People, whether they're shopping as consumers on their own time or as purchasing agents for their company, have made it pretty clear what they expect from ecommerce: easy-to-find products, intuitive design, simple checkout, in short the “Amazon experience.”
Just as the role of the brick-and-mortar retail sales clerk has shifted in the internet age, the B2B salesperson has become a kind of “selling counselor.” Using the ecommerce site as the main channel between customer and company, today's successful B2B salespeople work on developing a deeper connection with customers. This is critical since B2B ecommerce relies on bigger orders from fewer customers than those on the B2C retail side.
In B2B it's not enough just to fill out forms for the customer's order, that's what a website does. It's more important for salespeople to be trained in how their customers' businesses work, their needs, and how the company's products or services can improve business for their customers.
With this knowledge they can become a trusted advisor, helping the customer's company with information about new products and driving sales through a cooperative, rather than confrontational approach. The argument that an enhanced ecommerce site will “steal away customers” from the salesperson is long over. Today's advanced sites allow the salesperson to advise, upsell and assist customers anywhere 24/7, making ecommerce sites the best sales tool of the 21st Century.
- Other keys to preparing your B2B ecommerce platform: Get Buy-in From the C-Suite on Down—To make an ecommerce platform successful means everyone is on board, knowing what the goals are and what needs to be done to make it all work. If the company's executives are sold on the plan, that makes it easier for everyone else.
- Develop Peer Support—How well do your salespeople understand the platform and the best ways customers can use it? Are they well versed in short-term KPI's and long-term strategy so they can use the platform as their own tool?
- Create Business Alignment—Shift from being a company with an ecommerce platform to making the platform the front door and entrance point for all of the company's products and services. The goal of seamless customer engagement crosses many boundaries, allowing buyers to choose how they want to manage their purchases. The effect is that whether online or offline, customers receive the same high-quality brand experience.
The time is now for B2B ecommerce to provide richer purchase journeys that deliver positive experiences for customers and higher sales for companies.
For more about ensuring the success of both on and off line sales, read Committing to Digital Transformation, 5 Critical Steps.