B2B commerce is a complicated process for both suppliers and buyers, often made more difficult by the financial and logistic demands of the industry.
“Simple” and “straightforward” are not terms commonly associated with B2B activities, but for the business that can remedy this problem, growth and revenue increases are the results.
It’s possible to streamline your B2B process, though it takes some effort and investment of both time and money. Here’s your guide to making your B2B practices more efficient.
1. Recognize the Challenges of Streamline Strategies
Before you can make any changes to the system you currently have in place, take a hard look at the challenges you are currently experiencing or that are trending in the industry.
The more common concerns among B2B businesses involve customer retention, economic performance and the complexities of trade credit.
Though these are concerns, these broad categories need to be evaluated on a micro level to understand which hindrances could keep change from occurring.
Streamlining processes could mean completely scrapping one method for another or making minor adjustments.
2. Address the Burden of Constant Change
Keeping up with all of the changes technology brings to the industry can be exhausting and frustrating.
Though a useful tool for processing, more business owners find themselves fighting against the interruptions of technology from the hours spent on data entry, reporting, uploading, browsing and more.
As more information is available to the buyer, there is more responsibility for the seller. Avoid taxing yourself or your employees with this overload by investing in artificial intelligence programs.
Through software and cloud-based programs, intelligent assistants can be developed to enhance the buyer’s experience, reduce manual involvement in repetitive tasks and generate real-time reports for inventory management and buyer behaviors or trends.
Customer service satisfaction increases with conversational interfaces, products are adequately stocked for forecasted trends grounded in specific data and painstaking hours of product classification are turned into an automated process.
3. Pinpoint the Priorities To Streamline
Automation is an important tool for streamlining processes, and there are several different areas across operations that could benefit from AI or other automated services.
When you are working with a limited budget, develop a list of priority areas that get your attention first. You should evaluate these according to the overall value each area has with regard to revenue.
For example, if the choice is to spend money on a system that streamlines product classification or a system that will enable more accurate trade credit decisions, investing in financial matters can have a significant, immediate yield.
4. Review Supplier Relationships
A smart B2B owner will make adjustments to the marketing and sales processes according to the specific buying processes of the company’s buyers.
You won’t succeed with a one-size-fits-all approach to sales.
Buyers have specific needs and problems to be solved. If you are trying to blanket a particular market with generic options, you will operate inefficiently and find yourself losing money as you waste time and resources.
According to research done by Sirius Decisions, 67% of a buyer’s journey is conducted digitally, with up to 70% of the decision already made prior to contacting sales.
By streamlining the development of the supplier relationship from the initial interest in the company, you set the tone for how the relationship will work.
Investing in a user-friendly website with relevant content and in-depth comparison guides will reduce lengthy communications over comparisons with the competition and send targeted, qualified leads to your sales team for conversion and follow-up.
Evaluating what the buyers need throughout the buying lifecycle and continued partnership makes focused decision-making easier.
5. Alter the Shipping Workflow
Shipping is a major component of B2B operations, and the costs extend well beyond the expense of delivery.
In addition to this cost, you pay for printing labels, packing materials, the labor invested in packing the goods and any charges and headaches associated with customs or delivery time frames.
This is an ideal area to streamline, as it can save your business thousands.
Though automation is an easy adjustment, small changes to your workflow have a significant impact.
Use shipping software to develop a product catalog complete with product weights.
Use the software to compare shipping rates and packaging options, then batch-print labels.
Require signature confirmations on high-volume or high-value orders. A little bit of data entry and setup will improve efficiencies on your end and lead to more satisfied buyers.
6. Secure Financial Accountability
B2B businesses lose a small fortune when trying to make their product accessible to buyers through trade credit or other delayed payment options.
This is an extraordinary risk for a business of any size, but it can be even more devastating for a small B2B operation.
However, following a thorough credit application process can be time-consuming and cause potential buyers to take their business somewhere else.
Using a digital payment platform system can completely transform and streamline your accounting processes.
Consider a contract management service that also offers digital credit applications with immediate results for both sellers and buyers.
Use a system that can integrate payment accountability and account reconciliation, complete with automated payment reminders, direct debit set-up or payment plan capabilities.
7. Work on Digital Content Now
With Gartner predicting that nearly 80% of B2B business will take place across digital channels by the year 2025, now is the time to optimize your digital channels for the influx of attention.
It is crucial to adopt website writing and content practices that continually engage new traffic, but also retain the interest of current customers.
Any content should be relevant to the target market and serve as additional brand development or awareness, and also as an educational tool.
The better the presentation on the front end, the more beneficial the results elsewhere.
Support Your Streamline Efforts
There are many options and strategies that can help streamline your B2B operations.
Place the immediate focus on areas that will have a direct impact on the company’s finances.
Pencil One offers a comprehensive platform for addressing your company’s needs with credit applications and bill pay.
Get started today to accelerate your B2B growth.