Today’s empowered buyers present a serious challenge for many B2B businesses and their sales departments — largely because today’s buyers are spoiled by the simplicity, speed and comprehensive nature of the B2C selling experience.
They’re omnichannel-savvy and can engage at multiple touchpoints. Think of these buyers reaching out via an ecommerce platform, then being directed to a partner channel, then working with an account executive down the road.
With nearly unrestricted access to information and the flexibility to buy on any device, these B2C-empowered buyers now have the upper hand in the buying process. This makes them more unpredictable, fickle and demanding, willing to shift loyalties and test new vendors if necessary.
For manufacturers, attracting and retaining these customers requires new technology solutions that offer the features, functions and flexibility to map to modern buyers. Quickly becoming a must-have for B2B sellers, Configure-Price-Quote (CPQ) enterprise software is helping businesses streamline complex sales processes. CPQ adoption has accelerated tremendously over the past five years because it enables B2B buyers and sellers to easily navigate complex configurations, thousands of parts (and variables), multiple channel partners and real-time multi-million dollar quotes. In short, CPQ solutions allow manufacturers to deliver B2B sales with the B2C-like experience customers expect.
And not a moment too soon. Existing processes and tools are too siloed. Rather than focusing on a unified customer approach, solutions focus on discrete systems, features and functions, failing to meet the customer’s needs or consider the customer’s journey through the sales process. Today’s enterprise CPQ software has come a long way toward solving these problems by uniting the front and the back office.
However, CPQ is just the beginning when it comes to the real Holy Grail: delivering a seamless customer experience that both attracts and retains buyers.
As B2B companies look to grow ecommerce revenue, stakeholders shouldn’t look to sacrifice their traditional sales channels to accommodate an ecommerce solution. Rather, it’s important to understand that the B2B customer journey has numerous avenues and pathways to sale and sustainability. A buyer may initially connect via ecommerce, research products, connect with a direct sales representative and complete future purchases through a vendor or value-added reseller. In today’s B2B ecosystem, manufacturers must embrace the omnichannel strategies that put the customer at the center of the buying and selling experience.
Although it may sound like manufacturers must do handstands to connect with customers, it’s important to understand that the relationship and benefits run both ways.
With CPQ backed by best in class Data Management capabilities at the center of your experience management strategy, businesses can leverage valuable customer, product and pricing data across all channels from a single application, thus making it possible to ensure customers, as well as internal users have a consistent experience from awareness stage through purchase and beyond. This not only promotes more and happier customers, but it also reduces costs associated with servicing customers, eases channel conflict while allowing the sales team to focus on high-value prospects, drives revenue by optimizing product and pricing to meet demand, and in many cases nurtures brand loyalty with new, as well as existing customers.
The numbers bear this out. A study conducted by Forrester Research showed that omnichannel customers are often a business’ best customers as more than half of B2B companies reported increased spending from omnichannel customers in the past year. They further predict that, by catering to omnichannel users with ecommerce and robust partner ecosystems, B2B businesses can take advantage of the nearly $1.13 trillion ecommerce opportunity by 2020.
While there’s no doubt that attracting and retaining modern B2B buyers is a challenge, manufacturers now have the tools in leading CPQ applications to ensure they provide the features, functions and ultimately, the connected experiences that keep buyers coming back.
Dave Batt is CEO of FPX.