Omnichannel Consultant: The Changing Role of B2B Sales

12 February 2024

This article on ecommerce and B2B sales was originally featured in ERP SoftwareBlog.

Ecommerce has changed the face of B2B sales. B2B companies are increasingly adopting online channels as at least an element of their overall business strategy, while a sizable majority of B2B executives consider B2B ecommerce critical to their long-term success.

people working on their ecommerce websiteBut it isn’t just the shift to the web that has transformed B2B sales. Ecommerce itself has evolved over more than two decades in a predominantly B2C context. The rise of ecommerce giants like Amazon and eBay have all but hard-coded certain best practices into ecommerce platforms, setting a standard for convenience, security, and customer self-service.

This, in turn, has led to what we call B2C for B2B. The B2B sales cycle is longer and more complex than its B2C counterpart. It involves multiple decision-makers and the careful evaluation of numerous criteria (as opposed to emotion and impulse-driven B2C purchases).

But B2B buyers are still B2C customers in their personal lives, and the B2C ecommerce model has thus set the standard for B2B shopping online. Platforms supporting B2B sales nevertheless incorporate the key features of the B2C buying experience, such as product and price transparency, simplified ordering, and 24/7 account access.

Self-Service B2B Sales

Perhaps more than anything else, ecommerce has given rise to unprecedented B2B buyer independence. Omnichannel engagement keeps the customer at the center of a range of touchpoints, from brick-and-mortar stores to social media, providing a consistent experience when doing business with B2B brands.self service B2B website

B2B ecommerce websites and B2B portals always make comprehensive product and pricing data available to the customer. They feature powerful search tools that connect customers to items quickly. And ERP-integrated ecommerce automates orders and invoicing with no delay or risk of error.

The ability to accept orders around the clock from anywhere in the world means virtually unlimited potential for growth. At the same time, self-service lowers operational costs. It enables customers to resolve issues that previously required intervention from support. ERP integration allows customers to update shipping addresses and payment information from their account.

Even something as simple as order status updates in a customer account can save a B2B company more than $25,000 per year in post-order costs while consistently growing online sales.

The New B2B Sales Role

Naturally, a greater emphasis on “auto-pilot” self-service ecommerce raises the question: what happens to traditional B2B sales? Have traditional B2B sales reps become obsolete?

Not by a long shot.

For one thing, sales reps will always be needed for high-value B2B sales. The bigger the deal, the more likely a B2B client is going to want to speak with an actual human. The automation of an ERP-integrated ecommerce platform lets your sales team give more attention to these high-value clients.

But the B2B sales role itself has changed. The unparalleled freedom of self-service ecommerce and the sheer volume of information facing customers presents new sales challenges.

While customers prefer to research and compare, in many cases they become paralyzed by the number of options. Even with extensive deliberation, it can be difficult to make the right choice. Worse, up to 40% of B2B customers end up with post-purchase anxiety.

The solution? Your B2B sales reps.

Unlike in the past, where the emphasis was on closing the deal, today’s B2B ecommerce sales reps are best suited as guides. B2B sales have always been built on customer relationships. Here, the sales rep gets to know the customer’s business and their specific needs. The rep’s deep product knowledge allows them to lead the customer not just toward a purchase—but toward the right purchase.

In other words, they don’t just close the deal. They foster customer confidence… and thereby customer loyalty.

ERP Integration for B2B Ecommerce

ERP-integrated B2B ecommerce is indispensable to this new sales role.

working on integrating ERP with ecommerce website

On the customer side, ERP integration means that your clients are always getting comprehensive, up-to-date product and pricing information. They can see which products are available, how much they cost, and always get complete product data.

But just as importantly, this same information is available to your sales reps. This might seem obvious, but ERP integration streamlines your company’s business data, including pricing information. It ensures that a single version of all data exists in a unified database.

This eliminates the “information silo” problem many B2B companies struggle with. When customers come to your team with questions, your reps have all the answers at their fingertips. This helps build a more customer-centric relationship in which the sales rep acts as an advisor to the client.

B2B Customer Service

Customer service agentThese same principles extend to customer service.

The first responsibility of any business is to take care of its customers. Providing strong self-service options for placing orders and updating accounts is part of this. But your business needs to be available for customers when there are problems, they can’t solve for themselves.

Often this can be as simple as offering the customer a means of contacting your company offline. This is frequently a deciding factor. Up to 47% of shoppers look elsewhere when they don’t see a phone number.

So just as with sales, the human factor makes a critical difference in the ecommerce sector. Far from replacing the need for personal interaction, ERP-integrated B2B ecommerce has actually repurposed and even strengthened that need.

Final Thoughts – Navigating the Evolving Landscape of B2B Sales with Omnichannel Consultants

In conclusion, the surge in B2B ecommerce has led to a pivotal role for omnichannel consultants. B2B companies are adapting to online channels, influenced by B2C best practices. Self-service platforms, supported by ERP integration, empower buyers and streamline operations.

Traditional sales reps haven’t become obsolete but evolved into guides, leveraging product knowledge for customer loyalty. ERP integration ensures real-time data access, eliminating silos, and enhancing customer-centric relationships, extending to customer service.

In essence, ERP-integrated B2B ecommerce hasn’t replaced personal interaction but strengthened its importance. Omnichannel consultants bridge technology and human connection in the evolving B2B sales landscape.