Young Upstarts

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Why And How Your B2B eCommerce Start-up Should Work On Having A Strong Sales Team

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In the world of e-commerce, online sales are the bread and butter for firms of any size. Any aspiring start-up company wishing to survive in the competitive e-commerce industry must establish itself fast, and make its presence known. Gogoprint, a leading Southeast Asian online printing company founded in late 2015, has been working hard to do just that in Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore. We spoke to Gogoprint about customer acquisition processes, and in particular the importance of sales teams for B2B-oriented e-commerce.

Each individual market differs in many ways, bringing up the challenge of determining appropriate ways to spur sales and find new customers in order to create revenue. For this purpose, traditional e-commerce websites rely heavily on marketing, especially CPC advertising and SEO. However, if you’re a B2B e-commerce start-up, a well-oiled sales team has the potential to contribute strongly to your bottom-line. This is especially true if you are gunning for fast growth.

In many cases, the backbone of B2B e-commerce start-ups is a strong sales team. By sales team, of course, we understand a team of employees that have just one goal: finding interesting prospects for the business, and closing them. In addition to closing deals, a dedicated sales team ensures that relationships with customers can be closely maintained and nurtured. This sales team needs to be driven and heading into a clearly set-out direction. Of course, finding the right people for the right job is a central yet hard task, especially in a fast-paced start-up environment.

In Southeast Asia, companies often run into 2 barriers when it comes to doing B2B business: trust, and the role of pre-existing relationships. Trust is often a big barrier to business in Thailand for example, especially when it comes to businesses that are based online, as companies tend to favour established, well-known suppliers. Furthermore, many companies tend to already have close ties to their existing suppliers, which will make it more difficult for them to switch to your service. This is exactly what makes the lives of start-ups so difficult, and it is why you need a sales team if your product/service has a strong B2B component. Your start-up’s sales team can work twice as hard to convince businesses to make the switch and try an a new alternative to a product or service. As a positive spillover, big brands acquired with the help of your sales team can serve as strong trust generators for the online-component of your business.

Setting up a sales team sounds easy-peasy, but getting it to perform and pay for itself is another story altogether. However, it’s a challenge that B2B e-commerces need to take on head first, says Gogoprint.

To maximise efficiency, it usually makes sense to split your sales team into “prospectors” and “closers”, which will assume different but clearly defined responsibilities that make up the sales process. On the one hand, prospectors will be in charge of identifying and reaching out to potential new customers. On the other hand, prospectors will be in charge of handling quotations for interested prospects as well as closing the deals and managing customer relationships after the first deal.

To ensure the success of your sales team, a lot of elements play an important role. As you grow, it is crucial to seamlessly integrate company processes in order to have your team focussed on the most important tasks at all times. First, prospecting activities must be closely and accurately tracked in your Customer Relationship Management tool (with clear segmentation of companies, and their categorization into different interest-levels and potentials). Second, deals and follow-up activities also need to be tracked and documented very precisely from the closing team’s side. This will ensure that the team can focus its attention on the highest potential and important deals. Third and last, since you are an e-commerce with a strong website, companies and/or company representatives will unavoidably find your website if they are looking for the service you offer. What is crucial is that you design a way in which you capture these B2B customers, in order to feed them into your CRM as well. Your prospecting team can then reach out to them, and your prospect acquisition loop is thusly closed. For instance, you could issue a coupon to customers that fill in certain information (such as their company name, tax ID, etc.).

For prospecting, first impressions are extremely important, so it is key that your prospectors leave a professional impression. It is crucial that you design a well-practiced pitch with your unique selling points and differentiators. It is also important that your sales team knows how to react in case of specific customer reactions. The job of a prospector is tedious, with most calls ending in no new sales.

If however, the prospector is successful, the customer is forwarded to a so-called ‘closer’ from the ‘Closing Team’. Closers are specialists in closing deals, they are well-informed about all the variations of your products and also must have strong interpersonal and customer-service skills. Closing a deal isn’t the hardest part, keeping the customer happy and coming back for more is the overall aim. This is where ‘key account management’ comes into play, not only do closers settle new deals with new customers, but they must also maintain a healthy relationship with existing customers. This requires regular follow-ups with customers who may not have ordered in a while to ensure they still know know that your company is here and can offer great products at rock-bottom prices.

Even though it might all seem basic and easy, implementing such a strong structure in three very different markets (Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore) like Gogoprint did, is by no means a walk in the park. It takes a very detailed sense of what customers want and need, and how to best approach and maintain healthy relationships with them. Extensive trial-and-error will teach you and your team which approaches work best, which depend on the industry that you operate in as well as your target audience. Furthermore, once your sales pitch and reach-out approach are on point, the integration between all sales process must be increasingly tight as you grow.

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