by Greg Carter
OEMs and suppliers often train new hires who aren’t in Sales by placing them with inside and outside sales groups to learn the business. This gets the new hire “closer” to the customer and familiarizes them with products. In sales, marketing and IT roles for several Industrial and Electrical organizations, I’ve spent as much as 3 weeks shadowing salespersons to learn the products, culture and more importantly, understand the customer.
B2B e-Commerce Brand Cross Referencing
Building an e-Commerce cross-reference tool joins Sales, Marketing and IT skill sets in a collaborative effort that recoups lost opportunities and drives immediate revenue.
When a customer requests a non-stock item or brand they don’t carry, salespersons can be trained to cross-reference in-stock items equivalent to what the customer requests. This art of selling translates into orders that would have otherwise been lost.
Sales often uses the Model/Part numbers to specify a product, leaving no guesswork as to its attributes. These numbers can simplify cross-referencing competing brands to what your organization has in stock while meeting the customer’s spec.
Let’s say your customer needed to replace a Schneider Electric/Square D LAL36200 (see image left) molded case circuit breaker. A good cross referencing tool on your webstore would allow the customer to enter the Schneider part number and return the answer: Your Equivalent! The tool, publicly available and very visible to both your sales team and the customer, wins you the order.
This tool will rely on your building a database to support your tool, not to mention collecting the data you need. Take “baby steps” and start with small data sets of your most profitable items or brisk sellers. Building such a cross-reference is a great exercise for bringing together Sales, Marketing and IT skill sets in an initiative that recoups once lost opportunities and drives immediate revenue.
Valid SKUs are the super glue joining image files with robust, fully attributed data to feed the e-Commerce engine.
The first few interactions with a new customer are the hardest to earn trust so that they will consider your recommendations for substituting another product. Gaining customer confidence usually comes down to successfully executing three events:
1) items are pulled from stock correctly
2) the purchase order is received and entered correctly
3) the shipment or delivery truck reaches the dock on time.
Repeat these events a few times for a customer and enough trust is earned for the customer to be open to cross-referencing or product substitution. A leading factor in product returns is poor product descriptions. Now we can see why good data is a big deal.
Calling Still Beating Clicking
Industrial and electrical B2B e-Commerce requires a sales conversation a large majority of the time: Go to a website, check inventory, make the call to sales, buy the product. I’ve done analyses with different electrical/industrial supply industrial organizations where I’ve worked. At best, shopping cart transactions reached 14% of total transactions. Customers sometimes prefer to speak with a salesperson to ensure their product meets the spec and is being expedited. “Buying” online and “Shopping” online are very different activities.
B2B Super Glue
Data Attribution initiatives (e.g. IDW, etc.) are enriching product databases to support the cross-referencing tools and increase online conversions. Accurate Model, Part, or SKU number are often the “super glue” joining image files with robust, fully attributed data to feed the e-Commerce engine.
Up and down the supply chain, when we get our data right, we’re significantly more efficient. ERP’s with clean, robust data will reduce product returns after delivery to the customer’s receiving dock exactly as ordered due to rich attributed data used to spec out the product’s application.
e-Business “Shoppers” are here to stay. The majority of transactions will be completed offline in many electrical and industrial distribution settings for the near future. Organizations benefit by introducing new employees to the relationship building Sales culture so they can understand products and learn how the company prospers by understanding customer behavior.
Director, Business Innovation.
Electrical Marketing, LLC
CONTACT US: 856.381.7834
eCommerce | Content Development | Strategy & Execution