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DeStefano: Distributor Websites Need B2C Comfort With B2B Strength

DeStefano: Distributor Websites Need B2C Comfort With B2B Strength
November 22
12:09 2022

Local distributors can beat the B2B giants with “personalization,” Bob DeStefano told the Specialty Tools & Fasteners Distributors 2022 convention.  

“Massive B2B e-commerce sellers rely on algorithm-driven recommendations and analysis to personalize the customer experience,” DeStefano said. Distributor advantages include relationships with suppliers, knowledge of the market and applications and understanding how to overcome logistical problems.

A distributor website needs “B2C comfort with B2B strength,” DeStefano said. That includes customer-focused design, education, intuitive navigation, rich content, targeted promotions, streamlined checkout and pre-sales support.

DeStefano started his Internet career in 1994 with Dean Witter when the question was “What is this Internet Thing?” He led the launch of Dean Witter’s first websites.  He left to start SVM Solutions in 1995.

Internet buying is 83% higher than pre-Covid, DeStefano said. “The alternative to the Internet is downsizing or closing.”

DeStefano finds two myths about distributor Internet sales.

Myth #1 is that a distributor’s stand-alone e-commerce website will maximize sales on its own. DeStefano said sales reps often still need to assist in product selection, handle complex quote requests and payment options. And the purchasing process may involve multiple individuals such as end-users, plant managers and purchasing agents.

Myth #2 is that a regional distributor’s e-commerce website will make the company a national player. DeStefano advised finding “new customers within your territory and niche.” Marketing and salespeople should seek to get existing customers to buy more often and a wider range of products.  

Seek out customers who haven’t purchased in the past 12 months, DeStefano added.

Go to “hybrid sales,” which includes digital, in-person and inside sales.

  1. “Sell the way your customer wants to buy,” DeStefano said.  Sales reps need to know how to sell whichever way serves the customer.  “Train field reps to sell virtually,” he added.  
  2. Encourage and incentivize new Key Performance Indicators, including how fast you respond to customer inquiries.
  3. Focus on building a strong culture team.  Foster knowledge sharing about successful sales approaches with regular team-building events to “strengthen personal bonds.”
  4. Invest in tools to help remote selling and sales team collaboration. He mentioned CRM and Slack as tools.
  5. Assign salespeople to e-commerce customers. “Pay them a commission to grow e-commerce sales,” DeStefano advised.
  6. Sales reps need to know what is expected of them, what their incentives are and “the consequences of willful neglect or non-compliance,” DeStefano said.
  7. Websites must give product information, including name, photos, coding and description.

“You’re also in the business of knowledge” and distributors need to be the “Go-to-resource for business-building ideas,” DeStefano said.

He suggests 350+ word educational posts that can start with FAQs your salespeople hear from customers. Your website needs to be “keyword rich” with what customers are searching for.

Videos need only be three to 10 minutes in length. Be aware of audio quality and make sure your video is copyrighted.

Content is critical and can be the “1-2 punch,” DeStefano said. Distributors can differentiate with educational and “rich product information.”

  • “Make it easy for customers to buy the way they want,” DeStefano emphasized.
  • Attract new customers from search engines. He noted that 80% of B2B customers find suppliers instead of sellers finding the buyers. Google is the #1 search engine.
  • Try pay-per-click marketing. “You buy your way in,” DeStefano pointed out. “Run a results-focused paid search campaign,” he said.
  • Social media, such as LinkedIn, is being increasingly used in B2B, DeStefano noted.  
  • “Measure marketing and sales results by ‘profitable’ sales,” DeStefano emphasized. Web: SVMsolutions.com

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