Sales transactions in B2B ecommerce are far more complex and nuanced than in B2C, requiring software designed to handle that complexity, writes Jason Nyhus, president and general manager of commerce technology firm Shopware US.

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Jason Nyhus

There has been an ongoing narrative that success in B2B commerce means mimicking tactics in B2C commerce. The idea is that B2B buyers want a familiar and comfortable experience, akin to that of B2C. The reality is that the B2B world is vastly different from B2C and for good reason. Sales in the B2B sector are full of complexities and nuances that B2C sales don’t need to address, so the tactics for the two sectors are different and need to be different.

The reality is that the nuance of B2B sales means that consumerization will never truly work for this sector.

There are numerous aspects of your B2B commerce strategy that need to be addressed but are often overlooked. For example, the B2B commerce world involves intricate relationships, both internally and externally. There needs to be custom pricing for some accounts and specialized workflows to move potential customers down the pipeline. So, it is no surprise that much of the sale is based on relationships.

Building trust and relationships.

The truth is, for many sales reps in the B2B space, they operate on the Pareto Principle, also known as the 80/20 rule. For them, 20% of their accounts produce 80% of their results. This means that if they have 50 accounts, they are really leaning on 10 of those accounts to drive their numbers.

Those top 10 accounts will be the first to hear about a new promotion or new product offerings, and they’ll have consistent communication from the sales rep. Relationships with the prime accounts will be the strongest and get the most attention, but what about the other accounts?

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If you’re looking through a B2C lens, you’d assume everyone is getting a little bit of interaction from the sales rep, but that’s not how it works. The myth formed by ecommerce companies is that by leaning into consumerization, you can create new sales opportunities and unlock new and explosive growth for your B2B company, but that is a story told to cover up the shortcomings of so many ecommerce platforms when it comes to B2B sales.

The reality is that the nuance of B2B sales means that consumerization will never truly work for this sector. With B2B sales, you’re dealing with much bigger contracts, a longer buyer journey and more decision makers. Due to all the reasons mentioned above, a rep has to be that much more nurturing for their leads in B2B sales. Potential customers will want more research, a deeper understanding from the sales rep of their business and the challenges they are looking to solve. Each step in the sales process needs to be carefully cultivated and developed by the sales team.

Sometimes there can be a team of 10 that all need to make the B2B buying decision together, whereas in B2C you only need to worry about one single buyer. This is why becoming a trusted advisor for the entire buyer group is so important.

In B2B sales, you need to make sure the whole buyer group is confident moving forward. You may have a split decision among the buyer group and have to provide extra content and answer additional questions for the doubtful side of the buyer group. Sales teams in the B2B sector need to be prepared to tailor their efforts to not only the group as a whole but also on an individual basis.

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In a nutshell, the differences between B2B and B2C sales far outweigh the similarities between the sectors, and if you are trying to replicate strategy across sectors, you are setting yourself up for failure.

Convenience and practical functionalities.

Most commerce platforms were launched more than 15 years ago and designed for the B2C commerce boom. These platforms were not designed to handle B2B sales. But instead of redesigning their platform or adding new features and functionalities to better support B2B sales, ecommerce technology companies are trying to make B2B sales fit in their current B2C offerings — and it should be the other way around.

The shift that needs to happen from ecommerce platforms for B2B sales can be compared to the shift to telehealth for healthcare companies. Telehealth is all about efficiency and adding value for the doctor and the patient. A traditional visit to the doctor can take up to three hours when you factor in drive time, waiting, filling out paperwork, and the actual time with the doctor. Now, with telehealth, the experience only takes 30 minutes, and it is a highly personalized visit.

By truly adopting a B2B mindset for your ecommerce platform, you can learn how to create value for both the sales rep and the customer. The truth is, if your platform doesn’t add value, the sales reps will just rely on the same old tools they know the best. The sales teams for the B2B sector need to have the ability to answer complex, multi-level questions from anyone in the buyer group. For a sales rep to switch from their current system to your new commerce offering, it needs to help them answer those questions effectively and efficiently.

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Supplying unique B2B-specific features will truly unlock B2B sales and growth. Your offerings need to strengthen the skills B2B sales reps already have. You need to be able to make their life easier, not just give them another tool to use. When looking at your platform, take a step back and ask yourself, “How will this make things easier for the sales rep and provide a better experience for customers?

Provide tools that unlock potential for the other 40 accounts people are managing, not just the 10 accounts in the top 20% of their portfolio. Adding features that make building relationships with all the customers easy is where the growth will come from.

About the Author:

Jason Nyhus is the president and general manager of Shopware US, an ecommerce software provider.

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