www.inddist.com March/April 2014 / INDUSTRIAL DISTRIBUTION 27
As A Tool — Not Competition
The world has established that industrial distributors need an online ecommerce presence. No matter what major news outlet you watch, what industry blog you read, or what
newspaper you subscribe to, everyone is buzzing about its importance.
So what if you have taken that step and created an ecommerce
platform for your business, but your salespeople are pushing back
against it? What do you do then?
“When done correctly, ecommerce and direct sales can be com-
plementary. A direct sales model could in fact be a mobilization
strategy for your ecommerce platform,” says Billy Bauer, the mar-
keting director at Royce Leather, a company that sells high-end
specialty gifts through distributors and online. “An ecommerce
solution can actually allow its sales reps to spend more customer
face time and less time focused on order processing and adminis-
The experts have weighed in, and there are three key factors to
getting your sales force to accept and promote your ecommerce
When salespeople are pushing back against an idea, it is most
often because they don’t understand the reasons behind the idea
or what it will mean for their jobs and their commission in the
future. Including them in the process early on as you develop the
platform is key.
“The organization owes it to those sales reps to be transparent
in terms of strategy. We need to explain what we see, how we
see buyers wanting to buy, and where we are headed with the
market and technology,” says Dirk Beveridge, President and CEO
of 4th Generation Systems. “We need to effectively gather the
troops around the strategy so they can see it as an opportunity,
not a threat.”
Educating the sales team on how important it is for an ecom-
merce platform to be in place is a good first step. Share the data
with your sales team on your customers’ buying habits — and the
data that tells your sales team that ecommerce will help free up
their time to spend on bigger direct sales.
“We work very hard to make sure that our sales team is well
educated on everything that we do on the web,” says Steven
Abbot, Sales Manager at Earnest Machine, a company that distributes fasteners and boasts an impressive online web platform.
“The web store is part of Earnest. It took a while for everyone to
understand that it isn’t a separate entity, it is just another ave-
nue for the customer to come to us.”
Get Salespeople To Use It, Too!
The most effective way to get your salespeople to promote
ecommerce to your customers is to have them use it first. If a
sales rep can’t walk the client through their first order over the
phone or while on a site visit, your customer is not going to jump
If you have a decent ecommerce system in place with good
search features and impressively populated data fields, it should
speed the process for both internal sales and customers alike to
find products. Rather than having customers wait on the other
end of the line while a salesperson flips through an enormous
book filled with product codes and numbers, teach the salesperson to use the ecommerce site to get the product information
instantly. They can then teach their clients to do the same, and
eventually it will help free up the salesperson’s time and eliminate some of the wasted energy that they put toward order
processing and not selling.
“The best salespeople use ecommerce as a virtual assistant
who is there to serve the client and take orders any time the rep
is not available,” says George Athan, Chief Strategist at MindStorm Strategic Consulting. It is important for the customer to
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