One of the greatest anxieties today among suppliers and manufacturers is that sales automation and digitization – AKA eCommerce – will negate the need for the sales representative. That, says Insite Software CEO Tony Abena, has created a bit of a riff between a supplier’s sales and eCommerce teams.
Insite’s Commerce-as-a-Service tool helps these types of companies launch their digital sales effort, but that doesn’t mean Insite is part of the anti-sales rep philosophy. Today, the firm is announcing the acquisition of SaaS and business intelligence company Storyworks1, which links in-the-field salespeople with data so they can more efficiently do their jobs.
[bctt tweet=”Today, Insite is announcing the acquisition of Storyworks1″]
Abena discussed the takeover with PYMNTS and explained how the buyout is part of Insite’s efforts to break down the silo between salespeople and eCommerce departments. Digital, data-based processes won’t run the salesperson out of town, he said; in fact, it can help both sides of the sales equation.
Manufacturers and wholesale distributors today, said Abena, have major investments in the so-called physical channel – dealer channels and customer service platforms – that can’t fall by the wayside just because these companies are beginning to launch eCommerce efforts, too.
“It’s a really big investment in people,” he explained. “This digital-first trend means these companies are trying to figure out what is the appropriate balance of connectivity between a physical channel and the data and information they need to be successful.”
Abena added that suppliers are participating in the “channel-shifting” trend, which involves the migration of less complex sales, like repeat orders, online. This means manufacturers and wholesalers now have to balance their physical and digital sales efforts.
Data is key to this balancing act, he added. But a gap between sales teams and eCommerce teams can also mean a gap in the data coming into and out of these two groups. That, Abena said, is where the Storyworks1 acquisition comes in.
According to the executive, the takeover will help to connect these data flows among the physical and digital sales efforts of a supplier. Sales representatives will have access to digital data to help them be more efficient at their job, he said. At the same time, data will stream out of those sales efforts to the eCommerce team to aid that side of the process, too.
“I think about it like a mobile briefcase,” Abena said. “It’s content and data that help sales people or customer service folks to be able to make the right decisions at the right time.”
Connecting sales reps and eCommerce teams with data streams is part of Insite’s efforts to align with shifting corporate buyer trends, Abena explained. For instance, buyers will often start their procurement journey online, researching products and getting a feel for the options available. Leveraging data means both sales reps and eCommerce teams can more efficiently deploy resources and efforts where they will be most effective.
The use of data analytics for eCommerce is hardly a new concept. But for physical sales teams, especially those that fear being driven from their jobs thanks to automation, the use of data and digital tools may be an unfamiliar topic.
Sales reps can harness data on order history, for example, explained Abena. This information can often be predictive, too; buying habits can often predict an impending decision that a buy-side company is about to make. There are buying trends that emerge in certain industries, he added, and leveraging data can help a salesperson predict their next approach with a client.
For sales reps that work in territories, the data aggregated from procurement behavior can also be organized by geolocation, said Abena. Plus, when all of this information is aggregated and laid out for a sales rep, it can mean far less time getting re-acquainted with a customer – remembering a buyer’s specific pricing needs, retracing their order history, etc. – and more time actually selling.
All of this can be tapped into with Storyworks1, he said. “The data that comes out of the Storyworks1 platform can be sent back into the eCommerce platform,” Abena explained. “We can cross-pollinate the data we get out of both the physical rep interaction with buyer, and the online interaction on the eCommerce platform with buyers, and use that data to be smarter about when to do what.”
So while the salesperson may be weary of automation, they shouldn’t be, Abena said, adding that he doesn’t envision a market in which a physical sales team will no longer be needed.
“I’m going to use the analogy of: Are you going to buy a 747 online?” Abena asked hypothetically. Indeed, not only are B2B transactions often more expensive than B2C ones, they can also be far more complex, with buyers and suppliers negotiating price, payment timelines, and customization on a grand scale.
Less complex orders may move online. But there will always be the need for physical sales reps, Abena said, and they can see gains from the big data, analytics and automation movements as much as eCommerce teams can. And that, the CEO added, is good news for everyone involved.
[bctt tweet=”Using data means better decisions for both the buyer and seller”]
“There’s an effectiveness on the top line and an efficiency on the bottom line that’s produced using data and intelligence,” Abena said. “Using data means better decisions for both the buyer and seller; it ends up taking the friction out of the process, and makes both sides more efficient.”