Determining Readiness for eCommerce: Evaluating Your Sales Operations Management Strategy
by Kris Harrington
B2B eCommerce requires an organized sales structure that can adequately manage the intricacies of each step of the selling process. Identifying the current team members ability to add a digital sales channel approach is paramount. Consider what strengths and weaknesses team members have, and how their existing processes can be rewritten to accommodate a digital storefront.
In evaluating this criteria, we want to understand management’s ability to shift from a traditional traveling salesperson and call center approach to a digital sales channel. What are the skillsets of the current team members, how is data utilized to make business decisions and how easily can business processes be rewritten to include the added management of a digital storefront? These are all considered in the sales operations management review.
Alignment Across an Organization
It is paramount that there is alignment across an organization because without an organized structure, any eCommerce initiative will inevitably fail. The leadership structure within an organization should be examined prior to entering eCommerce to determine its overall level of effectiveness. Identifying the areas which must be addressed to gain complete alignment is a primary objective of an eCommerce Readiness Assessment. Examining how existing business practices promote alignment, engagement, and ultimately productivity will set a benchmark to determine what changes should be addressed before entering eCommerce.
Existing Strategies to Manage Alignment
Leadership must be actively promoting and fostering alignment amongst team members to maintain effectiveness. Strategies to manage alignment are largely dependent upon the organization, but when it comes down to brass tacks, they are in place to achieve the same goal―getting everyone on the same page. This can be accomplished through incentivization structures which promote sales team alignment by offering commission for all sales made. This is especially important because once an organization enters eCommerce, the sales team will be selling alongside the digital storefront.
Examining Your Sales Structure
An organization will need to examine its sales structure to fully understand what improvements must be made before entering eCommerce. Strategies for maintaining customers, capturing re-orders, and understanding product maintenance cycles have been accomplished through the use of product warranties in the past because the warranty is the only piece of information tying the Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) to the buyer. However, eCommerce can provide invaluable information to sales teams that they had previously been unable to attain.
Utilization of Metrics and Goals
The metrics available through eCommerce can be overwhelming, but it’s important that leadership is capable of identifying how to use the information effectively. For example, sales teams can utilize metrics from eCommerce to identify products that are in demand and actively upsell those products to other customers.
Aftermarket Parts Strategy
An OEM needs to be capable of strategically planning their aftermarket strategy. Establishing an eCommerce presence and moving towards a direct to consumer approach will allow them to remain competitive, but that is not enough to be successful. It is important to understand competitor products in relation to pricing structure and profit margins.
Forecasting Maintenance and Repairs
The product and sales team should already be forecasting product maintenance cycles, but eCommerce will allow them to do so much more. eCommerce will allow inventory teams to recognize how many and which parts should be available for purchase. If a sales team is not efficiently using the limited information that they currently have, it is unlikely that they will be able to utilize the additional information and analytics provided by eCommerce. An important consideration to be made is determining how effectively information is being utilized.
Examining Pricing Structure Practices
Conducting a pricing exercise that examines competitor products should be a priority― doing so will ensure that an organization is capable of sustaining their market share. Being proactive and reactive will allow an organization to make the necessary adjustments to their pricing structure. This strategy includes leveraging proprietary products and information to command higher margin. It is important that the manufacturer not provide competitive or vendor product information to the customer though as they could utilize such information to shop for the product elsewhere.
Standard Operating Procedures
In order for any eCommerce offering to be successful, it’s important for an organization to have a strong foundation to begin with. Sales teams should be capable of using the information they have to onboard new customers and capture re-orders from existing customers. The introduction of eCommerce will allow sales teams to be even more proactive due to the addition of the valuable metrics it can provide. However, the impact that this information can have on an organization’s aftermarket strategy is largely determined by leadership’s ability to utilize it properly. Conducting an eCommerce Readiness Assessment will allow an organization to understand the areas of their sales structure that will need to be addressed in order to move towards a digital storefront.