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Sales people are the ultimate capitalists. Don’t tell them to put on their company hat. It won’t work. Established sales teams are naturally suspicious of anything that disrupts the status quo, especially when those efforts could impact their pay. So, when you show up with your shiny new e-commerce platform, you could find your sales team a major obstacle to a successful rollout.
Here are some common sales team objections to implementing a new e-commerce ordering system:
- They won’t get credit for sales that are processed through the system. This can be a major issue if your company has a track record of regular commission adjustments due to errors.
- They will lose touch points with customers if they aren’t handling order taking.
- The e-commerce team will treat their customer “just like any other customer” and they won’t get the “white glove” service they are use to receiving.
These are really good points. But there are at least four ways you can take action to reduce the impact of these objections while taking care of your customers and sales people.
No. 1: Build Key Partnerships in the Sales Team
Building relationships with your sales team and getting them involved early is crucial to the successful roll out of a new platform. You’ll also get the benefit of having people on the project who regularly interact with your customers.
You’ll want to have sales people who have influence with their sales teammates. When you have your sales team selling your e-commerce solution internally, you’ll have a much higher adoption rate.
One time, I made the mistake of overlooking influential local sales people. A VP for a national customer requested access to a pilot program for a new ordering system. We rolled it out without any input from the sales folks at the local level. One of our company’s top sales people didn’t like the program. He waited until we rolled it out and found an issue with an order. He immediately held that up as a reason why the customer shouldn’t be on the platform, and actively worked to keep them from adopting.
He owned the local relationship and had influence with the other local sales teams. Having your own sales team actively working against you is a sure-fire way to fail. The customer never adopted.
No. 2: Outline the Sales Team Payment Plan
There is no question that there are benefits to a digital ordering system. It can reduce cost to serve, make the customer “sticky,” and give your sales team more time to sell. Turning that reduced cost to serve into increased payouts for your sales team is a win.
Remove any manual work out of commission tracking. When you are connecting to your ERP, ensure the connection accurately reports out for commissions. Adding sales people to this project is a great way to give them transparency into how their company is handling their pay.
This is one area where you need to be error free. If the perception develops that sales people aren’t getting paid for everything that goes through digital, it could leave you dead in the water. Confirmation bias is working against you here; it only takes a few times for the belief “I won’t get paid for everything that goes through digital” to take root.
No. 3: Turn Your Site into a Sales Tool for Your Team
Position the e-commerce platform as an extension of the sales team’s toolset to service their customer — not something to replace them as sales people. I’ve often explained that the site is just another way for customers to order from them as sales people: “They can already call you, go to a branch, or call an inside sales person. Now, they can simply order online.”
In one instance, I created a special sales login for the e-commerce platform. A sales person could visit a customer, use their personal login, select the customer’s profile and experience the site as if they were that customer. They were able to show the customer all of their pricing and available products.
This also allowed them to help their customers if they got a call about a product. They’d see the same products, prices and account info. Sales people really appreciated this functionality. It took the need for customer service or IT out of the equation, unless the sales team requested assistance.
No. 4: Feature your Sales People on Your E-commerce Platform
Sales people are afraid their customers will be lost in the IT void when they have an issue they’d like addressed. When the customer logs in, make sure to remind them of who their account manager is and to provide a link to contact them online. Including a picture, their phone number and email address is a nice touch. The most important thing is to make sure any issue or question is immediately sent to the e-commerce team and the sales person.
I found many sales people want to be notified via text message. We built a text notification system that let them know any time there was an issue. We also provided the ability to get notified of every order via text. I don’t recall one sales person declining this notification.
This has the added benefit of allowing the sales team to take ownership of issues, such as errors in the order and backorders.
The keys to a successful e-commerce rollout are to build for your customers first and get your sales team involved early. If your customers love it and want to use it, your sales team will follow. But if your customers aren’t fans, your sales team won’t be either.
Even if you do everything right, you’ll still have some sales folks who refuse to adopt new technology. It’s OK to focus on the ones who are excited about the possibilities of digital. They can help you grow your digital customer experience.
For more on this topic, join us at MDM’s Digital Distribution Summit, June 18-20. It’s the only conference of its kind — for distributors, by distributors. I hope to see you there.