The coronavirus is forcing B2B (business-to-business) and B2C (business-to-consumer) companies to scramble to find ways to remain afloat during the pandemic. Not only are consumers’ behaviors rapidly changing (which impacts B2B, as well), but the way you are doing business is also changing.
The contagious nature of COVID-19 has forced non-essential businesses in some countries to completely close down, while essential companies are limiting the hours they are open. The direct and indirect effects of these actions are impacting every sector.
If your B2B company caters to businesses that are deemed non-essential, you’ve surely felt the uncertainty of the market already as orders are put on hold. Your clients are being cautious and holding their breath to see what the economy and market will look like once COVID-19 has run its course.
Even if you’re lucky enough to have had continuing sales up to this point, it’s vital to think ahead and plan for the worst.
Here are five steps your company can take right now to adjust to the COVID-19 market landscape.
Find B2B E-Commerce Solutions
The first significant adjustment you need to make is moving what parts of your business you can to e-commerce.
The move to e-commerce can be daunting, especially if you’re used to your current system. However, even before COVID-19, B2B clients have been steadily trending toward online purchasing. According to Forrester, by 2023, B2B e-commerce in the U.S. will represent 17% of all B2B sales in the country — that’s $1.8 trillion.
Since more than 50% of B2B clients start their buying research on social media and 61% of all B2B transactions start online, forward-thinking owners and managers are already moving what sales they can onto an e-commerce platform.
Your Guide to E-Commerce
The first step toward implementing an e-commerce solution for your B2B company is answering the basics: Who? What? Why? When? How? And Where?
Though the pressure is on to offer your clients an easy and convenient way to make necessary purchases in this difficult moment, you want a solid plan when you start your e-commerce business .
Traditionally thought of as the realm of B2C, it’s essential to look at case studies of successful e-commerce B2B companies, and review what steps you need to take to get ahead of the curve.
Our “Getting Started with B2B E-Commerce: A $4.88 Trillion Opportunity” guide is the most straightforward way to get your feet on the ground while you assess new opportunities for your business.
Work From Home
Unless there are jobs that require you or your employees to be onsite — you should be doing everything in your power to facilitate working from home. There is no reason to put your employees or customers at risk by creating situations where social distancing is impossible.
Because the move to remote work will be rushed, there is increased pressure to put policies in place that will help your employees stay as productive as possible.
Not only do you need to establish clear expectations and channels of communication, but you must also provide your sales team with insights regarding best practices for working remotely.
Additionally, make sure you are adjusting your management style to get the most out of your remote team. Though some aspects of what you do will be the same, there are several additional considerations you’ll have to take on board when managing a remote team. LinkedIn has provided a series of videos to help employees to work from home – Remote Working Learning Path.
One differing aspect is how you measure employees’ productivity — ensuring they aren’t goofing around on Netflix. This comes down to giving them the tools they need to track and log their work. After all, remote work is all about results, not time on the clock.
Rework Your Sales Targets
As painful as it is, the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic requires you to review your short-term and annual goals.
Your sales team and employees are already under increased stress from the realities of the virus, as well as the adjustments to working from home. It’s unreasonable to demand they continue to meet quotas and productivity goals under these additional stressors, especially while the market is wildly fluctuating around them.
So, go back to the drawing board and see what new quotas are attainable. This is also an opportunity to assess the potential to open up a new sales channel with a B2B e-commerce platform. Our guide can help you through this process.
Enable Automation and Integration to Boost Productivity
COVID-19 will impact your sales team’s ability to follow up with leads and convert them. Without a doubt, business is slowing down. To combat this, it’s necessary to give your employees as many tools as possible to boost their productivity.
Even before COVID-19, a single lead slipping through the cracks in B2B is a much bigger issue than in B2C — this is even more true now as lead scarcity increases. Giving your team access to advanced ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) will provide them data-driven solutions.
Advanced machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI) built into your ERP is part of the shift away from these systems’ sole focus on accounts, audits, supply chains, and warehouses to customer satisfaction, as well.
A cloud-based ERP allows your sales, marketing, finance, service, human resources, and operations teams to all work at home while never losing the pulse of your company.
There is no better time than now to implement a holistic approach to your ERP system. The best way to implement e-commerce functionality involves creating an integration with your ERP. Connecting these two pieces will save time and effort in the long run, as your existing ERP can inform e-commerce efforts.
Put in Effort to Keep Top Talent
With millions of businesses already feeling the financial squeeze from COVID-19, unemployment rates are predicted to skyrocket in the U.S. A record 3.3 million Americans have filed for unemployment in the U.S., leading experts to warn of a “catastrophic unemployment crisis”.
Panicked employers are trying to retain their staff while being cognizant of the cash flow situation. Though cutting employees to save expenses may sound appealing in the short-term, it will be devastating in the long-term. You will need your best people on board when we’re on the other side of the current state of affairs with COVID-19.
Letting your top talent go will cripple your ability to recover. Conversely, by keeping them on board, you have the chance to create deep, long-lasting company loyalty — employees recognize employers who genuinely care about them.
Final Thoughts: B2B Business and Coronavirus: What to Do Right Now
With the estimated peak of COVID-19 weeks away in the U.S., there is plenty you can do right now to help your B2B company weather the storm and come out the other side prepared for a speedy recovery.
This is the time to double-down on your relationships (with clients and employees) — but make sure you do so from a distance. The loyalty you build now will be the foundation for your company’s recovery.
Of course, it’s also necessary to adjust and modernize your business strategy. This means moving what sales you can to an e-commerce platform — and giving your sales team the integrated, automated tools necessary to optimize their efforts.
Ready to explore B2B e-commerce solutions for your company? Our “Getting Started with B2B eCommerce: A $4.88 Trillion Opportunity” guide provides you with everything you need to know — from case studies on businesses that have become giants through B2B e-commerce to why it could be the right solution for your business and how to get started!
E-commerce is the gateway to a $4.88 trillion opportunity. Download the free guide now.