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How To Unlock Value in B2B Sales Through Digital Tools

Demand for digitization in the B2B sales channel is here to stay. Learn how to supercharge your B2B organization through hybrid selling with a variety of digital tools to unlock growth and enhance your customer relationships.

Despite the B2B shift from in-person to hybrid (digital and in-person) sales, many business buyers are unsatisfied with the sales process, leading to increased customer churn and brand switching.

Why aren’t new digital commerce tools meeting the mark?

From a lack of functionality to slow speeds and difficulty navigating to the right products, B2B digital solutions aren't enhancing the sales process for customers or employees. B2B companies need to invest in self-service tools that go hand-in-hand with sales representative interactions, while improving customer experience, driving down costs and elevating business insights.

“Customers are demanding self-service, and they want an easier, more personalized experience on their own terms,” says Senior Client Partner at Publicis Sapient, Kendra Koder. “B2B will continue to follow in the direction of the precedence that B2C has set and there’s a lot of catching up to be done.”
Kendra Koder, Senior Client Partner

Where B2B digital transformation goes wrong

Many B2B companies invest in online sales tools that solve one particular problem or only address one type of customer or buyer persona. Digital transformation that isn’t holistic often reinforces a siloed experience for both employees and customers and adds to frustration.

For example, a beauty and personal care brand may want to create a self-service portal for business customers, like aestheticians and dentists, so they can automate online orders and product subscriptions.

However, customer purchase data from a B2B portal that isn’t integrated with inventory data limits insights into product availability for B2B buyers. Furthermore, if B2B buyers have to log into a separate platform for educational product videos, the extra step creates friction and limits the usefulness of the tool itself.

How to increase buyer satisfaction using digital direct sales tools

To increase buyer satisfaction with digital and direct sales interactions, B2B companies need to think holistically across the entire customer and employee journey, from a value-driven perspective—integrating digital tools into field sales that are complimentary to each other.

There are three pillars of B2B sales transformation that consumer products (CP) firms should consider:

Growth and customer satisfaction:
Organize and deliver new tools around customer outcomes, prioritizing customer-oriented KPIs

Efficiency and employee satisfaction:
Simplify and reduce cost-to-serve addressing legacy systems and processes that may be contributing to employee dissatisfaction and inefficiency

Alignment and delivery readiness:
Agree on what’s most important, and what technology is required to deliver tools to be ready to go to market.

If B2B sales transformation is only aligned to one or two of these pillars, the transformation process can often become delayed, ineffective in achieving increased revenue goals and costly for the business as a whole.

Driving B2B direct sales efficiency with digital tools

While in-person sales interactions are playing a smaller role in future B2B sales growth, it's critical for sales representatives to have access to digital tools that can help them deliver a superior customer experience.

Customers now demand more than just seamless transactions—they also expect personalized recommendations, proactive support and a VIP level of service for the products they purchase.

To meet these heightened expectations, CP firms must prioritize equipping their sales teams, and their customers, with the tools and resources they need to succeed.

Account management tools for B2B sales representatives

CP manufacturers need tools and services that can scale quickly to proactively support account management relationships with customers and partners. Disruptions in supply chain and customer demand make proactive account management much more critical.

At the same time, reductions in sales and field representative store visits require digital solutions to enable virtual service. Digital onboarding of new accounts, vendor management systems, chatbots and loyalty management accessible from native and mobile apps allow account managers to stay ahead of customer demands.

These sales support tools create increased efficiency in manual processes, increased sales and better customer experiences. For example, a B2B mobile app that optimizes reservation flow for vehicles can help sales representatives efficiently convert quotes into contracts.

Retail and field execution tools for B2B customers

CP manufacturers can also use digital tools to support field sales on the customer end, through digitization of inventory replenishment, training, consumer education and automating processes and systems.

Often, small- to medium-sized B2B customers lack the fundamental digital tools to deliver personalized experiences to consumers in-store and online. Then, consumers hold CP companies accountable, even though it’s CP customers that own the relationship.

Field sales systems, digital signage solutions, product recommendation and education tools, real-time inventory enablement and automated coupon offerings through native and mobile apps support the reordering process and provide business customers with the intelligence to drive greater lifetime value for their consumers.

For example, digital product education tools help educate B2B customers about the best ways to use, fix or even sell products to consumers, without the customer having to call or book a field visit for assistance.

AI, advanced analytics and automation tools for B2B sales leaders

AI-powered algorithms can analyze vast amounts of data to optimize and automate leadership decision-making, through identifying patterns, trends and insights that can inform larger sales strategies.

For example, a B2B self-service portal can provide teams with customers purchase trends, selling success metrics and cross-sell opportunities. This data can also feed into real-time inventory enablement to inform a digital AI-powered product recommendation tool for customers to choose a replacement product if one product is out of stock.

However, it’s essential for CP firms to have a unified customer data platform (CDP) with real-time customer insights to provide intelligent analytics.

Additionally, the enablement of data insights with retailers can provide access to critical data for how products are performing at point of sale that can help B2B sellers drive optimization discussion opportunities with customers and retailers. Data insights can also help gauge how trade promotions are performing to reduce profit erosion.

Getting started with B2B digital-first transformation

1. Understand customer and employee pain points

While there are many digital tools available for B2B CP companies, the first step in digital transformation is gaining insight into the pain points that both customers and employees are experiencing. To place this in context, if supply chain constraints, for example, are the biggest customer problem, digital tools that can provide demand forecasting, supply chain visibility and order tracking would have a high return in terms of providing improvements and insights.

If CP companies don’t fully understand these pain points, this is a great opportunity to introduce first-party research engagements targeting key areas within the B2B customer journey and prove untested assumptions.

2. Evaluate technology architecture

Next, B2B companies should evaluate how their technology ecosystem is set up to enable digital transformation. Often, this starts with the chief information officer (CIO) providing information on where potential technology silos exist—but it can be difficult to break down legacy systems without a proper change management strategy.

3. Create a change management strategy

Finally, change management needs to be part of the original strategy, not something that comes after the fact. There are many different ways of working, process flows, people and audiences across different departments that will be affected by a new digital-first sales model, and having a transformation steering committee that meets often to collaborate to tackle unanticipated challenges along the way.

Digital tools and a modern digital commerce platform should be considered as a way to complement, not conflict with field sales, and should be designed as part of a holistic customer journey.


Get in touch with Publicis Sapient’s global B2B center of excellence to reimagine a sales model that puts digital for customers and employees at the center, using both data and empathy to drive an integrated sales experience.

Visit our B2B Digital Transformation Hub


Kendra Koder
Kendra Koder
Senior Client Partner