Social distancing in B2B commerce: what to do when the sales representative stops ringing the bell
Published on: May 15, 2020 Updated: Aug 18, 2022
The Corona crisis has also hit the B2B market hard. In many industries, the order situation is collapsing dramatically due to the current economic situation. And where sales are still being generated, familiar processes are being turned upside down.
The Problem with Field Service
The field sales force, which previously maintained close contact with customers and generated new orders on site, has been condemned to social distancing as a result of the Corona pandemic. And the customer they would have liked to visit on site is almost certainly sitting in their home office. Even trade shows, through which some companies generated 50 or even 75 percent of their total annual sales in the past, will probably no longer take place this year.
The predominant channels through which orders can still be generated are the telephone, fax, video conferences, procurement platforms - or the online store (which of course is now experiencing enormous growth). Accordingly, corporate purchasing must adapt its procurement guidelines to the new exceptional situation. The good news for B2B retailers with online stores is that many companies are suddenly becoming more open to this sales channel. Those who now manage to convince customers through maximum customer orientation and excellent service that the online channel does not completely replace previous procurement channels, but complements them well, can emerge from the crisis as winners.
Punctuality is not a virtue, it's a duty
It is often forgotten: The customer experience does not stop after the order has been sent. Of course, it is important that a professional buyer quickly finds what he is looking for and that his company-specific requirements are taken into account in the ordering process. But especially when ordering for business-critical processes, customers want to know when their goods will arrive and whether any hurdles will arise during delivery. After all, the Corona pandemic is currently often causing unexpected gaps in the supply chain and supposed standard products are suddenly no longer available.
B2B suppliers must always reassure their customers that their orders are on track. And they do this by communicating the entire shipping process and informing them when the goods were shipped, that they are in delivery and to whom they were delivered. This is especially true for products that are currently most needed: Pharmaceutical items, respirators, ventilators and more. Right now, in these industries, it is all the more important that the status of the shipment is kept in view at all times and that any delays in delivery are reported proactively and reliably. What must not be forgotten here: Not only the end customers, but also service, such as installers, as well as sales staff can additionally be kept up to date on the shipment status.
In the event of expected delivery delays, customers should be able to see this immediately in the shipping confirmation:
How this works is demonstrated by the Fricke company, which sells agricultural machinery, garden technology, commercial vehicles and spare parts all over the world. Because customers often wait urgently for their shipment, especially when ordering spare parts, it is essential for the agricultural machinery specialist to closely monitor whether the ordered shipment arrives on time.
Fricke notices quickly if something is burning in the delivery
With the help of parcelLab's software optimizes Fricke's shipping process for each customer individually. Using a custom export, which also includes same-day and over-night express carriers, the company analyzes what percentage of shipments are delivered on time. If a shipment is delayed, the customer is notified in real time and can, for example, reschedule in time at the construction site. The status quo of freight forwarding deliveries is also monitored and the customer is informed promptly. Fricke benefits not only from satisfied customers, but also from lower costs, as failed deliveries can be significantly minimized, especially for expensive freight forwarding deliveries.
The complete Fricke (Granit Parts) Customer Success Story can be read here:
Incidentally, the fear many professional buyers have of thwarting sales to their long-time sales representative when orders are placed online can be countered by B2B online retailers by embedding the sales representative in the communication - be it through a picture, a personal signature or even the inclusion of a YouTube video in which the respective employee explains the individual shipping steps.
There are no limits to creativity. The only important thing is that it must be evaluated from the customer's perspective.
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