How to reinvent your B2B salesforce – go Digital

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When we were younger and computers were simpler, unconnected boxes, much of a trade buyer’s week would be taken up with a series of face-to-face meetings with sales representatives who showed up in their company Ford Mondeos (or Sierras if you go back that far). Orders would routinely be given and recorded in the grateful rep’s book.

Now the world is very different. Buyers expect their purchasing process to be as automated and streamlined as when they buy online from Amazon, Ebay or any B2C site for themselves.

If you supply trade customers, it may be that you have yet to embrace e-commerce – but surely the bulk of your orders and customer contact now occur via email, and you cannot turn your back on the way that the buyer-seller interface has totally changed.

So what is left for the poor endangered species of sales rep, in an environment where two-thirds of the buying decision-making process takes place via online searches of websites and social media before the buyer (note, not the salesperson) initiates a dialogue with one or more suppliers?

For many misguided suppliers it may mean the wholesale redundancy of their salesforce – but that would be to cede the initiative to fleeter-footed competitors.

Welcome to Smarter Sales

The smart approach is to rethink the sales role and refocus the job.

Online ordering is a great boon – it interfaces with CRM software to identify smaller or infrequent buyers who can safely be left to the automated process.

Growing customers or those identified as having prospects for development (using third-party research data) will qualify for personal intervention and contact.

Certain customers, especially retailers, should be visited frequently by representatives who will now have more time to call on outlets and advise on presentation, restocking levels, pricing etc.

In one example of this trend, we recently had contact with a vehicle manufacturer who took all its sales team through a training programme designed to put themselves in the dealers’ shoes and understand their KPIs, so that they could provide relevant and actionable advice instead of selling inappropriate items to them that could harm their bottom line.

Digital Marketing and Sales Integration

As a London-based digital consultancy specialising in B2B applications, we at Hannon Digital can get your operation up to speed with commercial trends in a number of ways:

  • Building or rebuilding your website to become a social site, optimised not only for commerce but also with links to the social media that matter to your customers and prospects
  • Managing and monitoring your online advertising campaigns to generate measurable responses from relevant buyers
  • Writing blogs and creating other rich content on subjects relating to your target market, with appealing titles and content as well as being optimised for search engines
  • Generating social network posts and comments, tweets and reweets as well as alerting you to social media activity that might affect you
  • Creating explainer videos and infographics to increase the length of stay of website visitors and improve engagement in, and understanding of, what you have to offer
  • 24/7 live chat via text or live speech, to knowledgably answer or take details for follow-up by your sales team

So all in all, when compared with the old-fashioned divide between Marketing and Sales, we can play our part in integrating the two digitally – and when that is properly carried out, the results really do look like 2+2 = 5.  Rumours of the death of the trade salesperson have been greatly exaggerated…

Colm Hannon is the founder and CEO of Hannon Digital and Hannon Sales