Manufacturers face complex challenges in meeting data needs for an expanding array of customers that includes their own sales reps, suppliers and resellers, a new report says.

It’s been said that business-to-business buyers and sellers are consumers first, and as such have developed high expectations when interacting online with B2B companies. But meeting those expectations isn’t easy given the complex nature of product combinations, and sales technology, processes and channels that manufacturers and other B2B companies face today.

And what’s true of external customers is true of other individuals manufacturers interact with online, such as their own sales reps, as well as distributors, resellers, manufacturing partners and dealers, according to a new report. Among these people, 62% favor manufacturers that are easier to work with, 62% want access to product and pricing data in real time and 50% want more transparency into the manufacturer’s sales processes, notes the report.

That’s similar to the high expectations of external customers. 70% of manufacturers’ customers have higher expectations today from their buying process experiences than ever; 62% want a more convenient buying process; and 58% expect a digital experience, according to a report by Forrester Consulting and commissioned by FPX, a provider of configure-price-quote technology. The report, titled “The Complexities of B2B Sales Require Thinking Beyond Today’s CPQ,” is based on results of an online survey of 406 B2B companies in the United States, United Kingdom, Germany and the Netherlands, conducted from January through March 2017.

Key findings of the report include:

  • B2B firms want to enable more e-commerce sales but cannot neglect direct and indirect channels to do so. B2B firms want to increase their e-commerce sales from an average of 35% of revenue to just over half, and almost all offer some form of e-commerce today, according to the report. But this means that the other half of sales is still going to come from direct and indirect channels and thus B2B firms should embrace an omnichannel sales strategy.
  • The right configure-price-quote technology can help solve B2B sales complexity. To meet challenges across B2B sales channels, firms should leverage a platform that can unite existing sales technology, provide guided selling, give trading partners full sales visibility, and enable sales for complex solutions through e-commerce, the report says.

The report shows B2B companies are not trying to shift the revenue mix, says FPX CEO Dave Batt. “If half of their sales are direct, they aren’t trying to shift that to 60%,” he says. “It’s about how to grow, and about driving growth through B2B e-commerce channels.”


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