In a recent ABM Done Right Podcast, Mark Stouse, CEO of Proof Analytics, mentioned that the analytics show that ABM has a greater impact at the middle and bottom of the funnel than at the top. Yet most organizations do not think about how they will strategically accelerate accounts toward revenue. They do not think about how they can use ABM to drive a buying consensus across the organization. In fact, Mark Stouse said that most ABM content and campaigns work against the objective of ABM as it promotes “self-interests” vs. “team interests”.
You can listen to the podcast below:
CNBS Software, an ecommerce and account receivables solution, that competes with SAP Hybris, Magento, Salesforce Commerce Cloud, and other legacy platforms, learned that there should not be a hand-off between sales and marketing once selling conversations begin, especially if they want to continue getting wins like:
They learned that sales and marketing need to work together across the buyer’s journey and customer lifecycle to land and expand accounts as they were struggling to move stuck accounts forward. The problem is….
CNBS Software Was Losing the Internal Conversations That Sales and Marketing Were Not Part of!
For example, they used ABM to get conversations with a healthcare products firm that serves long-term care (LTC), skilled nursing, assisted living, hospice, and VA facilities. This firm wanted to move from a traditional phone and fax sales system to a modern, self-service e-commerce platform. But, the firm has two sides of the business to support: new purchases, which are in strong demand, and rentals. Our client’s software which was designed specifically to integrate with SAP’s ERP, does not have the capability at this time to meet the needs of “rental” businesses.
Despite having a team-to-team call and seeing a demo, the executive buying team at the healthcare product firm was still hung-up on what to do with the rental business. They did not see the risks, costs, and impacts of choosing an e-commerce platform that sits outside the ERP but accommodates both sides of the business. Sales tried having further conversations with the team. But the VP of IT acted as the gatekeeper and kept the distance between sales and the “buying team” that was collecting requirements in a vacuum and having internal conversations. Before, working with Personal ABM, CNBS Software would typically give the team time. In many cases, they were giving teams time to make a wrong decision as they were not working together to influence the internal conversations that happen behind closed doors.
How CNBS Software Took a Different Approach to Build a Consensus and Win
This time marketing and sales worked together to create a consensus in their favor. Content was created to show the effects of working with an “Outside SAP ⇨ In” platform like Magento and BigCommerce and how it would impact:
- Go-live time and performance.
- The P&L beyond development costs.
- Corporate initiatives as IT would be tied to the e-commerce projects for six to 12 months with the other platforms.
- Margins as other platforms, do not enable customers to segment customers and their pricing by profitability nor provide configurable products whose final features and prices are calculated in real-time by the customer.
- IT operations after the go-live would need to put “manual processes” in place as most ecommerce platforms are not automatically synchronized and integrated with the ERP.
- The sales team will still need to focus their time on re-orders vs. driving new business
- Distribution, service performance, customers, and ongoing revenue.
The healthcare products firm needed to see how their decision will have widespread impacts across the company and on customers. Sales teams needed to build social and email relationships with key decision makers that the gatekeeper was trying to keep at a distant space – and build those relationships based on insights that would affect their business. And sales was delivering content that was designed to influence the internal conversations that sales and marketing were not part of. Marketing and sales worked together to ensure a “win” vs. taking a 50/50 chance that the buying team would decide in their favor.
Below is an example of an article that helped sales and marketing build a consensus. When you read the article below, notice how we get personally relevant. The content doesn’t just speak at industries. Notice, how it doesn’t focus on pain points but instead on gaps and impacts and how the article teaches for differentiation so the buyers would come to a consensus in CNBS Software’s favor.
Choosing the right B2B eCommerce platform is not easy as each solution comes with a different set of compromises. For example, we’re in conversations with a healthcare products firm that serves long-term care (LTC), skilled nursing, assisted living, hospice, and VA facilities. They want to move from a traditional phone and fax sales system to a modern, self-service eCommerce platform like WECO. But, the firm has two sides of the business to support: new purchases which are in strong demand, and rentals. The WECO software that was designed specifically to integrate with SAP’s ERP does not have the capability at this time to meet the needs of “rental” businesses.
The firm needs to decide if they want to accept the “risks”, “costs”, and “impacts” of choosing an eCommerce platform that sits outside the ERP but accommodates both sides of the business. Or, they’ll have to decide if they should keep the rental division separate. Below, you will see some of the unconsidered risks, costs, and impacts that the executive team will need to discuss.
A Misguided Ecommerce Platform Choice Will Increase Time to Go-Live and Reduce Post-Go-Live Performance.
Accommodating both the “purchasing” and “rental” businesses will require the healthcare firm to use a platform like Big Commerce, Magento, or another platform that is built from “Outside SAP ⇨ In”. These platforms are designed to integrate with any ERP system and rely on independent solutions to shuttle data (products, prices, orders, etc.) between SAP and the eCommerce platform’s internal database. The integration with SAP is usually a custom, proprietary, “bolt-on” solution, which is built by 3rd parties and adds more complexities to your go-live.
In essence, the firm will have to hire contractors to independently customize the eCommerce solution and then find another contractor team to build the integration. When challenges during the implementation arise, you have to figure out if it’s an e-commerce, SAP, or communication problem. Part of the reason why “Outside SAP ⇨ In” implementations take so long is that you have to solve each problem independently.
The other reason that “Outside SAP ⇨ In” implementations take so long is that ERP systems have become highly customized. For example, the healthcare products firm was founded in 1889, and throughout the years, there were numerous acquisitions. Their ERP needed to evolve over time and become very specific to how their business works. They have dozens of rules that are applied to their 120+ service locations. All of these rules were slowly built into the ERPs – and they need to be replicated in the eCommerce solution. And, you need to get all of the data you need to execute those rules properly. This is why it takes a month from Magento just to get a ‘Proof of Concept (POC)’ and 6 months or longer for full implementation. Even with 6 months to a year of implementation, I’ve seen go-lives fail with an “Outside SAP ⇨ In” implementation because rules are forgotten, and you are not getting real-time information from the ERP.
Having a good eCommerce solution is not sufficient by itself. You need your eCommerce and ERP systems to work together. When you build your eCommerce system directly inside your SAP ERP system, you get automatic synchronization. You get more than 99% of your requirements filled by the out-of-the-box solution, which means less time customizing. This is why you can get a WECO POC in four days and full implementation in just 2 months.
The Wrong eCommerce Platform Will Impact the P&L in Multiple Ways
The executive team for the healthcare products company will have to think “beyond” the known costs of using a platform that accommodates both the rental and purchasing side of the business. These known costs include a minimum of $20K just for a POC and $300K to $1M for implementation vs. a free POC and an average implementation investment of $150K for WECO. Most firms do not consider, how long they can afford to have their own resources involved in deploying the eCommerce platform. Even if most of the work is done by a 3rd party, there is usually a core team of your own resources who will need to be directly involved. They’ll make key decisions (as well as compromises) that always pop up in the process of implementation and going live.
In our experience, supporting the implementation takes approximately 10% – 50% of their working day, which can’t be spent on their core responsibilities. If your implementation takes 3 months, this may have a manageable impact. If it takes 8, 12, or 18 months, the hidden cost of your resources’ involvement can be felt as your other internal projects are getting delayed or put on hold. The cost of internal resources is rarely budgeted for, yet it adds up quickly to the overall cost of the project.
Because of the time, resources, and investment that it takes to synchronize the eCommerce solution with the ERP when the eCommerce platform is not built directly inside the SAP system, many B2B firms have an open catalog. This is the type of catalog that most B2C sites use which allows everybody to see all products. This means that the B2B firm is treating all customers the same and charging them the same even if the cost to serve them is limiting margins! There is no segmentation that is based on customer profitability, customer language, or purchasing history. Companies are not thinking about how they can increase profitability by providing configurable products whose final features and prices are calculated in real-time by the customer.
The eCommerce Platform You Choose Will Positively or Negatively Impact Operations (IT, Distribution, Customer Support)
The time-to-go-live and costs alone provide a strong reason to focus only on the growing “purchasing” side of the business vs. investing in a solution that also accommodates the stagnant “rental” division. But, there are other impacts on the company that the executive team should think about starting with IT operations.
We have a client that provides big IT companies in the Bay Area with ergonomic furniture. They specialize their product catalogs to their clients at a very granular level. They go beyond providing a customer-specific catalog. Within those catalogs, some companies get different options with what they’re allowed to order. Company A may order a specific type of chair with specific types of fabrics and specific types of arms. Company B may get a completely different set. Overall, they have 40 different product catalogs, all containing several thousand products that have numerous configurations.
Imagine the data maintenance that the team had to handle, especially since the data configurations had to be created in spreadsheets. Then they sent it to Salesforce, their intermediary system, where the team would modify the configurations accordingly. Then, the team had to move it over to their Magento eCommerce solution, where pricing and selection options issues arose. The team was overwhelmed trying to manage all of this information. By creating a single source of truth in the ERP and building the eCommerce platform directly into the SAP system, we removed all of the data replication. The team is able to create new catalogs on the fly without bringing in additional eCommerce, SAP, and integration resources. The ergonomic furniture company has been using the WECO system for years, and all we get are enhancement requests.
The ERP/eCommerce integration challenges went beyond IT operations. As discounts were not being applied properly – and customers were not given the right options, the ergonomic furniture company’s sales teams and customer service teams were inundated with placing repeat orders. They could not put their focus on new customers that needed their attention.
Orders were not making it into the ERP, so customers were sitting and waiting for their products, which never arrived. In other cases, customers would order 50 chairs with a specific fabric. But there was not enough fabric to make the 50 chairs, and as the eCommerce solution did not take this into account, customers did not get their products on-time, in full as expected. Partial orders were creating a logistics nightmare.
Do you see how the eCommerce platform you choose impacts the different operations within your business, including distribution and your supply chain?
The eCommerce Platform You Choose Will Impact Customers, Sales, and Revenue
Sales are often the front line of the company to forge and maintain strategic relationships. Their accounts are hard-won, but at the same time, remain delicate. When a minor detail goes askew, often the Sales Executive must do some ‘tap dancing’ to make it right as customers want and deserve a seamless experience.
Spending unnecessary time on the phone when it should be self-service is creating tension and friction within the sales relationship, which is resulting in further discounts in order to keep the customer happy. Re-ordering should be easy for the customer. They should be able to view and print their order status, delivery status, invoices, order confirmations, packing slips, and BOLs without your support. The companies that provide a self-service eCommerce experience are the ones that will retain customers and increase their customer lifetime value. The others are at risk of losing key accounts.
When you figure out the eCommerce platform “compromises” that your company is able to accept – and see that there are greater risks and impacts in not having an eCommerce platform that’s built directly into your SAP system, I invite you to learn more about the WECO system.