Not all business customers are equal, but B2B businesses today must find a way to effectively service all customers–from small businesses to large corporations.
While low-volume, “mom and pop” customers (think: small wholesalers, family owned convenience stores, local clothing boutiques) collectively make up a big portion of a B2B brand’s sales, they are incredibly inefficient to service on an individual level. Traditionally, B2B brands have been faced with the complicated task of meeting the needs of these buyers in a profitable way. But too often, they come up short.
The solution? Many B2B businesses are finding success with a new strategy–one that involves driving B2B sales through existing customer relationship management, or CRM, technology.
The strategy works by building a self-service e-commerce platform on top of existing CRM technology. The result is a flexible system that can be tailored to the unique needs of business buyers today. It allows customers to place orders online on their own time, without the costly one-on-one attention of a sales representative for each transaction. At the same time, it allows the sales rep to remain connected via the commerce-enriched CRM data and focus on more strategic interactions.
The age-old B2B sales problem
The problem most B2B brands face is the low profit margins that low-volume customers bring on an individual level. The sheer volume of orders generated from large business customers, such as Walmart, justifies sales teams dedicating a significant amount of time and resources servicing these businesses to meet their needs.
By contrast, low-volume customers generate very little revenue individually, yet most businesses still service them through costly channels like phone and in-person sales visits. It’s incredibly inefficient for B2B brands to continue servicing these businesses through such outdated channels.
What’s more, orders placed through phone or in-person meetings are often riddled with inaccuracies. Small business owners need to consider a handful of information before placing an order, such as inventory, cash flow or previous orders, but simply cannot do so when forced to make a decision on the spot through a siloed channel.
Despite these issues, the positives of servicing low-volume customers outweigh the negatives. When combined, low-volume customers can deliver up to 40% of a B2B brand’s revenue. This puts B2B sellers in a tricky situation. Small businesses are expensive to service, but even more expensive to ignore.
Why CRM technology is changing the game
Some of the most successful brands have learned how to meet the needs of small business customers using existing CRM technology. Commerce systems built on CRM platforms are flexible and can be built around the unique needs of the buyer. The end product is a system that allows buyers to self-serve and gives the brand power to integrate sales with customer data to ultimately better predict and understand the buyer’s every move.
With more flexible commerce platforms, an industry traditionally plagued by inefficiencies can now completely transform how they drive sales to ensure that customers of all sizes are profitable.
For example, rather than tasking sales reps with calling each small business buyer individually asking for their orders, which are likely inaccurate given the traditionally cumbersome and manual ordering processes buyers are often forced to use, brands can provide buyers with personalized self-service technology. The buyer can use the platform to search through past orders or view recommendations (based on customer data) and place accurate orders on their own time.
With less time spent managing timely customer orders, sales reps are able to reallocate their resources to focus on larger strategic initiatives within the sales process, such as trend analysis and targeting. Self-service orders create large amounts of commerce-enriched CRM data that sales reps are able to leverage to inform these initiatives and improve their work processes.
This solution has become popular because it doesn’t require an expensive overhaul or a lengthy implementation process. It’s built on cloud technology, which means businesses can skip the time-consuming and expensive on-premise implementations. The quick speed to market means that businesses can be up-and-running and driving sales in relatively little time.
As e-commerce continues to drive more sales for B2B businesses, it’s more important than ever for brands to get it right. Relying on outdated channels to service customers that drive significant sales can be very costly. CRM-based commerce systems are revolutionizing B2B sales as we know it, and businesses will be wise to jump on board.
Ray Grady is president and chief customer officer at CloudCraze, where he spearheads business development, customer success, professional services and continued global expansion in the United States, Europe, the Middle East and Africa. CloudCraze is a vendor of cloud-based e-commerce software designed to run on the Salesforce.com platform. Prior to CloudCraze, Grady was senior vice president and general manager of Acquia, a provider of software-as-a-service technology and related services. Before Acquia, he co-founded Acquity Group, which went public in 2012 and was acquired by Accenture Interactive in 2013. Follow Ray and CloudCraze: @CloudCraze.Favorite