Marta Dalton, director of global ecommerce at consumer products manufacturer Unilever, shares best practices for mixing e-commerce and revenue-generating sales reps.


Marta Dalton, director of global ecommerce, Unilever NV

Ecommerce does not have to be the natural enemy of sales representatives inside a company.

In fact, if designed and integrated correctly, ecommerce can help sales reps generate and close bigger ticket orders, Marta Dalton, director of global ecommerce at consumer products manufacturer Unilever NV, told attendees during her keynote session Wednesday at the AD ECommerce Summit in Fort Worth, Texas. Unilever is a global manufacturer of more than 400 consumer brands including such well-known labels as Axe and Lynx men’s grooming products, Dove soap, Omo and Heartbrand ice creams, Hellmann’s mayonnaise and Lipton tea.

Sales reps “are highly educated and highly compensated employees who are motivated,” she said. “There’s no value in having these employees just be order-takers, because ecommerce can make their job easier and save time and money.”

Ecommerce shouldn’t be an issue for sales reps

Dalton, who before joining Unilever last year was ecommerce director at The Coca-Cola Co., where she built a program that integrated ecommerce with the work of sales agents. Shesays that taking away or reducing commissions—a big sore point with reps and a top reason why they balk at e-commerce—shouldn’t be an issue. “The best way to get reps on board is never cut commissions,” she told attendees. “Ecommerce can generate better ways to serve the customer and everyone wins.”


It may cost a company about $50 per order to have a rep making a sales call manually write up a customer’s order and then key it into an order management system, call it in to the home office, or do both later, Dalton says.

But basic order taking using ecommerce can cost $2 or $3 per order compared with $10 for an order taken by a call center agent. “Things are different in the digital world,” she said.

Coke’s formula for mixing ecommerce and sales reps

At Coca Cola, Dalton and her team used a series of building blocks to integrate ecommerce with sales reps. The process started with mapping out the entire inside and outside sales channels and analyzing a range of costs, including salaries, commissions and order processing costs.

The next step was to look at how the reps were organized, how they laid out territories and prospected for sales, and how they identified and closed sales.

With detailed information on sales channel organization, costs and business processes, a company can then develop and map where and how ecommerce can be integrated into steps in the sales process, including sales administration, order taking and processing, and manging travel and client time.


Saving costs, building revenue

Training and customer segmentation makes ecommerce an asset to sales reps. The cost of acquiring a customer when a rep walks through the door for a sales call can be $50 to $80. In comparison, the cost of acquiring a new business customer online is around $3, Dalton said.

A thorough review of all potential and existing sales accounts can be basic best practice, 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 ecommerce can best help them with multiple types of customers.

“What ecommerce does is motivate reps by freeing them up to do what they do best—and that’s serve the customer,” she told attendees. She added that she tells sales reps:  “Ecommerce is here to support you and take away the crap you don’t have to do.”

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