The future of B2B sales in industrial manufacturing industries is driven by simplification - the digitalization of the sales process is an imperative!
From a Sales Rep-centric to a Web Channel-centric Approach
B2B sales in industrial manufacturing is significantly changing: from a traditional sales cycle, which is based on time-consuming sales rep interactions to a streamlined, convenient sales process with a consumer-grade customer experience and global reach. In this approach, web channels play a major role and cover certain process steps with a true omni-channel customer experience. They are emerging as one-stop-shops – providing information and self-services to simplify the buying of original equipment, spare parts, services, and solution bundles.
This change is driven by the customers of industrial machinery and component (IM&C) companies as well as from the manufacturing companies themselves, to drive profitable growth, enter new markets, and attract new prospects.
As per different surveys, customers of IM&C companies are not happy with their buying experience. Procurement managers and others expect that doing business with their vendors to be easier and require less time-consuming meetings with sales reps (the orange process steps in the picture below), but still easily acquiring all the valuable information about the company as well as the products and services it offers in a convenient way through web channels (the gray process steps) - with all the associated comfort of a state-of-the-art B2C buying experience. This is expected to be the new norm for B2B sales in industrial manufacturing.
Especially during the sales of complex products, the interaction with sales reps will continue to be highly important, but certain process steps can be more easily covered through a web channel solution. For productive and professional customer engagements, sales and marketing professionals need a deep understanding of their customers and their customers’ buying journey.
Increased Revenue by Selling Spare Parts and Equipment through a Web Channel
Companies who have already extended their web channel solution to cover both spare parts as well as equipment sales and provide a consumer-grade buying experience to their customers and partners could achieve excellent results, such as:
increased customer satisfaction through an easier buying process and more accurate deliveries
increased revenue through a better global reach for both spare parts and original equipment
improved efficiency and reduced costs through a fully automated quote-to-order process
Consider the Bigger Picture
For a truly successful B2B sales approach, manufacturing companies need to consider the bigger picture:
Consider the entire product portfolio, including spare parts, for the web channel solution
Provide all valuable information and self-services on the web channel
Build it as a one-stop-shop for a convenient buying experience
Consider all relevant customer installed base information and provide nice 3D visualizations and explosion views for an easy buying experience for both original equipment and spare parts
Consider an omni-channel customer experience, with a harmonized configuration, price, and quote quotation process across all customer interaction channels
Complement the omni-channel B2B sales solution with a marketing solution for a consumer-grade buying experience with smart recommendations and contextual, relevant customer engagements through the identification of buying signals from customers and new prospects
The detection of buying signals and a contextual marketing approach to identify new prospects is getting significantly more important in industrial manufacturing and will be described in one of my future blogs.
Successful B2B Digital Sales Requires an Integrated Omni-Channel B2B Sales Solution
Achieving a consumer-grade customer experience for B2B sales requires that IM&C companies provide access to all valuable information and self-services through their web channel and enable a convenient buying of spare and emergency parts; configurable products and equipment; software and services; as well as product bundles through a one-stop-shop solution – covering the entire product portfolio. All customers can conveniently access the web channel whenever they want to get all information they need in an easy-to-understand way through nice 3D visualizations and exploded views. Customers can also initiate an interaction with a sales rep when they want a more in depth discussion. The sales professional can get a deep understanding of the customer through his buying journey and can prepare a very professional customer interaction. After the physical meeting(s), the customer can finalize the buying journey and close the transaction through the web channel solution. For a true omni-channel experience, customers and sales professionals have access to all valuable information as well as a harmonized configuration, price, and quotation process.
To cover certain process steps through digital channels, the digitalization of the sales process is required.
As the above picture shows, this differentiating customer experience with a global reach could not be achieved with “siloed” solutions across the different customer interaction channels (a typical multi-channel approach). The experience requires an integrated omni-channel B2B sales solution for digital businesses, spanning the web channel solution, the sales reps’ sales force automation solution, the call center solution, and a seamless embedded marketing solution. All industrial companies who plan to move to a true omni-channel sales approach using a web channels as a one-stop-shop playing a major role in the B2B sales process need to consider that configuration, price, and quote capabilities will get much more important for front line sales reps in the future. Please read my blog "Configuration for Front-Line Sales Reps ..." for more details on this important change and the difference of multi vs. omni-channel.
For more information on digital channels for B2B sales in manufacturing please read my other blog "Digital Transformation & Customer Centricity for Industrial Manufacturing".
How SAP Helps
SAP provides an integrated omni-channel B2B sales solution, the foundation for a one-stop-shop customer or partner portal, covering the needs of products, services, and aftermarket parts - helping industrial manufacturing companies to:
provide an omni-channel buying experience to their customers
increase product and solution revenue through a global reach
increase aftermarket service and parts business
identify buying signals and enable event-driven, contextual marketing
simplify the solutions architecture and provide a high automation of end-to-end processes
Our market-leading web channel solution for B2B and B2C sales (SAP Hybris Commerce Cloud) is a core part of this solution. For more information check out the SAP Solution Explorer.
I am very interested in other thoughts on the consumerization of B2B sales in industrial manufacturing industries and best practices on how to move to a true omni-channels sales approach for a superior customer experience.
Dietmar Bohn is a Vice President of Industry Solutions Management at SAP SE, focusing on customer centricity and digital transformation. He brings more than 15 years of CRM experience from both outside and inside SAP and more than 25 years of industry experience. Dietmar has held various executive roles spanning CRM strategy projects, CRM implementation projects, CRM development and CRM product management. Before joining SAP, Dietmar has held different management positions in R&D, IT and Global Sales & Marketing organizations at Heidelberger Druckmaschinen AG. Dietmar holds degrees in Electrical Engineering and in Telecommunications.