B2B ecommerce

Digital Strategy

User Experience

Converting B2B Customers through Digital Sales Services

Monday, March 20, 2017
Layer One - Vice President of eCommerce

As the third in a four-part series, I want to discuss delivering sales phase capabilities involved with the “Being-Serviced” B2B Customer. In the first post, I introduced the “Being-Serviced” B2B Customer as those that will have matured beyond requiring superior “Self-Service” capabilities to those that will want to “Be-Serviced”. Understanding what this means within your industry, to your Partners and End Customers will be critical.

"For future B2B Customers, it will be about “Being-Serviced."

In the second post, we reviewed digital pre-sales considerations and the final post in this series will focus on post-sales considerations for digitally servicing your customers.

Now, let’s focus on the sales phase. Digital presales is made up of activities normally carried out before a customer is technically acquired. The Sales phase involves the final conversion of the lead to the classification of customer. Activities during this phase stress engagement of the lead with personalized information driving home conversion. For B2B Manufacturers, there may be a hand-off to channel partners (Distributors, Dealers) in the sales phase. Providing thee partners with relevant information and tools that assists them in the sales process will be important.

Unlike B2C Digital experiences, B2B is still about building relationships and ideally trusted partnerships. Digital on-line capabilities need to address the relationship side of the equation as well as allowing your company to be easy to do business with. Streamlining Digital capabilities that service your partners and customers in a manner that make their jobs easy will drive value-propositions beyond merely price.

So here is a short list of considerations or questions to ask yourself when considering how to digitally service B2B customers and drive conversions during the sales phase.

1. Single points of personalized relationship management

Larger corporate accounts working with manufacturers and distributors prefer a single point of contact and management that allows for the coordination of everything from corporate agreements to collaboration on projects and solutions. Considering innovative, proactive approaches to building relationships and securing these accounts long term should be pursued.

On-line personalized customer portals provided when nurturing the conversion can place emphasis on the quality of servicing that will be provided during the relationship. These portals should provide value-added services that focus on relationship building and engagement including capabilities that drive two-way communications and collaboration on everything from project details, product specifications, proposals, corporate agreements, negotiated pricing and customer specific product data and catalogs.

With the Internet of Things (IoT), Manufacturers and Distributors are also promoting many on-line services that can be snapped into these portals offering everything from the remote monitoring of products, asset management, preventative maintenance, software/firmware updates, forms of plant/warehouse services, performance dashboards, vendor managed inventory (VMI) and other on-line managed services.

Portals providing customers with real-time information related to their products and services can be used to differentiate even commodity products from the competition due the “ease of doing business” factor.

An additional note, it is important to drive integration of web analytics, customer relationship management, lead management, marketing automation and content management systems, which remain crucial to the collection of data points that will enable personalization processes.

2. Score, grade and nurture

Going to go into all the details and importance of having Marketing Automation and Social programs with active campaigns focused on generating demand and leads would triple the length of this article so I’m going to provide an overview. Most of these processes are utilized pre-sales to generate leads. It is, however, important to add information points to your models to further score, grade and nurture prospects that have been previously qualified. Scoring prospects based on merging behavior and actions against email, website, and other campaigns, then combining further with account grading based on available additional data points (company demographics, for example) should be used to nurture prospects toward conversion. Consider campaigns such as the following released in phases based on progressive scoring and account profile grades to nurture prospects:

Welcome and onboarding

Welcome email campaigns place emphasis on an event the prospect took to engage your organization. This is an opportunity to place emphasis on the quality of your product and the services you will provide, while thanking them.

Topical Subjects

Engage leads / prospects with on-going content that may be of interest to them. Somewhat like a personalized newsletter.

Re-engagement and Renewal

Target leads / prospects with calls to action that may spur their interest and re-engage them back into communications.


Product Campaigns are used from everything from new product launches to on-going product updates, features and benefits.


This type of campaign focuses on how you differentiate from your competitors and the value-proposition you provide over your competition.


Industry based can build credibility as industry experts and provide thought leadership

Promotional and Discount

Triggered by purchase stage, a promotion or special discount can be used to nurture a prospect to convert.


Bring visibility to related products that they may have missed or should be considering.


Notify people of special training events, certifications, or training information.


Notify people of support services and remind them of them periodically.

Abandoned Shopping Cart

Abandoned cart campaigns can be used to notify individuals they may have forgotten about a shopping cart they had been creating.

3. Enable your sales teams with consistent, high quality sales collateral

Manufacturing and Channel Partner sales teams are always looking for better collateral in the form of presentations and marketing literature that will help them sell more product and services. Sales enablement and social solutions should be reviewed that allow this collateral to be shared between sales people. Collaboration can be encouraged within these solutions improving their performance within specific industries, applications and competitors. The collateral can be rated by sales people based on their success allowing the right sales and marketing collateral to be used in the right situations.

4. Guide the sales process

Guided Selling solutions should be considered which take the potential buyer through a series of step-by-step questions offering options and information that result in the preferred product or service being located. Guided selling approaches service potential customers by educating them, helping define their needs and improving the product selection experience.

In addition to guided selling, cross-sell, up-sell and bundling via your site is a starting point that many B2B companies still do not take advantage of. Up-selling encourages customers to purchase a comparable higher-end product than the one being considered. Examples include displaying similar products others viewed or purchased that are a step-up, suggesting the next level of quality, or allowing for product comparisons. Cross-selling suggests complementary items to that being purchased. Examples of this include showing “complimentary products and accessories” or “people that purchased this product also purchased this”. Reminding someone that the product requires a battery and then makes it easy to add it to their cart services the customer while increasing average order value. Bundling combines several complimentary products into an attractive package with a discount or where one or more products can only be purchased as part of the bundle.

5. Streamline the conversion experience

Many large companies already have a single procurement department or are consolidating procurement departments to optimize their supply chain. As a result, they also have or are working toward a single disciplined procurement process and system. These customers want to do business direct with manufacturers and obtain consistent pricing and transparent inventory across all that manufacturers distributors. Manufacturers should consider Configured Supply models in these cases to avoid channel conflict and optimize the sales process. I will be writing a future article for the Layer One Media blog, on this business model.

Customers want to use their systems verses those provided by their distributors and manufacturers, in increasing numbers. In most cases, the buyer will own the relationship and determine the integration method and data required to do business with them. The ability to provide flexible integration options between a customers buy-side solution and their suppliers sell-side solution is critical to servicing the customer. The ability to allow their procurement requisition process to integrate with to a personalized product catalog on the supplier’s system, build up a procurement shopping cart and return it to their system for review and then submit the order via a real-time integration was the requisition workflow was approved is becoming more typical.

From a site experience standpoint, product navigation, shopping cart and checkout processes sometimes provide every option under the sun and place to much information on a page. B2B companies typically have a great amount of detail at the order header and item level that can be changed. However, changes are exceptions that should be placed on secondary pages’ verses cluttering the primary shopping and checkout experience.

Automated order replenishment, wish list, and regular stocking orders that can initiate and complete an order quickly will also score major points with B2B customers. Vendor Managed Inventory (VMI) solutions are being provided by more manufacturers and distributors to assist customers in managing their inventories, replacement parts.

With the above, always try to put yourself in the shoes of your potential buyers or future corporate accounts. Ask yourself how you can service the customer in a manner that influences their buying decision during the sales phases of your pipeline.

In the fourth and final post in this series, we will explore Post-Sales considerations. Sign up for the Layer One Media email newsletter to automatically receive a notification when the last part of this series goes live.

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