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by Striped Giraffe Team
13. June 2022
Time to read: 10 Minutes

B2B e-commerce supports sales reps instead of replacing them

Many traditional salespeople in B2B companies have reservations about e-commerce because they perceive the digital sales channel as competition. Yet it can be their most useful tool.

Even though the role of sales staff has changed with the advent of e-commerce, companies cannot and do not want to do without them. After all, not everything in B2B can be automated and handled with self-service functions.

This applies, for example, to price negotiations or the agreement of individual terms and conditions of sale. Additionally, there may still be a significant portion of B2B customers who prefer the traditional way of doing business through sales representatives. And even customers who can handle most of their business through the digital channel may still need personal support from an experienced advisor.

The key to ultimate success is maximum synergy of digital and traditional sales and customer service channels. That is why the implemented solutions and tools should support and streamline the daily work of the sales team, instead of competing with it or replacing it.

Unlock the potential of your sales team

Thanks to the self-service capabilities of the e-commerce platform, B2B customers can perform many tasks on their own that previously required the assistance of a sales representative.

This frees up the sales team from many simple and repetitive tasks, like, for example, sending out catalogs and price lists, collecting orders, entering them into the system, answering customer questions about products, their availability, order, or delivery status. All of this can now be done online by the customers themselves.

The time saved can be used by sales representatives to focus more on other tasks, such as:

  • Strengthening the customer relationships based on a better understanding of the client’s business and its specifics.
  • Acquisition of new customers across all channels, including handling new leads coming from the e-commerce portal.
  • Resolving sophisticated issues and more difficult cases reported by customers, such as complex orders involving highly configurable and technologically advanced products.
  • Serving key and more demanding partners.
  • Supporting customers who prefer offline interaction, encouraging them to gradually switch to e-commerce, delivering appropriate education and training.
E-commerce can be the most powerful tool for B2B sales teams

Empower sales reps with digital tools

B2B e-commerce can provide your sales team with numerous tools that enable them to not only automate and speed up certain tasks, but also to serve customer needs more efficiently. Below you will find some examples of digital features and functions that can streamline the work of your sales reps.

Communication made easy

Thanks to the built-in tools for chats or video calls, the portal can significantly facilitate the contact between the customer and their sales representative.

Since such a meeting takes place directly on the e-commerce platform, both parties have easy access to all its resources like product catalogs, price lists, shopping carts, order history, shopping lists, etc. This allows the sales rep to provide real-time remote customer support, called assisted service, which we discuss later.

Central repository of data and documents

A professional e-commerce portal should be fully integrated with all the systems involved in customer service processes and store necessary data. We are talking primarily about ERP, CRM and PIM/DAM, as well as other systems that serve logistics, billing, and order fulfillment.

Properly set up, the fully integrated platform becomes the central place where not only the customer but also the sales team can find all required and up-to-date information about products, their availability and stock levels, as well as order, payment or delivery status. In their online accounts, they also have access to all documents, including specifications, manuals, warranties, contracts, quotes, invoices, etc.

As a result, a sales representative no longer has to search for information or files in different systems or applications to respond to customer inquiries. Everything is available in one central repository, which is now the e-commerce portal. This is another important factor that improves the speed and quality of service.

Acquiring and handling new leads

From a business development perspective, one of the key advantages of an e-commerce portal is the ability to acquire new leads that can be automatically passed on to sales reps for further nurturing.

To take the most of your e-commerce in this regard, visitors to your site should be able to get in touch with you in the easiest way possible, like using the contact widget that is displayed on all pages. Moreover, you should also place special CTA buttons on your product pages that allow users to ask questions about specific items. You can also enable all interested people to send simplified quote requests without registration.

This provides your salespeople with not only the contact details of potential customers, but also information about what they are actually interested in. With this knowledge, the first contact with a prospect no longer has to be general but can address specific products or services.

Another way to support sales reps is to provide them with lead scoring capabilities. For this, you need to implement the right tools to track users and assess their potential based on their activity on your portal. In this way, your salespeople get reliable guidance on which users are most promising to become future customers.

Insights from customer behavior analysis

Your sales reps can get even more information by analyzing the activity of existing customers, especially once they have logged into their account.

Therefore, you should give your sales team the opportunity to review recent customer activity, such as what products they have browsed or configured, what content has piqued their interest, or what orders they have placed.

Sales reps should also get automatic alerts about important actions performed by their customers, for example, when they created a new shopping list or abandoned a cart. This way, the sales rep can better re-engage with the customer and close the sale they initiated online.

These are the basic capabilities, whereas the amount and variety of data about user behavior on an e-commerce portal allows you to do way more. Especially, if you integrate this data with information captured from other channels and sources.

However, you must remember that salespeople are not data scientists, and you cannot expect them to study raw data and draw conclusions. That is why you need to provide the right tools for automated data collection, integration, and analysis. But that is not all. It is critical that such a system should provide the sales team with meaningful insights in the form of tips and guidelines for further action. They can include more relevant product recommendations or suggestions for actions and drivers that can increase a customer’s propensity to buy, help close or increase sales, or even improve customer engagement and loyalty.

Advanced Analytics - This is Where The Magic Happens

More efficient offer preparation

It is not uncommon for sales reps to spend hours with their B2B customers browsing through stacks of printed catalogs, setting prices with a calculator and creating orders. This is often due to the fact that when a company does not have an e-commerce site with a product catalog, the sales rep is the only reliable source of information about current offerings, prices and inventory.

Everything changes after you launch an e-commerce platform. Here, your customers should be able to find not only the most up-to-date product information, but also tools that enable them to easily build their own inquiries while browsing your offer or their order history.

After receiving an electronic inquiry from a customer, salespeople can quickly prepare an offer because they have instant access to all the necessary information as well as tools to automate and streamline quote generation.

Assisted service as guided buying

Not in all situations customers will be able to self-serve on an e-commerce portal. They may require assistance from a sales representative, for example, if they need to configure a complex product variant, or placing an order.

For this reason, best-in-class e-commerce solutions equip salespeople with advanced capabilities to assist customers in real-time when needed. Assisted service is nothing more than the traditional guided buying process enhanced by digital tools.

How does it work? Simply put, when a customer is in need, they contact a sales representative who then logs into the customer’s account and performs certain tasks on their behalf.

Importantly, it does not matter whether the customer got in touch with the sales rep via a chat, video call, over the phone or met in person. Having access to a desktop, laptop, mobile phone or tablet, the salesperson can solve the problem reported by the customer, answer all their questions, search the right products for them, build the order or even place it at the customer’s request.

Leading e-commerce software vendors offer specialized modules or extensions that allow you to implement assisted service functionality right out of the box. For example, SAP Commerce Cloud has the Assisted Service Module (ASM) as part of the B2B Accelerator.


You cannot stop digitization. An increasing number of customers — including those in B2B — expect self-service capabilities through an e-commerce platform. And if you do not provide them with such a solution, it is very likely that they will find it with your competitors.

Sales employees don’t need to worry about losing their jobs. The expansion of digital commerce to B2B does not necessarily mean that the role of the sales team is reduced and personal contacts are eliminated. What has changed, however, is the role of salespeople, their tasks and the way they work. Instead of being pure salespeople primarily concerned with taking orders and entering them into the system, they will become consultants to the customer to help them grow their business.

Those who are unable to adapt to the new digital reality will likely have to leave. Others, on the other hand, will be better equipped and prepared to handle their accounts more successfully.

And, at the end of the day, you may find that e-commerce, which previously raised your sales team’s resistance and concerns, has the chance to become their most useful tool.

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