Categories: Founder's Blog


Sam Bayer



Reviving the Dying B2B Salesperson: 7 Steps

It’s been over a year since Forrester’s Andy Hoar first forecast the upcoming Death of the B2B salesperson.  Last October I weighed in on the topic with my blog entitled “Will B2B eCommerce be the Death of the Salesman?”.  My view was, and still is, that Corevist continues to see qualified signs of the demise of Salespeople in our client base.  The big losers are those salespeople who represent relatively simple products that are easily purchased and serviced on our SAP Integrated B2B eCommerce website.  The survivors are those salespeople who make a living by offering their expertise and support beyond facilitating orders, especially for those of our clients who have more complicated products or are trying to introduce new products to the channel.

What I didn’t do in that blog, but I’d like to do today, is offer 7 concrete steps that we’ve seen our clients execute that have offered their dying B2B salespeople a career lifeline.  There is no doubt that the B2B Salesperson is going to have to evolve.  However, no one has offered any advice on how best to help them evolve…until today.

Today  I’m going to provide a roadmap…or at least a context within which…to make that happen.  I appreciate the fact that some of these steps are only available if you use Corevist’s  Agile Project Implementation Process, but I’m sure you can figure out a way to adapt them to your organization.

To begin with, our overall philosophy is anchored in our experience that all of our successful projects were actually driven by the sales force.  They weren’t just motivated and  initiated by the salesforce, they were driven by the salesforce.  Having sales initiate the project was necessary, but not sufficient in insuring a successful project outcome.   The sales force had to be there throughout, from start to launch of the B2B eCommerce website and through it’s ongoing evolution. However, most sales people aren’t techno-literate enough to allow them to feel comfortable throughout the overall implementation of such a complicated stack of technologies.  So after levying the initial “we need to get on the web!” battle cry, how do we keep them engaged?

It’s actually quite easy.

Make sure you give them things to do that they understand how to do, enjoy doing and get positive feedback for doing.  Oh, and make sure you respect their time because they will be quick to tell you that for every hour that they spend on an “IT project” that’s one hour less that they have to be doing their real job of selling!

Here are the basics of our plan:

  1. Invite them to the Project Initiation Workshop to help set the project’s priorities and strategy.  There is no better surrogate for your customers in your organization than members of your sales staff.   They love espousing the importance of customers, their increasing demands of the business (better prices, delivery times etc.) and the challenges imposed by the competition.  Give them a forum at the workshop.
  2. Treat them like a customer and invite representatives of the sales force to be panelists at your first Focus Group.  Sales people often set the lowest common denominator for ease of use and are quick to criticize complexity.  That’s a good thing for these projects!  Besides, once they attend one of these Focus Groups, transference of ownership of the project from IT to the business is well on it’s way.  It’s their project now!
  3. Transition them into recruiters of their customers for the remaining two Focus Groups of the project.  Don’t ever get in between a Salesperson and her customer.  Harness that allegiance and if you can get them to recruit their customers to these Focus Groups, you’ve literally begun the rollout process of your B2B eCommerce project.
  4. Have them participate in the User Acceptance Testing of the website.  That sounds pretty formal but it doesn’t have to be.  Give them a userid to the website and tell them to spend an hour or two with it.  They’ll let you know if it’s ready for prime time and if it is, they’ve now become your best evangelist.
  5. Get them to shake down the production website the first week it is live by doing “real” work on behalf of their customers.  The best salespeople know their product.  If they truly understand and believe in their product, they will be unstoppable.  Your B2B eCommerce website is yet another product that your organization can differentiate itself with in the marketplace.  Let your salespeople place and service real orders in production from their smartphones and they are hooked!
  6. Pay them a bonus to help migrate their customers to the new website.  Set up a contest that publicly rewards and acknowledges the salesperson that exemplifies the archetype behavior that you want to have permeated throughout the organization.  It’s all about recognition and money.  Mostly recognition but don’t forget that salespeople are in it for the money.
  7. Continue to pay them a commission for orders placed through the website in their territory.  It’s all about the money.

If you get fallout anywhere along the way of executing these 7 steps, you can be sure of at least on of two things, if not both:

1) the chosen sale persons either don’t believe in the value of the B2B eCommerce initiative or
2) they aren’t cut out to participate in your organization’s digital journey.

Either way, you win.

If your salespeople make it through these 7 steps, you’re well on your way to a successful SAP Integrated B2B eCommerce project.  Congratulations!  If they drop out along the way, well…there is no reviving their careers in your organization and they indeed are destined to become one of Andy Hoar’s statistics.

Where are your salespeople on your B2B ecommerce initiative?