Downsizing your sales team, not your revenue

Leverage the latest in AI and automation

30 Jun 2020

Saying goodbye to great sales staff is always hard, especially when you’re doing it because of a downturn in business. It isn’t just sad in the short term, it can also put your business in a vulnerable position when things start to pick up. It means starting the often-painful recruitment and training processes again – and perhaps even missing out on opportunities as you do so.

But there is a silver lining. Necessity isn’t just the mother of invention – it’s the mother of efficiency, too. Shrinking your sales team now could create just the incentive you need to leap into the digital tools, like AI and automation, you’ve been meaning to invest in. Digital won’t just fill a gap right now – it could pave the way to a more productive future.

AI and automation boost your sales team

While salespeople often look at e-commerce sites with suspicion, B2B e-commerce can make your team more efficient. It removes repeat administrative tasks so they can focus on what they do best, working to solve client problems and building relationships.

Even just a well-built e-commerce site will see you reap efficiency gains while offering the next level of customer service. Salespeople can place orders on behalf of customers, give special pricing online, and check on stock availability, order status and history in real-time.

But AI can take this efficiency up even further, by helping to spot and qualify leads, set up meetings, send follow-ups and create reports – busy work that lower-level salespeople spend 80% of their time on.

Self-service for clients

It’s worth remembering that even when selling B2B, you’re still dealing with real people day to day, not a business entity. Those B2B customers are beginning to expect the same flexibility and choice they experience when making purchases in their personal lives.

This is backed up by a new survey from Forrester, which shows 70% of B2B buyers prefer digital ordering to dealing with sales reps. By delivering what these customers want, the sales team has more time and energy to dedicate to those who want to engage with them.

Building AI-driven selling tools into these self-service platforms can also add the critical up-sell and recommendations that sales reps offer. The platform will answer questions, suggest useful add-ons and ultimately guide the decision-making process. From there, B2B customers can build their quotes and submit these to their sales rep.

“E-commerce has ultimately taken away the need for salespeople to explain things,” says Matthew Cook, founder and CEO of SalesHub.

Hands-on product experience, virtually

Augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) experiences are becoming a new norm in retail – and the trend is growing across markets and industries. Leveraging this technology could eliminate the need for reps to demonstrate products in person.

While AR isn’t new, it’s only in recent years that the technology has offered truly useful applications. Virtual selling is one of them. Using their mobiles, customers can inspect a 3D digital representation of the physical product and view it in real-life environments. Similarly, virtual reality offers exciting possibilities – B2B customers can place themselves into a virtual environment to experience and interact with a digital space.

Better, faster customer service

Something as simple as a chatbot on an e-commerce site can dramatically improve your customers’ experience – they can get answers fast at any time of the day. A survey from Hubspot suggests that 47% of people are open to buying items through a chatbot.

Chatbots can also often beat the human touch – when integrated with social media, the bots will have far more data about the people they’re interacting with. This allows them to make smarter, more relevant suggestions.

New customers, more sales

The internet isn’t limited by time or geography. One-on-one attention from a sales rep may not be possible for smaller businesses – or ones outside of your usual service area. Excellent B2B e-commerce will facilitate the sales process for these customers, helping you win business from new or unexpected places.

Research also shows that the average value of orders is higher online – particularly if your site is set up to make automated add-on suggestions.

Tracking information, delivering insight

Great salespeople know intuitively what customers want and need. By tracking search data and sales information, an e-commerce site adds hard data to gut instinct – giving your reps powerful insight into customer behaviour.

Most e-commerce sites are now set up to track customer behaviour – you can see what people search for, what they click on, how often they visit, and what they eventually buy. This information is incredibly valuable for your sales team. They can see which products are working and which are not, what products are purchased together, and when sales are abandoned halfway through. When a rep eventually speaks to online customers, this insight means prepared solutions tailored to their needs – before they even ask.

Humans and bots: the perfect team

Sales is an inherently human act – it takes product knowledge, genuine care for customers and a real, human connection. But there is room in the sales process for more automation and digitisation. Computers, while still not very good at human warmth, are very good at administration. They’re fast and accurate – unlike humans.

By implementing the latest in digital e-commerce tools, you’ll bridge the gaps left by your departing salespeople by improving the ecosystem your remaining people work within. The best news? When things pick up, you’ll be positioned to build a sales force backed by the seamless efficiency of the latest in tech.



date published:

30 Jun 2020