It’s 2021, and as technology has evolved, so have buyers.
In this day and age, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that virtual business buyers have the same high standards for commercial transactions as they do when purchasing consumer goods. Today’s B2B buyers insist on a transparent and convenient experience from gaining awareness, to researching, to requesting a quote or pricing, and ultimately, transacting.
For some companies, such as office product suppliers or standardized equipment vendors like computer outlets, these demands may be relatively straightforward and even easy to satisfy. However, we know that’s simply not the case for mechanical equipment manufacturers selling pumps and complex pumping systems. These manufacturers often find virtual purchasing much more challenging than simply coding a website and setting up a payment engine.
So what are some things you should be aware of before implementing a virtual purchasing portal?
Provide Relevant Information as to Not Overwhelm the User
Be aware of how much information you share, especially with potential customers who may not have a lot of experience with selecting, configuring, and pricing pumps. You have to strike a balance between making information available and not overwhelming the user. This will help you better respond to the needs and expectations of multiple users who often have very different levels of product knowledge and experience.
Think of it this way: Even if a pump manufacturer handed you complete access to their full selection and configuration software, how much would you gain if you didn’t know how to use it properly?
As Laurent Davis, sales operations director of Water Technologies for Pentair, put it:
In many ways, we aren’t selling a product, we are selling the ability to meet duty conditions. Our customers include super users with decades of expertise and knowledge and ‘novice’ buyers who only know flow and head requirements and rarely request a specific model. It’s not easy to develop the software tools that can cater to all these different levels of knowledge.
Providing the necessary, relevant information will also help you better balance competing interests such as offering accurate, comprehensive data while protecting trade secrets. In many instances, manufacturers can provide digital product portals showcasing their catalogues to users who submit a simple registration form. By doing so, manufacturers can manage access and even use the registration as a lead capture process for direct sales.
Bridging User Demand for Convenience with a Company’s Need for Accuracy
Bridging the user’s demand for convenience with a company’s need for accuracy can be based on complexity. We suggest you automate the most complex first and work your way to automating the less and less complex thereafter. As Davis explained:
We really dove into the inner ring to start, using [software] tools to serve our super users. We implemented all our product lines into that tool, addressing every single possible question an engineer can have. We relied on our experienced internal application engineers and our most talented, Type-A distributors, people who can navigate our catalog as well as or even better than many of our employees. Now we can use that core knowledge base to help us craft solutions for the specifying community who know more about their project and less about our products.
For less experienced users working with more highly engineered products, the tool should be as intuitive and self-guided as possible, answering key questions as the user progresses, and even offering tutorials, links to webinars on specific pump applications, and more. For more standard products, you can even provide users with a ‘lite’ version of your more robust online portal.
However, if at any time a user becomes overwhelmed, they should have the ability to contact your team for more information. This will:
- Foster a collaborative environment that enables users to easily ask for assistance
- Satisfy the end user’s thirst for data
- Provide your people with the ability to better understand the user’s unique requirements
- Offer users a more highly-customized solution
- Arm you with the business intelligence you need to determine when “self-serve” really should be “sales-served”
As your company’s digital portal is used more, and more results come in, it should continue to be tested, refined, and rewired. But remember, making simple what is often complex has its challenges.
That’s where the team here at FPX comes in. We have over 30 years as a software vendor serving mechanical equipment manufacturers. Our solution allows MEMs and their users to automatically sift through hundreds or thousands of options by simply entering the conditions of service, the variables, and requirements. In other words: our tool does all the heavy lifting for you. Want to learn more? Talk to one of our CPQ experts to learn why FPX may be right for your business.