Despite the increasing significance of e-commerce, the salesforce remains an important pillar for SMEs in the wholesale segment, according to a survey. However, less than half of the sales team members utilise digital tools that could improve many of their internal working procedures.
Survey: salesforce remains a key factor of success for SMEs
Despite the growing share of online retail, sales team members in SMEs will become significantly more important in the coming years. For every second company, the sales force will remain a key factor to success, according to a survey from ECC KÖLN and 4SELLERS among wholesalers and salesforce employees. The topic: retail processes with a focus on digitalisation, automation and their potential for the sales team.
The job of salespersons, however, will not change according to the survey – away from purely a salesperson and toward a problem-solver. For this reason, the salesforce must precisely know everything about the customer: data, history and products. To be able to rely on information on demand at the business partner’s premises – such as price, discounts, business history, product specifications or shipment data – digital tools will be essential in future.
Digital tools aid sales team members
Digital tools will be a requirement and needed more and more in future for the salesforce to be able to handle customers’ problems. “The digitalisation and automation of processes not only creates internal resources, it also enables users to save costs and reduce errors,” explains Dr Kai Hudetz, founder of ECC KÖLN.
Up to now, only 46 per cent of salespersons rely on digital tools, and a CRM system is leveraged by just one-third of those wholesalers surveyed. However, digital tools will become utilised more intensively in future – for instance, 30 per cent of those companies surveyed are planning to make additional investments in software solutions within the next three years. Their focus will particularly be on ERP systems, which have only been utilised by a quarter of SMEs in the wholesale segment to date. Nearly three-fourths of those surveyed wish to have a mobile option with such systems.
“The support of the salesforce with the use of digital tools is essential today,” says Christian Meier, CEO of the survey’s partner 4SELLERS. “It is becoming more and more important to have product information such as price, delivery times, inventory or other product-specific data in real time and make use of this information. But the option to be able to generate agreements and deals directly and remotely is becoming more decisive for sales success.”
Digitalisation of internal processes often ignored
Potential continues to be wasted when it comes to internal processes, according to the survey. Despite advancing digitalisation, a high 70 per cent of those companies surveyed continue to take orders manually. Inbound goods, administration and outbound goods are handled by hand at nearly three-fourths of SMEs even today – as well as returns, by 79 per cent of those surveyed.
At the same time, the interface-based solutions reduce the risk of error and optimise the efficiency of process procedures. Information on availability and precise data about delivery times can also pay into a better customer experience when these are digitalised and automated. According to the survey’s authors, B2B customers can profit from cross-channel overviews of orders, automated triggering of re-orders or invoice viewing for their accounting team.