Product Relationships and Predictive Analytics: The Case for B2B Salespeople

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The foreseen impact of shifting market conditions is often overstated – condemning predictions are frequently riddled in the headlines, tempting us to click. Consider “Death of a B2B Salesman,” the headline of a Forrester article by Andy Hoar. It’s equally hyperbolic to the “Retail Apocalypse” – a nonsensical narrative about the death and doom of physical retail.

Despite the catastrophic weight of the idioms, we are no more likely to see the end of retail than we are the death of the B2B salesperson.

Admittedly, we largely agree with the fundamentals supporting the position – buyers are demanding more from B2B salespeople and it requires B2B firms to transform how they interact and engage with buyers.

Where many B2B firms are accustomed to conventional, offline and phone-based selling, buyers are shifting their behaviors to expect an experience that adheres to B2C standards – a seamless, digital-first buying process across all channels, online and offline.

Accomplishing a digital-first strategy requires the use of intelligent, predictive data analytics to empower sales associates and automate, enhance, and personalize buyers’ commerce experiences.

Upon implementing our own machine-learning technologies within our B2B customer base, we are confident that adoption of B2C best practices to amplify business intelligence and improve buyer experiences will pave the way for the future of B2B commerce.

Emerging into ecommerce: B2B meets B2C

Due to the accessibility of ecommerce sites, B2B buyers have intensified their expectation for digital self-service – 60% of buyers would like to avoid sales rep interactions throughout their journey and 68% of buyers prefer gathering information online on their own.

From both a B2B buyer and business perspective, the move to the online world makes sense. Shoppers don’t have to spend the extra time fulfilling orders over the phone, and firms don’t have to utilize their B2B salespeople for the 67.9% of routine or menial purchases that are more conveniently and efficiently completely by streamlining order operations through an online channel.

As B2B firms have continued to digitize their processes to adhere to buyers’ online purchasing preferences, the development of a smart B2B ‘portal’ or ecommerce website has become a critical component to transform. Consumer-facing technologies like Recommendations, Search, and User-generated Content (ratings and reviews) have started emerging into B2B ecommerce sites in order to improve the online experience.

We’ve recognized this shift first-hand as our B2B client base has implemented 4-Tell’s recommendations and site search to create a more engaging and personalized online experience.

Though we can attest that our tools have enabled a more engaging ecommerce experience, it is the data our system has gathered from buyer signals that have proven to be invaluable and especially unique to B2B firms.

B2B product relationships

In our active B2B client base, we have studied billions of dollars of wholesale transaction data in our machine learning engine and found that the product data captured from B2B sites are more strongly correlated than data gathered from B2C sites.

Where B2C shoppers have a complex set of contextual variables that cause them to behave nonlinearly – feeding our Collaborative Engine relatively sporadic and isolated pieces of data – B2B buyers are always viewing, searching, and purchasing products FOR the business. The analytics are never diluted with irrelevant pieces of data because their behavior is directly reflective of the needs of their business.

Not only does this lead to more valuable, relevant and intelligent product recommendations for buyers as they browse online, but our machine-learning algorithm draws intelligent and critical relationships among products. Our analytics can identify the products that are likely to be purchased together based on real-time buyer data and history. These predictive analytics can enhance the sales relationship between buyers and sellers through highly relevant product bundles, recommendations and data-based insights.

The power of analytics in the hands of B2B salespeople

Online, these product bundle recommendations can be automated to build additional revenue opportunities in self-service purchases – particularly, for smaller B2B buyers who may generate smaller, low-touch orders that can be more efficiently fulfilled through ecommerce transactions.

For transactions or customers that require more active sales engagement, having access to these product relationships through our Smart Commerce Platform gives the salesperson an opportunity to move quickly from a simple “order-taker” to fully participating in each buyers’ process – both early on and throughout their contracts. Our digital tool helps sales reps create customer intimacy and loyalty by deeply understanding historical – and anticipating future – customers’ product needs.

Buyers report that only 20% of meetings with B2B salespeople focus on their specific needs. Having access to predictive, intelligent product bundle recommendations allows every salesperson to make highly sophisticated, targeted, and personalized cross-sell, gap analysis, and assortment planning suggestions early in the buying process.

Moreover, as is the case with many B2B associates and buyers, the relationship is enhanced over-time – as knowledge of the buyer’s needs and history with the product catalog deepens. It’s this layer of highly relevant knowledge from predictive analytics that enables salespeople to make collaborative, fine-tuned, and targeted suggestions.

Data-based collaboration and engagement is the future of B2B businesses’ success. B2B salespeople are far from dead, but they do need to be digitally enabled to provide more targeted, personalized, and valuable product recommendations.

Regardless of industry, we are building tomorrow’s B2B leaders by showing salespeople how to be capable of leveraging both self-service commerce and collaborative commerce opportunities that are enhanced by deeply relevant data.

B2B salespeople are not dead. The salesman is just not yet as digital as they should be.

We would like to help you build that digital commerce capability.

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