How much has the B2B sales experience changed in the past few years? Between technology advances and the impact of the pandemic, more buyers are researching and purchasing products and services online. And now that buyers are working from remote locations, sales reps need a B2B sales e‑commerce sales strategy to excel in the growing B2B e‑commerce industry. Here are a few steps you and your company can take to keep the pipeline full and revenue coming in.
B2B Sales Strategy for an E‑commerce World
McKinsey data shows that roughly 18% of all revenue for B2B companies comes through digital channels. In fact, e‑commerce ranks as one of the best revenue producing sales channels. Here’s the data from McKinsey:
- In-person 18%
- E‑commerce 18%
- Email 14%
- Online chat 13%
- Video conference 13%
- Phone 13%
And with 2/3s of B2B operators now offering some form of B2B e‑commerce, your company can’t afford to fall behind.
Just having an e‑commerce site won’t be enough for you to score deals. B2B buyers want to work with an efficient supplier and efficiency is all about how well your e‑commerce site performs. 85% of buyers will not stay loyal to an existing supplier if a competitor offers a better experience. Tempting buyers with a better price won’t necessarily be successful. Participants in a recent Avionos survey report that B2B buyers like innovation and want to work with suppliers who lead the way when it comes to tech trends (94%). Clearly, part of your B2B e‑commerce sales strategy must include a well-performing site so you may need to partner with a B2B e‑commerce solutions provider. But don't stop there. You'll need to work on what buyers learn about your company before they engage with you.
Business Credibility and Visibility
The B2B buying cycle starts like any other. Our research shows that many buyers turn to existing sellers (51%). But others look online for new vendors on Google (51%) and LinkedIn (39%). With the information they find, 29% create a list of various suppliers they’re considering.
Today’s buyers have taken themselves a long way down the purchase path before they reach out to sellers. And 28% have created a list of the most viable solutions. If your B2B e‑commerce strategy doesn’t include the right SEO keywords to drive your products and content to the top of search lists, you’ll find it hard to get your company considered as an B2B e‑commerce industry provider.
Environmental and Social Governance (ESG)
Younger buyers, those in the Gen Z and Gen Y age groups, are more aware of high-profile topics than older buyers. They believe they owe it to themselves and future generations to take an active role in changing social and environmental trends that will negatively impact them. For example, over 28% of these young buyers are willing to pay more to buy from a company that has believable “green” credentials. Only 24% of older buyers have the same attitude. These buying preferences means part of your B2B selling strategy should be to highlight what your company is doing. Producing and sharing content about how team members are avoiding air travel and how your manufacturing process is reusing materials will resonate with green buyers.
Company reputation matters, too. For all surveyed B2B buyers, 39% check out customer ratings and reviews on social media. Younger buyers declare that customer ratings are more important than whether the seller has experience with their line of business. What can you do to secure the approval of younger buyers? Be transparent. Not every transaction you have with customers will go well. But if a potential buyer sees that you’ve reached out to a customer who’s left a negative review, they may decide that your company is worth a second look. B2B buyers are checking out what’s being said about your organization online. If they hear about a data breach by reading comments online, they’ll want to know more. Post content that explains what happened and how you addressed the problem.
Legacy System Problems
Presenting an e‑commerce site with the latest features can impress buyers. But don't forget to clean up legacy details. The online purchase process in a B2B e‑commerce transaction can be held up by technical issues. You stand to lose business if customers have trouble integrating their purchasing software with the way you manage your online selling process. For example, do you require every buyer to fill in a purchase order number field on an online form? If so, think about how you might handle the exceptions — the companies that don’t use a purchase order system. Can you offer them a seamless alternate path to purchase? And for repeat buyers, if you’re requiring them to enter their data each time they make a purchase, they’ll be less enthused about doing business with you.
Sales Tax Issues
If you’re operating in multiple markets, have you made the purchase experience less painful by correctly calculating state and local sales taxes? These tax rates vary across the U.S., and they change frequently. If your e‑commerce system is consistently getting the tax rates wrong, your company is sending a message to customers and prospects. The message is that you don’t care enough about B2B sales to get the little details right.
Every time a customer has to correct an error made by your company’s systems, it costs them money. Look at this problem from their point of view – it’s costing them more to do business with you. These kinds of issues are likely why over 60% of buyers in the Avionos survey say their current suppliers are not very effective when they make repeat purchases and when they are checking out via an e‑commerce form.
Avionos’ research of 150 B2B buyers revealed customer service complaints. B2B buyers are worth listening to as they order $1.6 trillion of products annually. You should know that 45% of buyers say they encounter difficulties in working with their B2B sellers. And 40% say that working with customer service reps can be a frustrating experience. If you’re experiencing high turnover in your customer service department, you may feel that you don’t have time to sufficiently train new employees. But if you fail on that front, and a valued customer receives rude treatment, your churn rate will increase. Remember that it costs more to acquire a new customer than it does to sell more to an existing one.
We’ve heard plenty about consumers who want to purchase products that are customized to their specifications. B2B buyers are no different. If you’re able to deliver a product exactly as a buyer specifies, you’re a step ahead of the competition. Customizing products and services can be challenging. But have you considered how a buyer would discover this capability online? If they see a piece of content that suggests your product has a specific capability but then another piece of content suggests otherwise, they’ll be confused. A confused buyer is also a buyer who will move on to another supplier.
Sales Rep Credibility and Visibility
In considering today’s B2B sales strategy, sales reps must understand their role in helping other departments create content that will serve the needs of prospects and buyers. As you interact with prospects and research the industry you’re supporting, keep other people in your organization aware of upcoming changes that may impact your product line.
One of the biggest changes in B2B e‑commerce sales is the time you have with buyers. If you’re like many of today’s B2B sellers, you were trained to create strong relationships with prospects early in the sales process. But your time to make an impression on a prospect is shorter than ever before. Gartner estimates that, “Considering the average deal involves multiple suppliers, any given sales rep has roughly 5% of a customer’s total purchase time.”
Selling to Younger Buyers
This situation demands that you adapt your B2B selling strategies and take time to consistently improve your online visibility and credibility. As a prospect moves down the sales funnel, they’re checking out your organization’s online content. They’ll also be checking on you: the sales rep. Members of Gen Z, the first truly digital consumer group in the U.S, will immediately conduct an online search about you. Not being able to find you through a Google search will be a showstopper for 29% of these young buyers.
What else are buyers looking for? 45% of older buyers want to do business with sellers who have demonstrated experience in their line of business. That detail is far less important to younger buyers. Only 37% of Gen Y and Gen Z buyers are looking for the experience element when they are researching potential partners online. It could be that these individuals lack experience and don’t want to hold a vendor accountable for something they don’t have.
Our research shows that 55% of Gen Z buyers believe sales pros are credible. About the same number of baby boomer buyers say the same thing. But that doesn’t mean these buyers are open to an in-person sales pitch from you. They dread being trapped in a room. They don't want to watch presentations and listen to you talk about how great your company and products are.
The top preferred method for Gen Z buyers who interact with sales professionals is email. However, baby boomers are equally as likely to prefer email or in-person touches from a sales professional. While you may be more comfortable with the Don Draper selling style that includes lunch and drinks and personal relationships, buyers aren’t. You’ll need to change with the times and perfect the communication style that your buyers prefer.
The best B2B sales strategy for you and your organization is to stay a step ahead of your prospects. When your online content is polished, professional and optimized to perform well in an online search, you can attract interest and experience B2B e‑commerce growth. Your visibility and credibility as an organization and a sales professional will assure prospects that you can serve as a trusted partner. And the ongoing support customers receive from you will lead to an ongoing successful business relationship.
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