In their latest B2B Buyer Report, Avionos examines new trends in B2B buyer preferences and the role which B2B eCommerce and Sales reps play in meeting customer needs. The report centers on a survey of 150 B2B buyers in the US, and it examines the relationship between Sales reps and a self-service portal.
At Corevist, we’ve long recognized that for many manufacturers, Sales reps will always play a crucial role in a B2B eCommerce scenario, whether it’s acting as trusted advisors to customers, entering orders through a Field Sales Portal, or both.
But how does all this look in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic? Here are 3 keys to creating a great post-COVID-19 customer experience.
1. Empower your Sales reps to work remotely alongside self-service B2B eCommerce
Avionos does a great job of expressing the role which Sales reps should take in the B2B eCommerce age:
“Rather than spending time providing product information that should easily be found on an existing site, salespeople should shift to delivering personalized context to explain how a product will fit within a customer’s business and support long-term company goals.”
This is an intelligent way to reorient Sales around the value which only they can provide. As long as the B2B eCommerce site is providing critical features and functionality (see #3 below), Sales can transition to this value-adding role.
This reorientation of Sales is especially powerful in the post-COVID world. With manufacturers launching self-service B2B channels to help customers buy remotely, Sales has a crucial role to play in guiding customers into a “new normal” which still includes the manufacturer as a key supplier.
Sales working alongside B2B eCommerce isn’t a new idea. In fact, Corevist clients have practiced this for years before the pandemic, with great results. For more, check out this webinar: Getting Sales On Board With B2B eCommerce.
2. Empower your Sales reps to place orders remotely on behalf of customers
Of course, not every manufacturer can realistically transition fully to self-service order entry. In markets and cultures where personal relationships are key, customers may prefer to work with a Sales rep to place orders.
What does that process look like in the post-COVID world?
Flexibility is the key as you future-proof your sales process for “the new normal.” For manufacturers who will continue to rely on personal interaction in the sales process, it’s essential to equip your reps to place orders on behalf of customers from any device with an internet connection.
What do Sales reps need to do this successfully? Ideally, you should give them a portal solution which:
- Allows them to place orders on behalf their assigned customers, from home or the office, on any device.
- Enforces customer-specific business rules from SAP (pricing, inventory, etc.) when the Sales rep is building and placing an order for that customer.
- Displays full order history, order status, credit status, & more, in real time, for any account assigned to the Sales rep.
3. Make sure your B2B eCommerce solution isn’t adding friction to the buying process
If your Sales reps are going to play an advisory role, rather than reading off product information or personalized pricing data over the phone, then your B2B eCommerce solution must provide that information through self-service. Otherwise, Sales reps will continue to spend time providing that basic info, which can interfere with their new mission as consultative, personalized sellers.
Avionos’ B2B Buyer Report offers key insight here:
- When asked to name the biggest challenges they face in researching purchases, 59% of respondents cited unclear product specifications and configurations, while 39% claimed that inconsistent product information across different channels was causing confusion. (Note: This is why all Corevist solutions include prebuilt, real-time integration to SAP ERP—so customers get the same information in the B2B portal which they can get over the phone.)
- When asked to name the biggest pain points they face in B2B eCommerce, 57% of respondents cited the difficulty of finding and comparing products. (Note: This is why the Corevist Platform supports personalized catalogs/picklists for each customer, plus easy, intuitive product comparison.)
The key here is a B2B eCommerce solution which includes real-time integration to SAP ERP. If your ERP is the system of record for all business data, it stands to reason that the eCommerce channel should reflect ERP data and business rules in real time.
But not all integrations are created equal. Learn more here: Corevist’s 49 SAP Integration Points.
The Takeaway: Put the customer first and offer flexibility
As staff and customers continue to explore “the new normal,” manufacturers have a unique opportunity to step up to the plate and meet customers’ evolving needs for safe interaction. Ask your customers how they prefer to buy, and align your Sales staff and B2B web channel accordingly.