The bigger the organisation, the more likely it is that it moves like a massive cargo vessel - it’s stable and it plods along toward its destination efficiently enough, but it takes a lot of work and energy to quickly alter course when complications arise.
For the ship that is a B2B organisation, transitioning from a structure that focuses on channel sales or vendor and supplier networks, to one that emphasises an omnichannel methodology incorporating ecommerce as well as traditional channels, can be painful to say the least. To be successful, B2B organisations must assemble and inspire the appropriate stakeholders to steer the business through the pitfalls of digital transformation.
There are some challenges to face when organising and staffing for a B2B digital transformation.
One of them is that successfully integrating eCommerce into the omnichannel strategy may require some creativity. According to Forrester, “Increasingly, B2B digital business professionals will transition their models from technology-organisation-led shared services to standalone operations aligned with marketing and sales.”
Companies need to take a serious look at their structure to determine where their eCommerce operation can fit in. Rather than dumping everything on the IT department, it might be better to consider the value of establishing autonomous eCommerce operations that closely align with other departments such as marketing, sales or logistics.
Of course, direct sales teams probably view eCommerce as the big bad wolf coming to blow down their entire operation. But in fact, today’s B2B purchases flow through the omnichannel customer journey both on and offline, and when it comes to making complex purchases, or completing an order with multiple elements, the sales person is crucial, taking on a more creative and consultative approach.
It’s also very valuable to get a viewpoint from many different parts of the business. When building an eCommerce team companies should look to human resources, customer service and support, marketing, product teams, finance, and the entire supply chain function. eCommerce initiatives affect the entire enterprise, not just a single silo within the organisation.
Support needs to come from within, and outside the organisation. Establishing buy-in internally can be difficult. The ideal team must be comprised of keen observers of changing market trends and evolving customer behaviour and whilst these might be found internally, influencers will also be valuable if they bring information and ideas from outside. They should also be able to bring people together, drum up support and enthusiasm for new initiatives, and be the driving force that fuels user adoption. Looking around at the complete pool of talent is a good way to move forward and evangelise the move to eCommerce.
One last point when getting eCommerce ducks in a row, it is essential to identify what technology will provide the best support. Increasingly, sales people who are engaged in the process are moving beyond using just eCommerce platforms to leverage tools like Configure Price Quote (CPQ) applications to provide data-driven recommendations to buyers; they are delivering upsell and cross-sell suggestions; they are making use of guided selling tools to ensure the best possible solution is assembled; they lean on automated approvals and dynamic document generation tools to move the process along quickly and they use CLM and other applications to ensure they can deliver a long-term service in the context of a relationship to the customer.
Of course there will be challenges, but turning that big ship around is possible, and worth it.
Stephen Hardy is Managing Director for FPX Ltd and is based in London. He is responsible for sales and service operations in the UK and Western Europe.