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Realigning Sales, Service and Operations to serve the evolving buyer’s experience

Buyers now expect a B2C experience for their B2B purchases. They have grown accustomed to the ease of an Amazon-like process where they can research what they need, review the offerings and use a one-click method to purchase products. Delivering this customer experience (CX) is new for chemicals & specialty materials manufacturers and distributors. This change requires them to invest in technologies that deliver greater value. The new digital buyer journey investments include e-commerce capabilities, digital advertising and customer support to provide customer satisfaction.

However, B2B customer sales are highly complex and requires expertise in Sales, Support and Service that a digital experience alone cannot provide. Clients need customized offerings and rely on manufacturers’ and distributors’ knowledge to offer much more than a self-serve experience. This buyer journey requires core sellers, account executives (AE), account managers (AM), customer success manager (CSM) and technical service experts to solve complex problems.

Buyers have multiple needs, and manufacturers and distributors must know how to deploy the right combination of resources to support each type of sale. So how are leading organizations deploying the right types of coverage for customers while investing in the resources required for a continually evolving buyer journey?

The Evolving Buyer Journey

Customers’ expectations continue to grow. They expect frictionless digital purchase capabilities that make it easy to navigate and buy desired products for routine transactions.

If sellers cannot provide an e-commerce portal, buyers will find competitors that offer the online shopping experience they need, potentially taking more significant business opportunities with them to the new seller.

While competitive pressures make e-commerce a table-stakes offering for manufacturers and distributors, an e-commerce channel does provide an efficient and cost-effective way to serve smaller customers. In addition, manufacturers are now using creative e-commerce strategies that include investing in a single data lake for customer purchases rather than hosting multiple e-commerce sites for every seller or distributor. As a result, buyers benefit from speed and ease of use, manufacturers capture demand and efficiency, and distributors stay in the game ahead of their competitors.

Today’s digital buyer journey supports routine transactions and prepares organizations for coming technological advances. Buyer persona-driven transactions and account-based targeted transactions drive upsell and cross-sell opportunities. Digital marketing programs, paired with e-commerce data, drive greater share and opportunities for both manufacturers and distributors.

However, not every customer is a digital customer. For some buyers, only a fraction of their total purchases will be performed online. Some buyers will continue to need a full array of support from core sellers, CSMs and service experts to solve complex problems. Because the spectrum of buyer purchase options is expanding, manufacturers and distributors will benefit by segmenting their customers. Segmentation allows companies to offer multiple sales coverage models, investing the appropriate number of resources where needed.

Manufacturers and distributors are using customer segmentation as a best practice to invest resources where there is the greatest opportunity. They recognize that buyer journeys are changing, and the sales models required to support them must align with the magnitude of the opportunity.

As the buyer journey evolves, so do the sales motions required to support their new path. Part 2 of this 3-part series will discuss the evolution of the sales model from a one-time sales or renewal motion to the Identify, Land, Adopt, Expand and Renew products, or the ILAER approach, to drive recurring revenue and increase customer lifetime value.

For more information on how Alexander Group can assist you with your commercial strategy, please contact a Manufacturing or Distribution practice lead.

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