The recent fall in manufacturing PMI, which combines statistics for output, orders and jobs, reflects the nature of a challenging market for b2b companies. Manufacturers, along with wholesalers and distributors are searching for ways to get ahead of the curve, looking for anything that delivers competitive advantage.
Business-to-business sellers are keen to grow sales and address issues in areas where efficiency can be improved, cost reduced and margin increased. But in an increasingly digitalised world, many of the companies we talk to are struggling to leverage traditional sales processes to boost performance. They’re still relying on face-to-face visits from sales reps, phoned in orders, picking up business at trade shows, printing expensive product catalogues that are usually lost or thrown away, and placing ads in the trade press to generate new business. And it’s simply not enough to drive increased revenue.
We frequently see companies facing a variety of other challenges that come from manual business processes. For example, orders placed with reps or on the phone need to be entered manually, often without any accurate insight into stock levels. As well as being resource intensive and time consuming, (a recent survey reported that in over 50% of larger companies, handling the paperwork associated with the manual processing of a single sales order takes up an average of more than 51 hours), this often results in errors that impact on delivery times and sour the customer experience.
On top of this, in our experience, the service expectations of today’s new breed of business buyer are higher than ever before. They want a seamless ordering process with no mistakes, delays or complications. They want to be able to research products and place orders when and where they choose. And they’re not afraid to change supplier if sellers are unable to meet these requirements.
Time and time again, we’re seeing how traditional ways of working are failing to deliver for today’s b2b companies. The failure is not just in terms of revenue generation, and customer service, it’s also in operational efficiency and cost control. With this kind of squeeze on margin, it’s little wonder that many manufacturers, wholesalers and distributors say their business is only just about treading water.
The business-to-business companies we work with have made some simple changes to the way they operate, and this is having a big impact on performance. By creating an online sales channel, they’re able to be more efficient, more agile, more productive, and provide a more streamlined customer service. For example, with an eCommerce platform, there’s no need to manually enter orders, so processing errors are eliminated and inefficiencies are ironed out to deliver cost savings of up to 80%.
These companies value the benefits of features such as real-time visibility into stock availability, account-specific pricing, payment-on-account, and personalised offers. And they’re seeing how an eCommerce platform that integrates with business and accounting systems (such as Sage and Pegasus) can have a big impact on the customer experience – for both new and existing customers – improving satisfaction, enhancing loyalty and increasing sales in the long-term. Lower operating costs and higher sales drive increased margin, which is helping to put these companies ahead of the competition.