Firms are eager to make their mark as the economy chugs back after the pandemic. However, organizations that sell B2B products and services can’t just dive back into the fray without considering their productivity levels. Specifically, leaders need to consider keeping their production high and inefficiencies low during the full sales cycles.
Of course, running an efficient B2B commerce operation doesn’t happen without consideration and planning. That’s where productivity best practices come into the picture.
B2B Commerce Productivity Tips for Streamlining Selling Systems
Below are a few strategies that B2B commerce businesses can use to streamline their B2B selling systems. Applied together, the strategies can help businesses move forward without wasting time, energy, money, or other resources.
1. Remove payment friction points
Getting paid quickly is essential, but many organizations suffer from poor payment workflows.
For instance, a company may send out monthly invoices with net-30 terms. After the client cuts the check, the business would have to wait for the check—and then the funds. Even offering online payments doesn’t entirely solve this problem. Credit card deposits can take a few days to resolve. Plus, they can incur high fees.
An alternative to this stilted payment flow could be to accept automated clearing house (ACH) payments. ACH payments move funds between banking accounts and tend to cost less from a fee perspective. Another option is to try FIS’s RealNet, a cloud-based payment process that settles funds between entities in almost real-time. RealNet uses existing national and international payment rails to promote speedy, secure transactions.
Bottom line? The simpler it is to exchange goods and services, the simpler it is for businesses to scale. Period.
2. Normalize the idea of on-demand manufacturing
One way to improve productivity is by reducing the need for collecting, maintaining, and storing inventory. For example, this can happen with on-demand manufacturing.
The idea of creating anything on-demand may sound like a space-age idea, but it’s not anymore. Companies like Gooten are producing large-scale orders within a few days.
Though it might not be feasible for all B2B organizations to provide on-demand choices to clients, some can. As a consequence, they will reap the benefits that come with a minimum amount of unsold inventory. Plus, they can lean into AI-driven software to help predict when they’ll need an influx of raw materials to fulfill potential orders.
For years, stories have shown that too much inventory can weigh down any company. It’s not unusual to read about the massive inventory stores attached to companies forced into bankruptcy. By exploring on-demand options, businesses can improve their competitiveness while still offering world-class products.
3. Offer self-service to your clients
In an age where people are accustomed to finding their own solutions, B2B commerce clients may prefer the advantage of a 24/7 system that enables them to answer their own questions.
A good example of self-service comes in the form of AI chatbots. A chatbot can be programmed to fetch information based on a customer’s questions. Once fetched, the information can help the customer make decisions regarding the next moves. Some chatbots are so intuitive and natural that people don’t even realize they’re not speaking with a human representative of the company.
It’s not difficult to understand how giving your B2B commerce clients the benefit of self-service increases the organization’s productivity overall. For example, support agents will be freed up to spend more time with complex service cases. Plus, customers won’t have to wait hours to get help.
4. Explore methods to reduce employee churn
Worker turnover remains a hidden source of waste in B2B commerce companies. That’s why organizations with “revolving doors” can’t seem to scale. After all, they’re always spinning their wheels replacing people who are leaving.
Corporate productivity doesn’t just take a hit because an employee who says goodbye walks away with legacy knowledge. It also tanks because of lowered morale among the remaining workers. Often, when one person leaves, everyone else takes up the slack. This can lead to unsatisfied, overworked, burned-out team members who can’t do their best.
Reducing turnover usually starts by improving overall engagement levels. When employees are engaged, they want to stay. However, engaging employees isn’t a one-and-done deal. The process involves making sure that employees know their purpose within an organization, as well as feel rewarded for their efforts.
A few ways to improve the connection between employees and their employer include providing regular upskilling, constantly upgrading tools, and compensating generously. Another way to attract and retain great talent today is to offer hybrid or remote working for convenience and flexibility.
5. Trim age-old buying cycles
Most B2B commerce companies know their average buying cycles. For instance, a manufacturer of business equipment may expect a 100-day buying cycle based on historical data. Resultantly, the manufacturer makes plans based on the cycle.
But what would happen if the manufacturer could tighten the buying cycle by 10%? In that case, the cycle would happen over 90 days rather than 100 days. It’s not difficult to imagine how different the business’s finances would look with shortened sales cycles. Additionally, sellers would be able to increase their productivity levels by logging more conversions each year.
Giving a buying cycle a haircut takes time and effort, of course. Company leaders can start by mapping out the traditional cycle. Then, they can look at ways to shave off hours or days here and there. Some solutions could be to work with new vendors or to speed up the time it takes for sales representatives to meet prospects.
6. Rethink sluggish shipping methods
B2B commerce companies often rely on a variety of shipping methods depending upon their products. They may also face high shipping costs to send orders across zones or countries. Nonetheless, shipping can be an area of massive productivity improvements.
For example, a B2B seller may want to look at repeat customers’ orders to see if they could be shipped more cost-effectively without causing the client problems. Anything from switching carriers to transport types can help streamline a clunky system.
It’s important to note that adaptability really is the name of the game here. B2B customers are becoming accustomed to getting what they want as quickly as possible, thanks to fulfillment giants like Amazon. Consequently, they’ll naturally expect flexibility in their B2B transactions, too.
7. Allow existing clients to re-order online
Re-ordering in the B2B commerce marketplace usually involves a client speaking with a sales representative. Unfortunately, this can hold up the process. Though representatives will want to touch base with customers from time to time, they don’t need to place new orders by hand. Instead, this can be done online through a robust portal.
It’s not just about productivity having clients place their own orders online. It’s also freeing for everyone involved. From the client’s perspective — ordering doesn’t require any special steps. Plus, the client can order any time without having to contact someone from the B2B seller. Similarly, the B2B sales representative can stay attuned to the clients’ orders without wasting time on an unnecessary phone call.
Make no mistake: Touchpoints between sellers and buyers are essential, particularly in the B2B realm. But they’re not always necessary. Giving clients access to online ordering makes everything smoother and speeds up the reordering process.
Fostering productivity promises countless upsides for companies involved in B2B commerce. Just making a few tweaks over the coming sales quarter can mean the difference between plateauing or scaling.