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Getting Sellers to Embrace E-commerce

by Dave Egloff  |  July 26, 2019  |  Submit a Comment

Omnichannel sales strategies are not a new concept and continue to evolve.  While sales leaders have long embraced a mix of routes to market, including direct and indirect sales channels, e-commerce is occupying more mind share.  In fact, according to a recent Gartner study, 52% of sales leaders said they planned to deploy or pilot digital or e-commerce solutions in 2019.

Some sellers are taking notice of this push toward e-commerce and may feel an existential threat.  Even when sellers realize their jobs are not in jeopardy, they certainly recognize that things are changing.

Experimenting with e-commerce has merit and upside.  However, sales leaders must address seller concerns to avoid any distractions, and are recommended to:

  • Pilot e-commerce strategies to extend the sales reach to lower priority opportunities
  • Acknowledge that buyers are evolving and so must sales organizations

Pilot e-commerce strategies to extend the sales reach to lower priority opportunities

Obviously, an e-commerce platform sounds appealing.  Contribution margin increases as the level of sales touch shifts from high to low.  Inside sales have traditionally served as the low-touch, high margin approach to selling — a very effective strategy for low customization, transactional selling.  Nonetheless, inside sales are maturing and becoming more sophisticated.  As inside sales work upward to more complex selling, there is a void for the lowest touch and no-touch sales activities.

Inside sales have extended the geographic reach of the sales organization.  Similarly, e-commerce can extend the reach to customer segments that were previously deemed as too low of a priority.  Undoubtedly, sellers may feel like they are losing something.  Instead, sales leaders should reframe the conversation to show how sellers are benefiting from the focus on higher priority accounts.

In short, e-commerce should not be seen as a strategy that cannibalizes opportunities.  Instead, it is a self-service alternative that opens the door to small deals that:

  • Lack customization
  • Rarely have upsell potential
  • Pose a greater opportunity cost than an opportunity

Acknowledge that buyers are evolving and so must sales organizations

Before sellers look to e-commerce as a threat, they must recognize that the biggest risk is in failing to adapt.  Clearly, buyers and the buying process are changing.  This graphic shows the modern-day buying journey.

Sellers are likely not surprised to see the complexity and should recognize the opportunities where they can provide value.  In the B2B world, it’s clearly buying and not shopping.  Buyers still have many jobs to do before they make a decision:

  • Manage internal stakeholders
  • Identify possible solutions
  • Reconcile potentially conflicting, yet high-quality information

Buyers continue to prove that they are channel-agnostic, especially during fact-finding.  On average, buyers are 57% through the buying journey before they are willing to talk to a sales rep.  Top sellers are maximizing the 43% of the buying journey that remains.  In a way that e-commerce is not yet capable, high performing sellers are helping buyers make sense of the abundance of good information.  This sense making approach:

  • Increases buyer confidence
  • Reduces buyer skepticism
  • Improves the likelihood of an upgrade sales transaction

Undoubtedly, sellers are recognizing that change is constant.  E-commerce can be part of a new sales approach and does not need to be seen as a threat.  When low priority opportunities shift to a no-touch, e-commerce platform, sellers can focus on the opportunities that return a greater ROI.  Plus, with the time saved from avoiding low-quality opportunities, sellers can serve buyers in ways that currently exceed the capabilities of an e-commerce platform.  This is not a threat but may be part of the new sales paradigm.

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Category: sales-strategy  sales-strategy-and-design  

Dave Egloff
Senior Director
1 years at Gartner
20 years IT Industry

Dave Egloff is a Senior Director, Analyst in the Gartner for Sales Leaders practice. His current work focuses on key initiatives in sales strategy, sales operations and sales compensation. Read Full Bio




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