Despite the ongoing efforts to align existing B2B sales and marketing teams, there is no doubt that search engines and other online purchasing decisions are competing directly with individuals working in sales and marketing and a recent Forrester Research report suggests that 22 per cent of B2B sales jobs will be gone by 2020.
Further, it is expected that 74 per cent of B2B buyers research at least one half of their work purchases on line. Additionally, 30 per cent of today's B2B buyers complete at least half of their work purchases online. With that percentage nearly doubling to 56 per cent by 2017, B2B marketers will see a significant volume of offline business move online in the next few years the report suggests.
It is also stated that the biggest impact in B2B sales and marketing will be on sales representatives who work for wholesalers and distributors, but less so in such industries as high-tech manufacturers and providers of healthcare.
The article indicates that the trend toward more self-service online research and ordering will only increase as more companies that sell to businesses and government agencies get more into e-commerce. In many cases for B2B buyers, online research has taken away the need to talk to someone to explain things.
Although B2B buyers will continue to purchase through sales representatives in certain situations, they will rely more on the streamlined efficiency that online ordering to sellers. As an example offer by the report is a company that purchased a $350,000 product via Skype, with no face-to-face meetings actually taking place.
"They are increasingly conducting these negotiations with salespeople by way of digital means such as email, [live] chat, and collaborative software as opposed to a traditional phone call"says Andy Hoar principal analyst serving eBusiness and Channel Strategy Professionals at Forrester Research.
Additionally, Hoar notes that “those who have extensive knowledge about the buyer’s company to help the buyer understand what her company needs to purchase will likely see a job gain in the next five years from 550,000 from 500,000.”
It is also indicated that companies need to undertake a major transformation and makes sure that it integrates its arsenal of traditional and emerging digital marketing tools and specify where the field salesperson should be involved. Salespeople who focus a significant portion of their attention on the beginning of the funnel, finding sales leads and converting them into prospects may have to redirect their efforts to points further along the process - closing hot prospects, providing follow-up service and cultivating long term relationships.
With Forrester research forecasting a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 7.7 per cent in B2B ecommerce over the next five years — driven largely by channel-shifting B2B buyers and the desire by B2B companies to reduce their costs to serve clients. B2B eBusiness and channel strategy professionals must both fortify for and take advantage of the opportunity that the changing landscape will bring.