B2B sales is a dynamic and data-driven discipline. To stay competitive, sales teams must employ a modern, web-integrated approach to selling. Teams operating without an e-commerce site are finding themselves overworked and uninformed in comparison to their web-enabled competition. Just as a great online experience can strengthen your customer relationships, that e-commerce platform can also give your sales team an edge on understanding and serving your customers. There are two key challenges that an e-commerce site helps sales teams overcome: achieving the right amount of contact and developing a deeper understanding of your customers’ needs.
Challenge - The Amount and Timing of Communication
Conventionally, sales reps must routinely call accounts to maintain relationships and identify customer needs. This entails reps building schedules around check-ins with the customer with little rhyme or reason beyond maintaining consistent contact. Unfortunately for both rep and customer, unsolicited calls run the risk of burning time, as they often do not correspond with client needs. In addition to time lost for both rep and customer during fruitless calls, reps can inadvertently weaken their relationship with customers due to excessive contact. For example, on a project with a large client, my team discovered that the client’s sales force had to maintain a call quota each month in order to stay employed. Exhaustive call tactics like this can undermine reps’ relationships with the client and supplant opportunities for more effective strategies.
Challenge - Understanding Customer Needs
For sales teams who work without an e-commerce site, calling customers is often the main avenue for identifying customer needs. Calls, however, can be an inefficient tool for eliciting customer needs. For reps, the drawback of gathering intel via the phone is the ratio of bandwidth expended to the relatively inconsistent information gained. Without indirect methods of gathering data on customer needs, reps are pigeon-holed into boosting the bottom line by conducting as many calls as possible—rather than making limited, targeted calls based on data. When reps are empowered to identify client needs prior to having a conversation with them, sales efforts are more targeted, seamless, and fruitful—this scenario is frequently made possible through client insights harvested on e-commerce sites.
Ecommerce Empowers Your Reps
E-commerce sites empower reps by providing valuable information on customers—information gathered unobtrusively and cheaply. Customer actions are data that the system can compile into profiles. These profiles provide reps with insight into customer needs, intentions, and habits. As customer data accumulates, the site can monitor for signals that are leverageable by the sales team. For example, a customer with an abandoned cart is an ideal candidate for contact from a rep. An e-commerce site can notify sales reps the moment customers display behavior that signals a need for rep assistance.
As an e-commerce site gathers data on customers, customer profiles become an increasingly reliable tool for reps. When sales teams have a clear picture of a customer’s habits, they have a barometer for understanding whether an account is at-risk based on changes in behavior. The advantages of identifying customer needs through an e-commerce site rather than via numerous exploratory calls manifest in reps’ experience of greater efficiency, eased workflow, and clarity of signal from customers.
Delight The Modern B2B Buyer
An e-commerce site provides customers with a way of making purchases and performing research without contacting a rep, thereby simplifying account management. As companies are increasingly inundated with a millennial workforce, there is a significant share of B2B procurement personnel who would rather order online than by phone. For the share of customers who would gladly purchase online, an e-commerce site is a simple and effective method for returning bandwidth to sales teams. As reps gain bandwidth, they can devote more attention to incisively managing at-risk accounts and attending customers who truly need one-on-one assistance.
Often, it is simpler for a customer to signal their needs through behaviors on a website, rather than directly via phone. As sales teams navigate data driven markets, an e-commerce site is an indispensable tool for simplifying account management and fostering strong relationships with customers.