The company’s director of e-commerce, Marta Dalton, shared Coke’s formula for mixing sales reps with e-commerce during the B2B Workshop Friday at IRCE in Chicago.

It doesn’t have to be oil vs. water when it comes to B2B e-commerce and sales reps.

In fact, e-commerce can do a lot more than just co-exist with sales reps inside any size organization, Marta Dalton, e-commerce director at The Coca-Cola Co., told attendees Friday at the B2B Workshop at the 2018 Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition in Chicago.

In many companies, sales reps are hesitant to use e-commerce for fear of losing sales and commissions, Dalton said.

The take-away is giving sales reps more time to focus on selling.
Marta Dalton
director of e-commerce, The Coca-Cola Co.

But at Coca-Cola training and customer segmentation makes e-commerce an asset to sales reps. The cost of acquiring a customer when a Coca-Cola rep walks through the door for a sales calls is $50 to $80. In comparison, the cost of acquiring a new business customer online is around $3, Dalton said.

“It makes sense to convert low-volume buyers to e-commerce because it’s a more cost-effective way to manage the business of that customer,” she said. “B2B e-commerce is about cost savings and making a profit.”

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Marta Dalton, director of e-commerce, The Coca-Cola Co.

Coca-Cola sells its reps on B2B e-commerce by working with them to use the company’s e-commerce site to more easily handle such basic tasks as scheduling appointments. “We tell them it takes their grunt work away,” she said. “Do you really want your highest producing sellers wasting time doing busy work? I don’t think so.”

At Coca-Cola, the company’s extensive call center network is used as a tool to support sales reps with e-commerce and basic job tasks, Dalton said. “Don’t be afraid to use the call center to sell,” she said.

Coca-Cola also supports sales reps overseeing big accounts with an e-commerce support specialist. “We made them a part of the sales team, Dalton said. “They provide support before, during and after sales calls, which frees up the rep to concentrate on what they need to do: service the customer.”

A thorough review of all potential and existing sales accounts is a basic best practice at Coca-Cola, Dalton said. By reviewing the time and money spent on each account, the company can create buyer segments for sales reps that help them figure out how e-commerce can best help them with different types of customers.

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“We figured out how best to serve low-level to high-level customers, she said. “The take-away is giving sales reps more time to focus on selling.”

Communication channels also matter. “Dedicated B2B buyers must be supported by multiple touch points including print, e-mail, search and social,” Dalton said. “Some of these touch points can be shared between what the rep does and what the call center can do.”

With average sales rep making annual compensation between salary and commission of $120,000, e-commerce can help companies maximize how best to use their sales forces. “At Coca-Cola we work to make e-commerce an asset for the sales force,” Dalton said.

Marta Dalton will also speak at the B2B Next conference in September in the session, “Using E-Commerce Technology to Reduce Costs, Drive Incremental Revenue and Increase Customer Satisfaction.”

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