Guest post by Kayleigh Alexandra.
Ever since factory automation became commonplace, other business functions have embraced it as well. Automation removes laborious tasks from your workload and frees up your time to work on higher-level issues. Widespread Internet adoption introduced the concept of digital automation.
Automation has become standard practice in B2C ecommerce. Online sellers automate their marketing emails, pricing, restocking, even their PPC advertising. But automation is just as useful in the world of B2B sales. Here’s why, and four ways to apply automation to improve the sales process.
High-value targets require careful personalization
It’s imperative to automate marketing emails for B2C customers and even low-end B2B SaaS products, because the high-volume / low-cost model means each customer represents a very small share of overall revenue.
Often, basic personalization (such as the simple addition of a first name) is enough to slightly boost performance. More sophisticated personalization can drive increased sales, but has to be weighed against the cost and complexity of the software required.
In complex-product B2B sales, however, a company can thrive with just a handful of high-value customers, meaning two things: first, it can’t afford churn, and second, it can’t get away with automating personalization. The personalization needs to be deep and meaningful to demonstrate the level of professional commitment.
Chatbots can provide rich around-the-block support
Because B2B customers rely on complex systems to run their business operations, they can’t afford downtime—therefore, they have high expectations for customer service levels. They won’t consider “These aren’t official office hours” to be a compelling excuse for failing to assist with a problem.
This is where chatbot automation can help. One of the core goals of ecommerce merchants is to move towards omnichannel support: they currently support various channels, but they don’t offer experiences that are seamless and channel-independent.
A smartly-configured chatbot can provide that kind of experience by tying into all relevant channels and diligently keeping track of each customer’s activity and requirements. If a B2B customer needs to check up on an urgent delivery in the early hours of the morning, they can do so using that chatbot (immediately accessing their order history to speed it along).
For complex problems, the chatbot can alert a support human to get involved.
It’s great for long sales funnels
The process of winning a B2C customer can be extremely simple. You show them the product on offer, attract them to your website with a great price, and make the sale. This is particularly applicable to low-cost, low-involvement and impulse purchases. But this isn’t generally the case for B2B purchases: those take a lot longer to conclude, and there are two reasons for this.
First, buyers generally aren’t sole decision makers: they’re purchasing on behalf of their companies, working as part of a buying team, with specific requirements to be met and processes to follow before orders can be confirmed.
Second, they’re likely to be considering expensive orders, leading them to take more time to decide. This means multiple touches will be needed before the sale is closed, and automation (properly and carefully configured) is fantastic for this kind of lead nurturing.
Large recurring orders demand smart ordering
As noted, a B2B vendor can get along with fairly few customers, particularly when their business is based on high-value, long-term B2B supply contracts.
For example, a seller might have a lucrative ongoing commitment to supply a restaurant chain with ingredients; but the challenge is that its requirements can’t be predicted with complete accuracy.
Due to this, having some kind of automated system in place to analyze order data and apply predictive analytics to future orders is almost essential for large B2B suppliers. The greater the value of a deal, the more money rests on its reliable fulfillment.
Wrapping it all up
Clearly, automation can play a very important role in B2B sales processes. While it can’t be applied as broadly as it is for B2C, it’s vital for overall efficiency,. B2B businesses that aren’t currently using automation in their sales processes can certainly benefit from evaluating its potential applications.
Kayleigh Alexandra is the lead writer at MicroStartups, a website dedicated to helping charities and microbusinesses. After years working in the sustainability, marketing and creative industries, Kayleigh now loves to devote her time to supporting other businesses to grow and thrive. Visit her blog or follow her on Twitter @getmicrostarted for the latest news, tips and advice for startups and solopreneurs.