While rejecting the “new normal” may have been a crucial internal strategy for maintaining some sense of comradery and consistency in your business, the way forward may not be as clear cut for ecommerce companies, or for employees whose job is to nurture relationships.
This is because there are now numerous “normals” scattered across the landscape, meaning that when it comes to B2B ecommerce, there are no longer any widely accepted standards. For every company sticking to pre-COVID strategies, there are hundreds that have adjusted their methods in a number of different ways.
But at the same time, identifying how to nurture relationships with stakeholders effectively is more important than ever. Currently, the biggest struggle for B2B sales teams is the budget cuts their customers face, causing them to put partnerships on a halt. Leveraging strong relationships to demonstrate value and negotiate adequately will be the key to navigating the transformed ecommerce space.
How can ecommerce businesses ensure their B2B relationships don’t fall by the wayside?
The principal effect the pandemic has had on B2B ecommerce relationships is painfully obvious: It’s now nearly impossible, and probably irresponsible, to engage in any in-person interactions. This means taking necessary action to ensure that both your clients and your vendors are well aware of your continued presence.
Sending updates on reached milestones, project progressions, and potential ways to add value are crucial, yet easy talking points. Depending on the relationship, it can also help to set up weekly calls with important vendors and clients. While they may at times get repetitive, they don’t need to take more than 15 minutes on certain weeks. This will ensure accountability on both sides and allow you to constantly reassess your partners’ situation to figure out how to best adjust to their current needs.
According to a McKinsey study, almost 90% of B2B sales have moved to a videoconferencing, phone, or web sales model. For ecommerce businesses, this means the growing adoption of videoconferencing and phone calls. That’s why it’s fundamental to ensure that you have all the tools needed to communicate with your partners.
Added to that, COVID has accelerated the adoption of innovations, meaning that trends such as omnichannel selling, inside sales, or tech-enabled selling will become increasingly relevant. There has never been a better time to evaluate your digital strategy: Sales leaders now consider digital platforms to be twice as important as they did prior to the pandemic. Meanwhile, suppliers that possess an outstanding web strategy are 70% more likely to win business over those with a suboptimal digital strategy.
Try new, proven strategies—like Amazon’s
Relationships within the B2B ecommerce space are not just about forming and maintaining contacts, but also about proving that you are up to date with your practices and can provide highly competitive services even now, amid the pandemic.
Take video marketing as an example. Video has been fast-tracked from a flashy add-on to a leading tool for marketing services and products. In 2020, 92% of marketers say that video has become key to their marketing strategy, while 88% of marketers currently using video have seen a positive ROI. Incorporating such multimedia formats into your strategy can be a great way to inspire creativity and the ability to adapt to rapid change.
However, implementing novel formats and channels has another advantage: They offer additional space for experimentation. Take a look at Amazon.com Inc.’s Amazon Live feature: The ecommerce giant has taken a proven medium and expanded it to showcase its vendors, products, and platform in an engaging way—in this particular case, showcasing products useful in work-at-home environments.
Keep internal teams motivated
Even if you, as the leader of your team or company, can recognize the optimal strategies, you will not be successful without the proper amount of buy-in and contribution from your team. It’s essential to keep team members motivated even when their clients have implemented their “new normal,” which may include fewer meetings and decreased spending.
Encouraging healthy competition between teams, keeping clear goals, making sure that everyone is up-to-date with the latest information, and celebrating every win will help keep engagement high and B2B relationships a priority.
There’s no doubt that the way B2B ecommerce businesses connect with their partners is changing. However, the pandemic should not downgrade the importance of close relationships. Even if they take a different form, and lean on technology, they have the potential to blossom, especially if your business communicates consistently while demonstrating value.
Rohan Thambrahalli is the founder and president of UpstartWorks, a management consulting firm that, among other things, helps companies sell through Amazon.com.Favorite