Oracle recently declared that outside B2B sales representatives are doomed to extinction.
More accurately, Oracle reported that Forrester has observed that as many as one quarter of B2B salespeople will lose their jobs in the future, as more companies move to Internet-based sales processes.
Fair enough. There are many products that can be sold efficiently and effectively online.
Even if sales aren’t closed online, customers are doing their research online, prior to issuing a purchase order. Indeed, research indicates that a majority of purchase decisions are arrived at prior to hearing from a salesperson. Where the customer has been able to effectively research purchase options and assess the credibility, value, and efficacy of the product or service under consideration, the customer may have already decided what to purchase and from whom. For sales of products and services such as those, it is imperative to have a highly communicative and persuasive Internet presence. Avectous has Channel Management tools that will help you succeed in that arena.
Additionally, companies that sell repeat orders to the same customers can leverage their Internet sales processes very effectively. Avectous can help with that, as well.
But, what about other products or services that cannot be sold as effectively via the Internet? Perhaps more importantly, what about other products or services that ought not to be sold using only Internet interactions?
Certainly, every company needs to use the Internet to communicate the features and benefits that separate them from their competition. What can be done effectively without personal interaction ought to be done on the Internet. After all, an efficient sales process is efficient both for the customer and for the vendor. Information about basic features and benefits, cost, success stories, etc., can help the customer evaluate a potential supplier and obviate the necessity of the long and arduous “getting to know you” dance that used to initiate the sales process. Sales processes that involve RFPs can’t be accomplished without significant pre-sales-call activities. Inside sales personnel can help to maintain good customer relationships, without the need for frequent face-to-face interactions.
Obviously, there are lots of non-sales functions that only people can fill. Do what you can on the Internet, but do what you must in person. There is no doubt that your company has a variety of functions that are performed best through human interaction. Every company is unique. We’ll leave the creation of that list to you. This discussion is about B2B sales personnel in the field.
There are certain products and services that require a consultative approach, based on the customer’s sincere appreciation that your sales personnel understand their challenges and have relevant experience resolving similar challenges for other customers. In those situations, there is simply no substitute for knowledgeable, experienced and professional “boots on the ground.”
A classic example is selling solutions that automate fulfillment processes. No supplier of Order Management or Warehouse Management solutions can provide you with a tailored, cost-effective solution without getting “under the hood.” It requires a thorough assessment of your current fulfillment processes and an evaluation of the opportunities for you to sell more, inventory less and pick, pack, and ship more efficiently. It means understanding the data you use, where it comes from, and how to reduce duplication and errors. It means observing your inventory levels and turns, the number of warehouse personnel you employ, the types and frequency of orders you receive, and the matrix of shipping options that might be available to you. Perhaps most importantly, it requires a thorough analysis of the other software you are using in your business and how that complex matrix of software can be effectively and efficiently integrated with the new fulfillment solution.
You can buy an Order Management solution online. You can buy a Warehouse Management solution online.
But you shouldn’t.
You need a partner with extensive implementation and integration experience. You need a partner who has experience solving the problems that are challenging your company. You need a partner with the team required to support the solutions they implement.
Look around. There aren’t many Order and Warehouse Management solution providers with that level of expertise and experience. There are a few that offer solutions that will cost your company over $1 million when they are finally implemented. That isn’t very helpful if your budget for fulfillment automation is under $250,000.
We believe there is only a handful of solution providers that can bring you all the functionality, scalability, and implementation and integration experience at a price that makes sense for your growing business. Invite a few to visit your facility and invite them to spend the necessary time to understand your problems and what will be required to architect cost-effective solutions.
One of our favorite jokes is “What is the difference between a software salesman and a used car salesman? Only the used car salesman knows when he’s lying to you.”
Fulfillment execution solutions require sophisticated sales personnel with the experience and expertise to know what you need and how the solution can be delivered. Anybody that says “our solution will do that,” before they acquire an intimate knowledge of your business, is leading you down the garden path. A sophisticated solution provider will introduce you to their knowledgeable “boots on the ground.” They will be willing to spend the time to truly understand your business.
Any solution provider can tell you “our system does that.” But until they spend the necessary time in your facility, you ought to be very skeptical.