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2017 was an unsettling year in politics, the economy and business, but will 2018 be any more stable?

The annual report ‘The 2017 Economic Benchmarks for Wholesale Distribution’ shows it could be good news for both the economy and the wholesale distribution industry next year. Major wholesale distribution sectors are expected to grow in 2018, but as the industry becomes more competitive, how can wholesalers and distributors stay in the contest?

Here’s 5 essentials to keep your B2B sales ahead of the competition:

1. Invest in technology

The days of paper-pushing and manual processes are over. You’re no doubt already using some sales automation, but the choice can be daunting for those that aren’t so tech savvy.

2 options…

First, analyze your business needs and identify where your pain points are. Then look for software that addresses those pain points.

Or assess what software is available that is a fit for your business and then decide if it can help you achieve your goals.

According to the above report, 45.5% of B2B companies have B2B eCommerce at the top of their wish list for next year, with 36.1% saying they will be exploring CRM software. The cloud and mobile devices are dominating the market, so make sure any software you choose is fully mobile and has offline capability.

2. Meet your customers’ needs

B2B customers have changed. Dramatically. They are more informed, with more access to information about what they want to purchase, even before they meet your sales rep. They have more options. There are far more B2B wholesalers and distributors than there were, and your customers can access any of them, worldwide, with ease. In addition, they also expect the same seamless buying experience that B2C offers.

To stay competitive one of your top priorities must be meeting your customers’ changing demands. It’s vital to ensure that you are providing a user-friendly eCommerce platform which will enable them to buy 24/7. When your customer doesn’t want to engage with a sales rep, the platform should have all the tools they need online. Full inventory details, their sales order history, credit limits and more.

But sometimes, the human touch will still be required. When that happens, your sales reps will need to have assisted selling capabilities to deliver high quality service, with access to real-time, online data so they can respond effectively and efficiently.

3. Improve B2B sales productivity

The easiest and most cost-effective way to facilitate productivity improvement is with new technology. That doesn’t mean equipping salespeople with the latest gadget, but ensuring that they have the relevant technology they need to do their job effectively and efficiently.

If your salespeople are still working with pen and paper (horror of horrors), or with outdated systems, this will have a negative impact on their productivity. You need to make selling as easy as possible by providing them with the tools they need. Any software you're considering, like a mobile order taking app, should be user-friendly and intuitive so they spend more time selling than they do with tech support. These factors as well as sufficient training from the start will encourage adoption.

4. Personalize your B2B customer’s online experience

There has been a lot of recent attention focused on Big Data in the B2C arena, but it is just as relevant in the B2B sales world which is following the lead of B2C. As B2B customers also have expectations for a simple and easy buying experience it’s important that your business begins to explore Big Data and machine learning to stay ahead.

‘Big Data’ is used to analyze commonalities between customers and separate them into different groups to personalize their sales and marketing efforts. Although the data could be analyzed manually, it would take years, so there is no doubt that Big Data is helping to facilitate the process and identify patterns which will be of huge benefit to B2B sales.

5. Your target market is online. Are you?

B2B sales software solutions can change the way you do business. More and more B2B buyers are now turning to the internet for product research before they even contact a salesperson. It’s important your online presence is visible with B2B eCommerce becoming truly global.

By 2020, 75% of people will be using either a smartphone of a tablet for their business transactions. It's vital that your business uses not only eCommerce, but also mobile commerce (mCommerce). By doing so, you will open a whole realm of new opportunities including mobile payments, on-demand services, app-based services, new marketplaces, and more.

Don’t get left behind. The pace of technology is changing at an ever increasing speed and it’s easy to be overwhelmed. There’s plenty of information out there to help you. Make smart decisions today to ensure you’re in a strong position for the future.

About The Author

Stacey Woods
Stacey Woods
Stacey Woods is the Senior Business Development Manager at Pepperi. She has extensive experience in B2B sales and understands the many benefits that can be gained by automating and syncing the different sales channels in a company.