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B2B sales is all about personal relationships, and no one, including digital applications, knows the customer better than the sales man visiting regularly his customer. He knows not only in which products the customer is interested in but also his preferred holiday spot, favorite football club and his preference for single malt whisky. Well, at least this was true for many years.

How reliable is the knowledge of a customer (and the relationship with him) when many of the customer’s interactions move into the digital world?  Searching for product information online, buying online, receiving online customer service ... - web based ordering and self-services in B2B have risen substantially in the past years and will continue to grow. Especially with a generation that is "always online" since childhood days .

And the digital world in which B2B customers communicate does not end on the vendor’s web site and web shop. There is a lot of direct and indirect online communication happening outside of the vendor's own  online presence - from social media posts to exchanges in dedicated forums. The knowledge of this communication does not necessarily change the vendor's picture of the customer but it can, and in the best case it actually adds to the picture  the vendor already has.

When communication channels the customers are using change - wouldn't it make sense to adjust the usage of the vendor's communication channels as well? When a customer prefers the online channel, he will be addressed via email and web shop offers , a customer who prefers the phone will receive a phone call. "Playing" with the communication channels might even allow to move - carefully - not so profitable customers to the less expensive online channel by using this way for specific promotions .

Detailed customer information from various sources (own systems and 3rd party) cannot only be used to offer the best fitting products to a customer but also to find out which customers might tend to move  to other vendors. Based on their interests, questions, browsing behavior or survey results hints can be found on how to keep their business. With the knowledge how they react to promotions, specialized product offers or visits, personalized  and in-the-moment marketing plans can be created. And now knowing via which channel they can be addressed most effectively, the customer retention win-back  strategy can unfold.

"Tapping" the digital world outside of the own company to gather information does not only extend the knowledge of existing customers. It also leads to knowledge of potential new customers and takes lead generation to a new level.

And our sales man from the beginning, how can detailed customer information support his direct sales activities? Knowing what mails and offers have been sent to his customer, if there are any open complaints or service requests and what are the sentiment of his posts - this really makes him well prepared for a visit. And if the application he is using gives him dedicated product suggestions that really have the chance to work - this makes it even better.