How B2B eCommerce Will Save 1 Million Sales Reps

April 21, 2015

There have been several technology evolutions over the last 20 years that have dramatically impacted the B2B Sales Professional: the phone being disconnected from the wall & ultimately becoming a “smart” device; the traditional paper catalog going “online”; the rolodex becoming a cloud-based CRM system (Salesforce); and more recently, the growth of online ordering or B2B eCommerce.

The B2B marketplace is a $1T market that is going to change the way businesses do business, according to Forrester:

  • Nearly 75% of B2B buyers say buying from an e-commerce site is more convenient than buying from a sales rep, and 93% say they prefer buying online when they’ve already decided what to buy. (Forrester)
  • Only 25% of B2B companies today actively sell online. (Forrester)
  • Companies are now able to reduce “their cost per order from $24.48 per transaction via a salesperson-driven paper-based ordering system to $1.50 per transaction via a customer self-serve e-commerce” (Internet Retailer)

Your company is trying to grow revenue by giving your customers more convenience, more ordering options, product recommendations, and better communication about order status. They are also trying to reduce costs by making the system as efficient as possible and eliminate rekeying orders, human intervention, and manual processes. Great B2B eCommerce systems can address these issues by allowing your customers to order directly through an online platform 7x24x365, do more product research prior to placing their order, and automatically receive order confirmation and order shipping/tracking information.

Traditionally, sales people were the ones who would handle these types of administrative operations. With that in mind, it makes sense that Forrester e-business analyst Andy Hoar would report that B2B eCommerce is going to be the “Death of a (B2B) Salesman,” projecting that 1 million sales reps, or 22% of the 4.5 million B2B sales agents now in the United States, will lose their jobs to e-commerce by 2020.

And maybe that’s true…members of your sales team that are order-takers, explainers, and navigator types, are going to lose out as they get replaced by technology.

Consultative sellers, on the other hand, will actually grow in numbers.

Here are 3 ways that B2B eCommerce will help sales people close more deals, differentiate amongst competitors and save the business time and money.

  1. Spend less time entering orders and more time consulting with customers, ultimately leading to more sales. It will become more and more important to guide customers and help them understand how they can use the automated tools your company provides to run their business better. This will help you provide more value to your customers and make them more efficient.
  2. Use the new technology to differentiate your sales strategy from competitors’. Use these changes to your advantage, and earn new business from competitors who don’t have automated, efficient systems for customers to place their own orders. Promote the fact that employees of your business can easily order via mobile devices while on the go, and show them this during your sales calls.
  3. Use reporting to save time and money. Run reports from your eCommerce platform to keep track of spending and sales, and provide recommendations to reach goals. You’ll spend less time approving orders electronically, checking inventory real time and be able to manually and automatically make alternative product recommendations if one product is out of stock.

Imagine how inefficient you would be today without your mobile phone or your CRM system. Or how much time you would waste if you were still lugging around paper catalogs that were out of date the minute they were printed. This kind of evolution is happening today with B2B online ordering and you need to understand it, embrace it, and take advantage of the possibilities or you’ll miss your chance.

B2B eCommerce is an opportunity for you, sales reps…finally you can spend more time with your customers understanding their needs, developing more relationships, selling to other departments or divisions, and providing more value to your customers…instead of just placing orders.