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The buying behavior of B2B customers has changed. They go online to compare prices across various organizations, expect their sellers to be able to instantly provide answers to their questions and can easily pick a vendor without even speaking to a salesperson.The B2B buyer now expects the same level of service and experience B2C consumers get. In order to boost sales, B2B companies will need to address these changes in buyer expectations.

Customers Went Online: Did You?

By 2020, 85% of customers are said to maintain business relationships without any personal interaction. About 75% of B2B customers consider buying online particularly convenient while 93% prefer buying via a website over purchasing from a sales rep. To improve B2B commerce sales and stay competitive, traditional brick-and-mortar stores will need to establish  an eCommerce presence to satisfy today’s business buyer. But in addition to adding an eCommerce presence, businesses should also look at evolving the role of a salesperson.

The B2B eCommerce Salesman Is Dead… Long Live the B2B eCommerce Salesman!

Per Forrester’s provocative forecast, by 2020, more than 1 million of B2B salespeople may lose their jobs to self-service eCommerce. Self-service sites do indeed minimize engagement of an order-taking sales team into the selling process. But the new technologies question the role of a salesman in B2B commerce only to make them transform. As businesses moves online, B2B commerce sales teams need to shift their focus from being sales-centric to being buyer-centric. A buyer-centric focus would include:

  • Having extensive knowledge on the customer’s business to clearly understand what they are looking to acquire.
  • Becoming an authentic strategic partners to their customers.
  • Nurturing long lasting relationships to add real value to the customer.
  • Possessing multiple social selling skills.
  • Effectively acting on data and online buying signals.
  • Aligning Sales with the Marketing team.
  • Using content to facilitate the “close”.
  • Solving customer problems instead of just focusing on the sales presentation.

Spend Less Time Inputting Data and More Time Analyzing It  

Instead of investing their time and effort into manual collection of data and data entry, B2B eCommerce sales team can work on building stronger relationships with their customers. It is clear that knowing their buyer’s intent to purchase is a nugget for a salesperson, but at times identifying that true intent is also the most challenging task. So why not leave the tedious work of collecting all the information about a customer to business apps? Salespeople can focus on something that machines will never take away from them – communication and creativity in sales. But, of course, to be able to do so the sales personnel should have access to all relevant customer data to analyze and glean insights from.

Use of Social Selling to Accelerate Sales

The evolution of the business buyer certainly does not just influence the sales strategies. It should be a wake up call for marketing executives too. On average an outbound marketing specialist will have to make at least 18 dials to get one meaningful conversation with a prospect and send out 5 emails to get just 1 opened. Businesses need to revise both where they invest their marketing dollars and how their salespeople connect with their prospects.

The research shows that nowadays 82% of buyers state their purchase decision has been significantly affected by a vendor’s social content and about 84% use referrals and peer recommendations to verify their decision. Obviously on the back of that state of play social selling has become a huge trend. Not only sales representatives need to engage with their customers on social and leverage the insights they get in their pitches, but also marketing teams need to make sure that corporate profiles and company’s social content makes it easier for the sales team to earn customers’ trust. At the end of the day this is the ultimate goal of b2b marketing – acceleration of the sales pipeline.

The Bottomline

With the rise of online technologies and evolution of a business customer, the role of sales in B2B commerce have changed. B2B customers are moving online meaning that to be able to keep the clientele, businesses need to treat their digital transformation strategy seriously.
Gone are the days when sales teams simply took orders. It’s now all about leveraging information from data-rich technologies (like eCommerce, ERP and CRM) to help facilitate the close of a deal. Today, sales reps are expected to have more strategic conversations with customers and act more like an advisor/consultant rather than a product pitcher. Smart use of customer data eCommerce and CRM systems combined provide, enables a new generation of B2B commerce sales reps to foster relationships with their clients and excel at delivering positive customer experience.