2022 Advice on Digital Commerce and the Sales Role

By Zilliant

Jan 13, 2022

In part two of our 2022 advice roundtable, we get to the biggest paradigm shift for B2B, the rise of digital commerce, with some additional thoughts on how the role of the B2B salesperson will need to adapt.

Read part one here

A recent Digital Commerce 360 piece, citing McKinsey, reported the following: 

While in-person selling rebounded to pre-COVID-19 levels during 2021, more companies than ever before also began offering eCommerce as a sales channel,” McKinsey says. “We now see a tipping point, with eCommerce surpassing in-person selling as a sales channel, at 65% versus 53% earlier this year.

The ripple effects are being felt throughout the B2B world, and companies will need to continue to harden their digital offerings in 2022. Read below to learn how Zilliant CTO Shams Chauthani and General Manager of Commercial Excellence Barrett Thompson advise their clients. 

Adapting to Digital Commerce

“Often B2B businesses naively equate digital commerce with simply standing up a web shop where transactions can be executed. Certainly, that is core to what a digital commerce channel is but in the context of B2B it must be a lot more to facilitate the type of business already conducted through other channels. More importantly, it presents an opportunity to enhance the interaction and experience of your customers compared to older channels. 

Your customers are accustomed to certain ways of conducting business with you and they want those practices to carry into the digital channel. For instance, having specialized pricing and terms that have been negotiated between the customer and your organization. Customers, especially the top-tier ones who receive the bulk of your sales team’s attention, expect a trusted advisor service. So, although standing up a web shop is step one, there is a lot to consider when bringing the existing B2B transaction expectations of your top clients to the digital channel. The good news is if you get this right, you can extend the exceptional experience not just to your top customers but to every customer – something which was not scalable in your traditional channels. 

In addition to carrying existing processes into the digital channel, this transition offers great potential for you to better serve both the customer’s and your own needs. Digital allows you to react in real time to changing dynamics. Now you can incorporate web telemetry data to ascertain intent from customer behavior and use real-time information such as inventory positions and competitor pricing to influence the behavior of your customers in the digital channel. Approaches such as complimentary product suggestions, special pricing for abandoned items, and others significantly enhance the customer experience while helping you grow top line revenue and profits. 

Choosing a platform to set up a web shop is the tip of the iceberg when it comes to powering a meaningful digital channel. Real value is driven for your customers by implementing features like: 

  • Customer-specific pricing 
  • Rebate information  
  • Product recommendations driven by customer behavior and internal data such as inventory positions 
  • Dynamic promotions tied to inventory and competitive position 

My bet is the companies that capitalize on the opportunity to transform their business through digital channels now will be the winners in the next decade.” 

“The nature of B2B commerce is forever changed due to the impact of COVID, which accelerated the necessity of self-serve channels. The shifting demographic of B2B buyers, many of whom have grown up without face-to-face sales calls as a staple and who are very fluent with online services in their personal lives, is also accelerating this trend. New winners and losers will emerge in most B2B industries over the next five years based on non-traditional factors such as online ease-of-use, seamlessness of multi-channel customer engagement, and automated intelligence embedded into the online purchasing experience.”  - General Manager of Commercial Excellence Barrett Thompson 

Evolving Role of Sales

“Successful B2B sellers of the future must change their fundamental mindset. Instead of asking, ‘How can I get the most out of this customer?,’ these sellers will take a seat on the other side of the table (figuratively speaking), and ask, ‘How can this customer get the most out of my company?’   

Listen: B2B Reimagined Episode #46 – Your Value Prop is More than a Tagline

Answering this question requires intimate knowledge of what your customer is trying to achieve and how your company can best serve their mission. By putting yourself in the customer’s shoes, the nature of the sales conversation changes. Instead of a laser-focus on that big ticket item, you may instead find yourself positioning the broader catalog in order to supply more of your customer’s overall spend. In so doing, you can increase logistics efficiency due to order-size dynamics, which then translates into lower prices overall for that customer. This is but one example of how successful sellers with reconsider ‘value’ from a customer perspective.” - General Manager of Commercial Excellence Barrett Thompson

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