The COVID pandemic radically altered the B2B landscape, accelerating a transition to digital sales solutions that was already well underway. In the rush to adopt digital technologies that could help mitigate the negative effects of the pandemic, many businesses struggled to adapt to the new digital reality and correctly utilize these tools for B2B sales online.
Having accepted that Digital Transformation is essential for survival, many B2B companies are now looking for ways to maximize the value of their digital resources. In this article, we look at seven effective ways you can increase your B2B sales online.
1. Embrace Product Complexity
B2B product catalogs are inherently complex. They typically feature a vast number of products and many variations on each of those items. This can make the product catalog difficult to manage, communicate, display and search. It also has a big impact on your sales. If customers can’t find what they want quickly and easily, they’ll get frustrated. They’ll pick up the phone to call one of your sales reps. They may even begin to look to competitors that offer a more streamlined way of finding what they want.
When it comes to B2B product catalogs, you need to embrace complexity. That doesn’t mean embracing chaos or accepting that B2B product catalogs can’t be improved. It means adopting technology that enables you to turn that complexity to your advantage by giving your customers the power to search, sort, and view products and all associated product details in an easy and intuitive way.
PIM solutions enable organizations to manage remarkably complex product lists, while also integrating with the platform’s commerce, content, and portal-building features. This transforms your catalog complexity into a strength by enhancing the customer experience and making for a smoother customer journey. In B2B, there is no way to simplify product complexity, so you need to look for ways to streamline search and management if you’re to boost online sales.
2. But Streamline Complex B2B Buying Journeys
Though you may need to embrace complexity when it comes to your B2B product catalog, you should aim to streamline and simplify processes elsewhere. If you’re looking to boost B2B sales online, the best place to start is with the buying journey. By removing obstacles that prevent customers from making a purchase, you offer a more satisfying customer experience that maximizes sales by encouraging brand loyalty and ensuring customers prefer the process of shopping with your business.
Your customers want to work with an organization that understands their needs and provides solutions to their biggest pain points. More often than not, those pain points revolve around time-consuming, confusing, or inefficient purchasing processes. To successfully streamline the buying journey, your need to meet your customers’ expectations by considering the following:
- Implement Intelligent Search – Intelligent search delivers relevant results by looking at more than just keywords and interpreting context. It includes information on inventory, product specs, technical data, and details about product compatibility.
- Streamlined workflows – B2B sales online and purchasing journeys often involve up to 10 decision-makers. You can facilitate greater collaboration by simplifying their admin and workflows through fine-grain rights management features, regulated buying processes, and dedicated partner portals.
- Personalized customer experiences – Not all your customers are the same. Each customer is likely to have a different pain point and your digital solutions must reflect that. That means tailoring the experience to the needs of the customer by including things like customer-specific shipping.
- Self-service account management – Customers don’t want to have to pick up the phone every time they want to notify you of changes to their account details. Self-serve is now standard in the B2C sector and B2B is quickly heading that way, too.
3. Improve Your Existing Channels
When it comes to boosting online sales by adapting your sales channels, we suggest a two-step approach. First, improve your existing channels. Next, begin to diversify your sales channels. Let’s kick off by looking at that initial step.
If you’re to boost B2B sales online, you need to ensure that your existing sales channels are performing at full capacity. Initially, this means getting control of your customer data, making sure that you’ve got an insight into how customers move through your business and how they behave at every moment in their journey, and using that data to refine your digital touchpoints. The data you collect and analyze can then be used to deliver personalized content through your existing channels.
Personalization is key to the entire customer experience. Acknowledging this, it’s often a good idea to go through the entire customer journey and lifecycle to identify obstacles to a streamlined customer experience and instances in which a more personalized approach is possible. You’re aiming to deliver unique customer experiences that reflect your customers’ distinct needs, so highlighting those instances where you could do better is all-important.
Finally, look at each sales channel and question whether self-serve functionality needs to be introduced. Customers want and demand self-serve options and prefer to work with companies that offer them. By doing so, you make your organization a more attractive supplier and partner.
4. Diversify Your Sales Channels
Having improved your existing sales channels, you now want to turn to ways you can diversify your sales channels. In most instances, this is framed as a decision between selling products via “classical” e-commerce solutions or on marketplaces.
For some B2B companies that aren’t that far along in their transformation, marketplaces are a great growth lever. However, sooner or later, you’ll need to diversify your sales channels because in a marketplace you’re not the only option.
Ultimately, selling directly from your own e-commerce platform requires considerable brand recognition. Most B2B organizations simply don’t have that recognition early on in their journey. Consequently, marketplaces are the best option for their products. As the brand grows, companies can begin to make the transition to dedicated e-commerce platforms.
This usually means keeping a small selection of low-complexity products on marketplaces but shifting more complex products to the platform. By doing so, you reap the benefits of brand exposure in the marketplace but also begin to push customers looking for more complex products to your own site, where you can begin building a stronger relationship.
5. Build Your Brand Better
Building your brand may just be the most important step you can take to boost your B2B sales. Why? Because the B2B sector is all about trust, long-term commercial relationships, and the customer experience. The way companies perceive your organization influences all three of those things. And the way companies perceive your organization is your brand.
When it comes to B2B sales online, we believe there are three main considerations for building your brand consistently and effectively:
- Customer Experience
- Digital Commerce
Content is where you demonstrate your expertise and position yourself as an industry leader and trustworthy professionals. It influences the way customers perceive your company and attracts new customers to your business. However, it can only do so if you have an effective means of creating, managing, storing, and distributing that content. This is exactly what Ibexa Content allows you to do.
Customer Experience refers to the way your clients interact with your company and how they perceive the customer journey. We’ve touched on this quite a lot already, so we won’t go over it again. But it’s safe to say that making the customer journey as satisfying and straightforward as possible will have an enormously positive impact on your brand.
Finally, Digital Commerce highlights the importance of a seamless shopping experience to the way customers view your organization. Again, being able to tailor the user experience to different customers by offering segmented pricing, multilingual capabilities, and complex product information is vital. It’s also only possible if you’re using a Digital Commerce solution that’s part of your DXP.
6. Dynamic Pricing Puts You Ahead of the Competition
As we’re on the subject of personalization, it’s probably a good time to look at dynamic pricing and how it can boost your online sales. Dynamic pricing (sometimes referred to as real-time pricing) is an agile and flexible way of setting costs. In the past, it’s not been widely used across B2B due to the complex nature of pricing and payment in the sector. However, dynamic pricing is becoming increasingly popular, largely thanks to the way DXPs allow for better customer segmentation.
In B2B, prices offered by your sales team can vary depending on discounts for volume, promotional savings, and the nature of your relationship with the customer. You can also have distinct prices for resellers, distributors, and customers. Likewise, you may also implement different pricing for customers who can log in to a private portal. And those who view your product catalog via your public website. This all boosts sales by offering customers a bespoke and streamlined experience.
However, to implement dynamic pricing well, you need a system that integrates seamlessly with your ERP or CRM system. Ania Hentz, CEO of B2B e-commerce solutions provider, silver.solutions, provides us with an example of how a prestigious manufacturer with around 150,000 products achieved this. “Each customer, depending on their country and individual agreements, sees a different range of products, different stock information, and different pricing. To create this dynamic customer-specific view, the e-commerce platform retrieves data from internal ERP and CRM systems in real-time via a middleware layer and exchanges customer-specific data through secured web services.”
The result is a fully-integrated e-commerce solution that boosts sales by ensuring every user experience reflects and meets the needs of the individual customer.
7. Reassess What Your Sales Team Is For
Our final tip for boosting your B2B sales online is to reassess what your sales team is for and what it does. B2B still involves a lot of contact between customers and sales reps. However, that is slowly changing. Increasingly, companies are looking to self-serve and prefer to use automated services.
This means sales teams are going to have to reconsider their traditional role. If more of the purchasing process is self-serve-driven and detailed information about products is available via online resources, how will the sales team continue to deliver value and help boost sales? Many organizations believe the answer is to assemble cross-functional teams that are responsible for separate parts of the customer journey.
This means that sales, marketing, customer service, supply chain, and IT staff all bring their expertise to the table and collaborate to improve specific aspects of the customer journey. Rather than separating talent, businesses can look for ways to create multi-disciplinary teams that can have a significant impact on how customers interact with your company.
For sales teams, this will likely mean less of an emphasis on directly facilitating sales over the phone. And a greater focus on high-value activities that have a bigger impact on the organization as a whole. To do so, they’ll need to be supported by high-quality digital tools and e-commerce solutions.
This seven-point guide to boosting your B2B online sales has covered a lot of ground. We’ve gone from product catalogs to brand-building and touched on a range of other topics, too. That being said, all of the steps you can take to boost B2B sales are underwritten by one simple, underlying idea – using technological solutions to improve the customer experience.
In the modern marketplace, customers can switch between companies quickly and easily. Though many prefer to foster long-term professional partnerships with a company or brand, there’s little patience with poor customer service or an inferior user experience.
Consequently, boosting your sales means making it faster, simpler, and more cost-effective for customers to utilize your services. You achieve this through well-designed touchpoints, adopting an omnichannel approach, and personalizing your services. In most cases, this means adopting a dedicated Digital Experience Platform (DXP). For B2B companies ready to embrace the future, DXPs represent the most efficient way of building and refining your online sales strategy.