Intershop Insights

B2B eCommerce And It’s Effects On The Traditional Field Sales Force

How your B2B customers buy is evolving fast with the realities of the omnichannel eCommerce world we now transact within.  More and more B2B customers have gathered  their shopping/product intelligence well in advance of the touch point with your sales force. The tough message here is the “old school” my way or no way approach of the field sales rep is simply too expensive and increasingly ineffective.  This historical Manufacturing/Wholesale sales workforce remains largely artisan and used to calling all the shots and tend to hoard their IP about how they go to market with an end result of little top cover from sales management.

In the B2B world, the field sales role will not disappear but it will have to change

The “old school” approach simply cannot keep pace with new customer understanding and demand for marketing experiences. Spoilt with the likes of Amazon, Alibaba and the whole customer experience in relation to choice, “compare to” “customers also reviewed/bought”, sophisticated search, educational media and just the ease of doing business 24/7 it is impossible for a traditional wholesale distributor or brand manufacturer to compete without a digital commerce offering.

The benefit of the shift to eCommerce omnichannel strategy is the new channels to serve your B2B customers should cost less than dedicated field sales, therefore, boosting your bottom line.

The longer your Manufacturing/Wholesale Distribution business resists this shift and the organisational design issues and investment it imposes the further you will slip behind.  Those industry participants still investing wholly on expensive sales reps to do tasks that could be completed more efficiently with lower-cost eCommerce technology options (eg push to more online self-service) are dying a death of a thousand cuts.

How will the field sales role change?

Salespeople will likely become more specialised, consultative and work more closely with a team of marketing and product specialists and others in the company to meet the customer’s detailed needs in the most cost-effective way. Their market plans will increasingly be driven by the company’s overall customer and business development strategy. They will move more and more to the role of consultant and the enabler supporting Customers with what they want and need  – conducting various analyses, building business cases, finding and delivering value-added services a customer is willing to pay for. A shift to a more ambassadorial role that transcends more than just the “close” and becomes a closed process loop of constant communication and support for the customer.

One of the Manufacturer/ Wholesale distributor’s biggest recurrent outlays is the customer and business development processes and resources, and you need to be sure you are spending that money where you will get the best return.