E-commerce is redefining the role of your sales force, but it’s a complete myth that it’s replacing them. No doubt, times of technological disruption can inspire fear and many people wonder if automation will make their jobs irrelevant.
But savvy businesses are finding ways to harness the possibilities that new technology enables. That’s why we at Guidance are convinced that reports of the “death of the salesman” at the hands of e-commerce are greatly exaggerated, Instead, digital solutions are an amazing opportunity that allows both individuals and organizations to work much smarter and efficiently
Speed of Information
One of the most important ways high-tech does this is to get real-time info into your sales team's hands. Knowledge has always been power, but in today’s world that principle is more valid than ever.
For example, in a world where tomorrow is too late, salespeople need to leverage information by having product details, inventory status, and item availability at their fingertips (in the form of a mobile app) so that they can respond to customer inquiries immediately and at all times.
A case in point is a commercial paper supplier, which recently migrated to e-commerce in a big way. This is not an industry where brand differentiation, customer loyalty, or other intangibles come into play. Instead, it’s an environment where sales teams need to be agile and responsive to customer queries and demands.
By arming sales teams with real-time product data, this organization’s reps can answer questions and take orders instantly, which is a decisive edge in this margin-driven industry. The result has been millions of dollars in additional revenue.
More Strategic Salesforces
Initially, many salespeople have resisted e-commerce because they view it as a threat. If customers can self-service on a website, then what need is there for sales reps? But this kind of thinking is proving misguided.
E-commerce does not replace the sales department so much as augment them. In particular, it frees up time so that sales teams can engage in more productive and strategic activities (like pursuing qualified new leads, nurturing existing relationships, and understanding their customers better) as opposed to low-value pursuits (such as taking phone orders).
E-commerce can also dramatically enhance your view of the customer, which greatly improves your ability to market and sell to them. Thanks to CRM and other digital solutions, sales forces can now have a 360-degree view of their clients, which includes information about interest and intent derived from shopping carts, product searches, and other customer activity.
The end result is that salespeople can make more informed and relevant product recommendations to their clients. The power of this approach becomes even more apparent with the advent of the Internet of Things (IoT). For example, nowadays, salespeople can receive real-time notifications about how their products and services are actually being utilized.
A case in point is a manufacturer of medical testing devices, which sells precision instruments to researchers conducting scientific experiments. Thanks to real-time data enabled by the IoT, sales teams now have an unprecedented window into how their products are being used in the everyday world. This gives them insight into the content, solutions, and products that their clients need to do their job. All this helps deepen the connection between your sales force and your customers.
A digitally enabled salesforce is hyper-integrated into your customers, which make your organization far more relevant and valuable to your clients over the long-term.
Some cultures view e-commerce as a threat to traditional ways of doing business. But it’s really an opportunity. By automating low-value activities it frees up sales forces to spend more time on things that can really add value to your business.
However, in order to get your salespeople to buy into e-commerce, it’s imperative that you incentivize them by making sure they get a share of the online sales too. When you have this kind of alignment, e-commerce can be a huge win-win for your business.