Last modified: 29. March 2019
B2B sales are not what they used to be. While there is evidence that many people involved in B2B sales are holding on to an older, more analog way of doing business, the trend towards modernization is becoming a driving factor that will continue to grow in the B2B sales marketplace. Part of this movement is thanks to a growing segment of millennials in decision making roles at B2B companies, up to nearly 50% as of 2014. Besides this shifting demographic, companies are beginning to see the tidiness and flexibility that online and ecommerce solutions can offer the B2B market and its becoming clear that buying into relevant online solutions will be the only way for B2B companies to remain competitive.
The Changing B2B Landscape
While ecommerce isn’t new in the world of B2B sales, it’s becoming increasingly necessary. Those companies that see online sales and processing as a hurdle rather than an opportunity risk losing big with their best channel partners. As more and more decision-making roles are taken over by individuals who operate most comfortable in a digital space, their personal buying habits (online) will undoubtedly affect business decisions.
Unfortunately, many B2B companies see online adoption as being more complicated, expensive and difficult to implement than it really is and worry about losing deals without a salesperson guiding clients to close. What these companies are missing is the fact that more and more people are becoming used to buying online and comfort in the digital space is rapidly surpassing face to face dealings. Furthermore, consumers in all sales spaces are becoming more likely to make decisions based on price over personal relationships. So while reputation remains important, it will be carried on the back of a robust online presence rather than boots on the ground.
Managing Multiple Relationships is Complicated
Unlike B2C sales, which have a fairly straightforward relationship with their end users, the B2B world is made up of a complex network of relationships and channel partners. Many people involved in B2B sales become nervous about upsetting this delicate balance necessary for their survival and have dug their heels into outdated ways of doing business to not rock the boat. However, success is now built on the seamless, frictionless and everywhere buyer experience. Research and data prove that brands must engage buyers from end to end, but in the B2B world, it can feel like ends are everywhere.
Finding a Holistic, Modern Technology Solution is the Key to Success
To address this atmosphere of multiple relationships, needs and incentives it’s important that solutions recognize and honor the fact that the world of B2B sales is a finely tuned ecosystem. Within this ecosystem, channel partners are dependent on brands and brands are dependent on the services provided by B2B companies. Any digital solution provided must recognize these symbioses to provide truly useful products while companies need to face the reality that they must modernize their products and can no longer rely on isolated, disconnected channel solutions. The reality is that your business needs to provide its channel partners with what they need to succeed before your competitors do.
Benefits to Modernization
Modernizing the B2B sales space might seem daunting but ultimately has benefits for both your business and your channel partners. While it’s clear that modernization is necessary for the B2B world, what that really looks like is less well articulated as companies grapple with how to provide services in a seamless way. It’s crucial that solutions be respectful of the complexity of the B2B world and work to modernize the entire channel technology ecosystem. These proven effective solutions can be easily integrated into any B2B ecosystem for an improved and modernized performance.
How modernization benefits you:
- Grow revenue through commerce without cutting out partners
- Reduce order admin cost
- Improve cycle time
- Modernize and automate channel programs
How modernization benefits your channel partners:
- Gain a new capability to buy, market and sell online
- Increase efficiencies to focus more on core competencies
- Retain end customer ownership and autonomy
While it’s clear that modernization is necessary for the B2B world, what that really looks like is less well articulated as companies grapple with how to provide services in a seamless way. It’s crucial that solutions be respectful of the complexity of the B2B world and work to modernize the entire channel technology ecosystem. These proven effective solutions can be easily integrated into any B2B ecosystem for an improved and modernized performance.
Partner Channel & Online Channel Convergence
Perhaps one of the most crucial strategies to implement and get right is partner channel and online channel convergence. Done right, this strategy will support partners direct involvement in every part of ecommerce while partners continue to own the end customer. This strategy has shown upwards of 500% sales growth YOY.
Accounts and Entitlements: This back of house function, once fully automated saves a tremendous amount of time and increases overall efficiency dramatically. This function automatically credits the correct partners and pays partners on renewals. The outcome? Better nurtured renewals with the automatic tracking of entitlement.
Incentives and Compensation: Supporting automatic compensation through discounts, credits, rebates and commissions means 75% faster payments. Automatic capture and reports on sales performance and calculated earned commission means everyone gets payed quickly and correctly.
Ordering and Process Complexity: Modernization can provide upwards of a 77% increase in efficiency for ordering and processing. This process streamlines commerce-based purchasing process for partners and increases B2B functionality that captures customer information, facilitates partner buy prices, quoting and special pricing requests.
The Best Tools for B2B Online Integration
- Integration Ready: Comprehensive RESTful API fleet integrates anywhere: back office/ERP, Salesforce, Siebel.
- Implement Large or Small: Use individual modules or functions, roll out to only certain partner types or geographies and expand as you grow.
- Multiple Parties: Manage resellers, distributors, ISVs, sales people on any transaction and in hierarchy relationships
- Any Incentive Model: Compensate partners and your partner sales managers for any activity, and fully automate payment processing.
- Manage all Channel Transactions: Marketing activities, specific order types such as renewals or up sells, as well as usage, quotes, product activations.
Fear of change can hold anyone back. Big or small, established or new, reworking infrastructure is always a frightening prospect. In the B2B sales space, integrating online solutions will not only guarantee a more efficient business model, but will help companies stay relevant in the coming years.
To learn more about how you can incorporate these strategies and tools into your business, watch our on-demand webinar featuring Forrester Consulting or read the full research study, “Nurture Channel Partner Loyalty to Succeed in the Digital Age.” Or contact me to discuss your business and find the best solution to grow your revenue and optimize your sales channels.