The Danger Zone: Email And The Tricky Twists And Turns Of B2B Sales

On balance, B2Bs have more daily headaches than their colleagues in B2C. And that’s especially true of firms with sales teams, judging by a survey of 406 B2B firms in the U.S., Canada, the UK, Germany and the Netherlands by Forrester for FPX. 

Of the marketers polled, 66% say that it’s at least somewhat difficult to provide a consistent, high-quality experience in direct channels. And 16% say it’s very tough. Here are the challenges:

  • Have to leverage disparate systems to find right information —51%
  • Sellers do not adopt sales technologies — 44%
  • Too many touchpoints in the sales process (e.g., reliance on different departments — 39%
  • Onboarding and ramping new sales reps — 36%
  • Order visibility/fulfillment — 35%

Things are even worse on the indirect side, where sales are conducted through partners. Of the marketers surveyed, 77% say it’s at least somewhat difficult delivering a high-quality experience via indirect sales channels. The reasons: 

  • Selling incompatible configurations — 77%
  • Partners don’t have access to the right information — 74%
  • Managing the sale of complex solutions — 74%
  • Selling products that are not currently available — 74%
  • No visibility into order status, timelines and fulfillment — 72%
  • Orders require too many approvals from parent company/manufacturer — 71%
  • Inadequate support from partner company/manufacturer – 71%
  • Sales process is highly manual/takes too long —  70%
  • It is difficult to learn about/sell new offerings — 70%
  • Lack of self-service capabilities — 66%
  • Partners do not have good visibility into their margins – 66%

At the same time, most say it’s hard to sell complete solutions needed by the end customer — 62% for direct, 70% for indirect.

The answer to these dilemmas, of course, is an email platform capable of sending triggered messages to both customers and partners. It’s not easy integrating that with siloed and outdated systems, but figure it out: if partners don’t have access to information, here’s one way of getting it to them. 

Granted, the study doesn’t delve into the email option, and FPX executives were unavailable to discuss it: Maybe they don’t think it plays a role.

But the study does conclude that B2B firms need to invest in configure-price-quote (CPQ) technology —that is, “a united platform that interfaces with your existing sales, CRM, and ERP technologies; provides guidance for product and pricing recommendations; and is exposed to all of your sales channels to deliver a consistent, high-quality experience,” the study states. Clearly, such a system would feature an integrated email capability backed by strong data analytics.  

But back to the findings. The study shows that 35% of all sales now come through ecommerce, a figure that the respondents would like to get up to 55%, both on the direct and indirect sides 

For their part, customers want that consistent, high-quality experience —68% say that it’s very important, and 24% that it’s somewhat so. (You have to wonder about the 2% who say it’s not important). Here’s what they want: 

  • A more convenient buying process — 62%
  • A digital experience — 58%
  • Are willing to shift loyalty based on their experiences with companies — 54%
  • Are more knowledgeable about products and competitors —51%
  • Desire more mobile capabilities — 49%
  • And what to sales partners desire? Partners and distributors want:
  • To work with manufacturers that make it easy — 66%
  • Access to real-time product and pricing data — 62%
  • To work with manufacturers that allow them to maintain brand presence — 51%
  • More transparency into your processes — 50%
  • More information to share with customers — 46%
  • Work with manufacturers that allow them to combine their products (with) manufacturers’ quotes — 44%

Given all this, do B2B marketers even need sales teams and the commission plans that go with them? You bet they do, and here’s why: “While there is a desire to expand ecommerce capabilities to deliver a better experience to customers, it would be a mistake for B2B firms to place all their eggs in the ecommerce basket,” the paper states. “Self-service channels are only expected to replace about half of sales in an ideal world, which means the other half must be delivered through consistent, high-quality direct and indirect channel sales.”

Better get your omnichannel house in order.  

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