How E-Commerce Makes B2B Sales Teams More Effective

Brian Beck

Some people think that launching a B2B e-commerce initiative is a surefire way to draw the ire of the sales team. After all, doesn’t an investment in e-commerce signify the beginning of a competition with more traditional sales functions?

Not exactly.

Don’t think about e-commerce as an alternative to traditional sales methods. Instead, in order to take your business to the next level, you’d be much better off thinking about how e-commerce can be used to reinforce all of your existing sales channels—making them more effective.

According to a recent study, 81% of shoppers spend time researching products on the web before they pull the trigger and finalize a transaction. In the B2B world, the numbers are even higher: 94% of B2B customers do the same before tapping into the company purse.

The Internet has opened up a new, competitive landscape in the world of B2B buying and selling. It’s easier than ever for business buyers to launch a quick search on Google, or more recently on Amazon, and find products they have never used and suppliers that they have never done business with. This threatens your traditional sales channels, but it is also an opportunity.

When B2B e-commerce is implemented successfully, it enables businesses to reinforce their existing channels while simultaneously entering new markets and capturing new customers. The end result? Increased market share and an expanded customer base.

What’s not to like?

Marketing has evolved

The internet, coupled with the proliferation of mobile devices, continues to digitize marketing and sales. Sellers now have unprecedented capabilities to connect with their customers—no matter where those individuals happen to be.

This is great news for manufacturers and distributors, many of whom have relatively complex products. Explaining what those products do and how they can benefit an organization requires lots of information—which is precisely where the web and e-commerce enter the equation.

The web provides an excellent platform to deliver video demos, product guides, pricing information, case studies, white papers, and product-centric blogs. Add e-commerce capabilities to your website, and you now have the ability to reach out to smaller accounts and reach more remote geographic markets that are difficult for your sales force to get to.

The state of e-commerce

As it stands now, B2B e-commerce is where B2C e-commerce was a decade ago in terms of opportunity and maturity of implementations in the market. Ten years ago, Amazon was still primarily a seller of books and music. Today, this juggernaut is a household name offering millions of products and dominating categories that once seemed insurmountable for e-commerce—a great example is apparel, where Amazon is now the #2 U.S. retailer across all channels.

While some progressive B2B companies have launched e-commerce initiatives, there are still many that haven’t—which puts forward-thinking organizations in a great position.

Manufacturers and distributors have a window of opportunity to be an early movers by deploying a state of the art e-commerce presence to capture market share and competitive advantage, but time is limited and the window continues to close. To capitalize, you need to get out in front of the oncoming B2B e-commerce avalanche and make sure you choose the right platform.

B2B e-commerce in action

The opportunity in B2B e-commerce is best illustrated by real-world examples.

Two players—Grainger and MSC Industrial—have completely transformed the home improvement B2B tooling category. It was recently announced that more than 40% of Grainger’s sales now come from e-commerce. MSC relies on e-commerce even more; this channel now accounts for 60% of sales.

Many of our clients at Guidance are making this shift. We help companies evolve from building great online content–where many B2B companies have traditionally focused online efforts–to transforming their business with e-commerce:

  • BakerHughes is selling massive $125,000 oil equipment online.

  • Brasseler USA is selling precision instruments to medical doctors, dentists, and other healthcare professionals via the web.

  • LegalSupply traditionally supplied legal offices with all sorts of different office products (e.g., legal folders, binders, and pads) through non-digital channels. Since moving to the web, they now transact a majority of their sales online, and are having their best sales period in the company’s history, thanks to their e-commerce expansion.

If these kinds of companies can revolutionize their operations by implementing B2B e-commerce, there is no reason yours can’t do the same. If you are interested in learning more about how e-commerce can transform your company, please don’t hesitate to reach out right away. Guidance can help you understand your e-commerce options and set you up for success.

Brian Beck

About Brian Beck

Brian Beck is Senior Vice President of E-Commerce and Omnichannel Strategy at Guidance. He has over 20 years of experience, including more than a decade as a hands-on C-level e-commerce executive. Brian has achieved high growth rates in excess of 100% per year and has held full P&L responsibility up to $100 million as the lead digital executive in both early stage and multibillion-dollar enterprises. He is an expert in the areas of omnichannel and e-commerce strategy, online marketing and customer acquisition, Web-site experience / merchandising, technology evaluation and selection, and all operational aspects of building online commerce organizations. His recent clients include both B2B and B2C industry leaders such as Brasseler USA, Five Below, Charming Charlie, Johnny Was, Sole Society, Epson, Harry & David, and Teleflora.