B2B buyers prefer doing business online versus with a salesperson and 44% of businesses say that eCommerce sites “influence at least half of their offline purchases.” According to the insight, however, when they do engage with a sales representative, they prefer the experience to be more strategic, problem-solving and consultative.

What does this mean for your sales team?

Easing The Admin Overhead

Implemented correctly, your B2B eCommerce site and operations should be unburdened with a number of routine administrative tasks that chew up time (and money.)  For example, many companies rely on their sales teams to manage re-orders, check order statuses, update customer information and details, generally a host of tasks that take up time that’s better spent cultivating new business or developing more strategic partnerships with current customers.

Moving these chores to an online channel allows the customer to self-service and get what they need when it suits them.

Can both a sales team and B2B eCommerce operation co-exist?

Integrating Sales & eCommerce Technology

B2B companies taking the approach of deploying a site to cut back or replace staff are at risk of crippling their sales strategies. Likewise, believing that an online portal will weaken relationships with your customers and remove the personalised service aspect of your sales strategy could be short-sighted.

Here’s the thing, it’s not a one-or-the-other scenario. Both should co-exist and if done properly, they’ll mutually benefit. The trick is educating your sales team on how they can best utilise an eCommerce site, particularly the data it provides, to develop better insight into their customer’s needs.

Using an eCommerce platform allows insight into customer behaviours, enabling your sales team to provide data-driven product suggestions, taking the guesswork out of what your client might like and allowing your team to know exactly what they need based on their purchase history and what they’ve viewed online. Furthermore, having an online catalogue encourages browsing (24×7), something that could generate interest in a new product.

According to a recent report from McKinsey & Company, 76% of B2B buyers “find it helpful to speak to a salesperson when they are researching a new product or service,” but only 4% of buyers never want to speak to a salesperson, preferring to make all their purchases online. When it comes to the re-ordering of products, customers are happy to do that online. But new product suggestions or a particularly complex transaction is still a prime opportunity for your team. Ultimately, having an eCommerce capability frees up your team to focus on what they do best, finding new customers and upselling current ones.

Sales teams for B2B companies have little to fear from implementing an eCommerce platform, particularly those willing to think strategically. Ultimately, using a B2B eCommerce site should supercharge your business and level up your sales teams, making them more focused, effective, and efficient.


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