A Forrester report entitled ‘Death of a (B2B) Salesman, recently predicted that a million b2b salespeople will lose their jobs by 2020. Its focus was around the growth of b2b ecommerce and how traditional order-takers would be hit hardest by a continually improving online customer experience.
But behind the report’s doom-mongering headline, there’s an important message about the increasing requirement for sales ‘consultants’ – the people who have extensive knowledge about the customer’s company and can help buyers understand what and when they need to be purchasing.
This potential shift in the roles, where the sales team focus more on becoming valued customer advisers, could be an essential part of developing a successful omnichannel approach. It’s not difficult to imagine – b2b has always been relationship-driven and salespeople have always been key decision-influencers, particularly for larger purchases. And there’s a big difference between these ‘push’ deals and the smaller ‘pull’ deals, including re-orders, where the buyer is driving the process.
A ‘push’ b2b channel is driven by consultative, strategic sales conversations where the goal is to help buyers through high-stakes purchase decisions. On the other hand, a ‘pull’ B2B channel is driven by lower-stakes, high volume interactions, which could be served just as well with technology. So for many b2b companies, there’s a great opportunity to leverage the value of both the sales team and technology to improve all-round customer experience.
Companies need to minimise the time spent on order-entry to maximise the time for consultative selling, which, at the same time, can add long-term customer value. For example, a mobile-optimised ecommerce platform integrated with core business systems speeds up and simplifies order-entry, while supporting salespeople with data-driven insights such as real-time stock levels and a clear view of the current status of customer relationships. In short, technology should enable salespeople to focus on selling the right products to the right customers.
By adopting a true omnichannel approach to b2b that includes ecommerce and mobile, salespeople can concentrate on building meaningful customer relationships where they can add real value, while the company benefits from a streamlined ‘pull’ channel that delivers 24/7 efficiency and a constant order flow.