B2B and Self-Service eCommerce. What about the Sales Rep?


Remember how grocery stores looked before we had self-service supermarkets? Neither do we. Well yes, from the old movies and our grandparents’ stories, but self-service nowadays is thé most common way of doing our shopping. Offline that is. But not yet when we’re online. Certainly not for B2B customers!

Because, to be honest, most B2B suppliers still act as if there’s no self-service possible online. The good old fashioned sales rep is still the main guy to talk to when you want to buy. But, as Forrester predicts, this won’t last much longer!


Enabling self-service ecommerce transactions from start to finish

Say, you’re a B2B buyer. How annoying when, after investigating, you want to order from one of your suppliers and, instead of just going online and do the job within minutes, there is no way to order products online. Or at least, not configured to your wishes or in the quantities you need. So, you have to pick up the phone and talk to the sales rep. You’ll have to go through all the chit-chats, small talk, describe what you actually need, etcetera. It really feels like going to the supermarket for a bottle of milk and one of the clerks walks with you all the way through the shop, talking about all the sorts of milk they sell. Awkward.


As in normal life, most B2B buyers prefer buying through a website. Self-service eCommerce,  please. In Forrester’s report we read that 93% of buyers prefer buying online over talking to a sales rep after they decided what to buy. It’s not even a question whether B2B companies should change their sales policies. This is a no-brainer. Anyone will agree; give the buyer what he wants. Give him a website that enables self-service!


Why wouldn’t you change to Self Service eCommerce?

Structures, habits, rules. Every company has them and, to be honest, wouldn’t work properly without them. Just as a logo, these are part of the company’s identity, the character of the business. And often the one person to embody a company’s character is the sales rep. The guy that visits customers, answers questions, makes recommendations and sells the products or services. The one person that is the main point of contact.

In the report “Death of a (B2B) Salesman”, Forrester’s Andy Hoar describes 4 types of salesmen. We’ll name them shortly and move on to what the implications are for B2B companies with an online sales channel:

  • Order takers
  • Explainers
  • Navigators
  • Consultants


It’s not rocket science to make an estimation of where the sales rep in your company fits in. Does he indeed merely pick up the phone or process the emails? Or does he sometimes explain to customers how things work before the sale is done? Or maybe he actually navigates his customer through the process and makes suitable recommendations for this customer’s specific need? Undoubtedly consultants have a somewhat different role and are more than a sales channel. But in the report we read that a huge percentage of these B2B  salesmen will soon be replaced by smooth working eCommerce processes. That is, if companies are smart enough and willing to do so.

One of the main reasons to keep the sales reps and to keep structures as they now are is fear. Fear for the unknown, fear to invest money now, fear to change a winning team, fear to change the way of doing business.

But as with most things, B2B companies should realise that to not change will eventually cost more!


Embrace the new

Yes, changing the way a business is run is a tricky process. But if (B2B) companies want to move forward they wil have to work smarter, offer Self Service eCommerce and, quite frankly, cut costs. Sorry sales reps! Doing this will simply dramatically lower the cost per transaction.


For many (not all, but many) of the B2B goods and even services, we have to come to the conclusion that the work a sales rep does can be replaced by smarter webshops.

Webshops that do not only offer all the services and products online (with correct prices, configurations, tier prices, et cetera) but also with specific B2B functionalities. Because that will remain a different ballgame indeed! B2C is not B2B, and merely having a webshop will not do the trick. Your B2B customers will still need custom proposals with their specific needs met. Extensions like Propoza will help to make a regular webshop work like a B2B lead-generator. Making custom quotes can all be done online, converting proposals in orders takes merely minutes. No salesman needed, all geared towards self-service eCommerce.



According to a Forrester report, a huge percentage of (B2B) salesmen will be without jobs by 2020. Change hurts, but not changing hurts more. B2B companies need to start making changes to their online sales channels. B2B webshops should enable self-service, while offering full B2B functionalities like custom poposals. This will lower the cost per transaction and keep your customers satisfied.
Learn more about B2B functionalities and eCommerce solutions, visit propoza.com

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