Forrester has estimated that about a million B2B sales representatives will lose their jobs by 2025 due to rise in the digitisation of business processes. Now, with the coronavirus outbreak in 2020, jobs in all the industries have suffered and there is a growing importance of online B2B ordering system to optimise current sales rep's productivity and efficiency in many organisations.
Given the rise of B2B e-Commerce, is this the end of the B2B salesman? As per the industry trends and increasing demand of B2B e-Commerce, on-site order-takers are already becoming redundant. But, it has a brighter side too. While e-Commerce will do most of the hard-work of capturing the orders, sales representatives can focus on better things to grow business which is not possible with online portals; building relationships and help the wholesale customers becomes successful.
This is the IBM Pollyanna Principle, and has its most importance now-a-days. Gradually, we are creating a world of complete automation. Problems occur when machines fail to work and people fail to think. B2B e-Commerce and field sales can co-exist, all we need is to think better because most of the hard work is taken care of by the B2B ordering software. At Edistera, we have worked and thought it through on the co-existence of the field sales team with your B2B e-Commerce platform. Let’s put some light on it.
A good B2B e-Commerce platform can automate most of the processes, but at the end of the day, it is the people who are dealing with the people. We always insist that B2B commerce is relationship driven so human interaction is a must.
Sales representatives can advise retailers or wholesale customers to boost their sales, increase customer retention, and adjust with the industry trends. A study stated that 81% B2B buyers are ready to pay a higher price if the supplier has a powerful e-Commerce platform and great customer support system. After all, who doesn’t want to work with someone offering absolute transparency and ease of doing business? However, these people give equal prominence to the sales representatives for advice.
In a survey taken in October 2020 among 1200 B2B buyers, 94% expressed that sales representatives improve the online B2B buying experience; and 69% admitted that online purchase was very difficult as a lot of queries were unanswered without the assistance of sales representatives.
Above points become more relevant because 43% faced difficulty in buying from brand because of the inconsistency in the product description and comparative analysis with the competition in the market; 59% couldn’t understand from the online description how the product fits their business; and 57% expressed that comparison between the products and their prices as well as variants is very difficult.
Another aspect of field sales benefit is that they can make retailers or wholesale customers comfortable doing bulk transactions. Most of the B2B transactions are huge; human interaction just increases the trust.
There are two channels that drive the sales growth for B2B companies:
Omni-channel is the best way for any B2B commerce company to make profits and grow. But, there can be no pull, if there is no push. Even if you manage some pull without push, it is anyway for small deals.
"Push" B2B channel is driven by consulting, strategic sales conversations. You are educating your wholesale customers about new products being introduced; how they should merchandise; how they should market and sell it to consumers. Your goal is to help your wholesale customers in making the decision of bulk purchase that involves committing inventory risk on your brand for the upcoming season. Push channel also involves regular training of the B2B buyers by the field sales reps to ensure that they stay interested in the product(s).
"Pull" B2B channel is driven by interactions initiated by the wholesale customers, which could potentially be served through a low-touch process that doesn’t involve sales reps. E.g. small re-orders for single items that have gone out of stock, or standing, regular re-orders for evergreen product that turns over constantly.
You could be processing these high-volume, low-stakes orders with B2B ordering software to free up your sales reps to spend time on more strategic activities in the “push” channel and new customer acquisitions. In this way, you can leverage both technology and sales team to create omni-channel strategy which will set you apart from your competition and also create great customer experience for higher order retention.
As of now, you must have understood that the sales representatives are not losing their jobs. It is just that their role is changing in this new era of digital distribution. Those who won’t adjust to this change might actually lose the job. Hence, demand for more of them will rise in the industry.
Now, the sales representatives are expected to function as advisors and consultants not order takers. As software will save time doing all that routine order-taking and management work, they will have more time to acquire and consult wholesale customers, building relationships; eventually make them successful.
Anyway, this is not very relevant because nobody becomes a sales representative just to take orders and fill them in the system. Sales reps are finally freed from menial work to become the true partners they want to be, customers get genuine insights that help improve their business, and the brand gets an optimised “pull” channel that delivers always-on efficiency around that consistent flow of orders. Now is the right time for the people in sales, as they finally will get to do what they are really supposed to do.