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Make Ordering Highly-Configurable Products Easier with Self-Service

The classic B2B sales model is rapidly changing. Customers want B2C-like experiences in every purchase, which includes high variance manufacturing products as well. Let’s take a look and see what solutions are helping manufacturers deliver on B2C promises.  While topics such as customer expectation and experience are discussed by manufacturers many companies do not even offer customers the most basic online functionalities.

These stats from “Death of a (B2B) Salesman” by Forrester Research show that immediate action is needed  

  • 53% of the B2B buyers questioned: “I prefer to search even online for information. “
  • 59% of the B2B buyers surveyed: “I would rather not communicate with a sales consultant.” 
  • 74% of the B2B buyers surveyed: “Purchasing via a website is more convenient.” 
  • 93% As soon as I’ve decided on a product, I prefer to buy it online. 

To stay competitive, manufacturing companies need digital buying tools that meet the preferences of self-service-oriented buyer, including the possibility to configure highly individualized solutions for their needs. 

A central component of B2B commerce: The Digital Customer Portal  

B2B customers are increasingly gathering information online before making a purchase decision and expect to be able to order the selected product online. In view of these developments and challenges, B2B companies must rethink and reinvent their sales models in terms of consistent customer demand.  A digital customer portal offers customers user-friendly websites and online shopping with comprehensive product information, guided selling, needs-based configuration, consistent and transparent pricing, intuitive ordering functions, and modern checkout processes. 

With a digital customer portal, B2B manufacturers can: 

  • Better serve customer needs thanks to self-service tools 
  • Increase your own sales by becoming the preferred provider 
  • Develop and digitalize your own sales model according to your buyers’ expectations  

Keep up with customer demands
Business customers today expect a shopping experience that is similarly different from what they are used to privately from the B2C area. Conventional B2B sales and distribution processes cannot keep up with this development – and cause a lot of frustration among digitally demanding B2B buyers. 

What for?  

For instance, a product with 500 configurable components has 2.3×10133 possible options that can be offered. Your sales team needs a lot of expertise and must invest a lot of work hours in order to create a correct quote. That’s not even including other required information such as 3D models, drawings, product information, and documentation.

The linchpin of a self-service portal is a configuration you can trust

A powerful product configurator is the interface between the customer and the system and ensures that all configurations are always technically correct and – above all – can be produced. Since the buyer is not necessarily an expert of your product features, but focuses rather on the business outcomes and value of your product, a self-service portal has to support needs-based guided selling.

I needs-based product configuration guarantees

  • that the actual needs of the customer/prospect are recorded intuitively and that the product variant offered addresses those needs
  • that non-technical requirements, such as total cost of ownership, energy consumption, or specific performance indicators can be translated into technical details 
  • that the configured products are always technically correct and based on current data. 

In order to enable customers and interested parties without detailed technical knowledge to put their products together independently, the system assists in resolving conflicts. For example, invalid options and variants are hidden during configuration and valid alternatives are suggested automatically. 

With a product configurator, manufacturing companies can overcome the typical bottlenecks in the sale of highly varied industrial goods. Manufacturers open new possibilities by automating procedures and processes and making them less error-prone. By using a powerful configuration solution, construction and sales processes can be automated and accelerated. 

Bottle Neck sales support 

The core task of technical sales support is to ensure the technical feasibility of a proposed (offered) solution. In-depth product knowledge is necessary for this, as complex, varied products go hand in hand with a complex offer, price, and discount structures. Customer-specific machines and systems must meet special requirements. A lot of expertise is necessary to ensure that the selected solution meets these requirements and can later be operated safely and successfully.

Bottleneck incoming orders 

Not only the preparation of an offer is time-consuming – order entry and order processing are also. Even more: Inefficient processes and incorrect orders have serious effects (long processing times) and quickly cause high costs (warranty costs) and lead to dissatisfied customers. 

Convenient self-services for users

Manufacturing companies that decide to introduce a digital self-service or customer portal benefit from holistic processes and a seamless tool for end-to-end customer interaction.

Web-based self-services are becoming increasingly important for industrial companies. When looking for information, B2B customers now research the providers’ websites first – but shy away from contacting a sales consultant. A self-service customer portal not only simplifies the registration of new customers and customer management. It also improves the customer experience and provides better service.

After all, B2B buyers expect the same features and functionality as those offered by leading online retailers. This includes:

  • All configurations previously created “anonymously” are visible
  • Further processing of a configured product
  • The current price information is displayed for the configurations created
  • Information and additional services are unrestrictedly accessible
  • The complete product catalog is available even non-configurable accessories, additional services (e.g. maintenance, extended warranties), spare parts, and consumables to the product
  • Request a quote based on a configuration you have made

As soon as the registered user’s request has been received, a sales representative can process, check and adjust the request and release an offer in the portal. There it can be opened and checked by registered users.

Document Generation and self-service

Creating accompanying advanced documentation is an important part of self-service. Creating items such as CAD documents empowers your customers to close the deal by going the extra mile and speeding up a process that would take weeks and turning it around in minutes.

Order Processing

If both sides (an interested party and provider) agree with the offer, the user can confirm the offer. It will be frozen and the order will be processed. The self-service portal transfers the order directly to the connected ERP system, which processes it further.

Self-service portals increase the efficiency of the internal order processing process and the transparency of the order status. Customer advice and support can be provided more easily and cost-effectively. By eliminating manual tasks, sales and customer service can focus on interactions that create value for business customers.

In closing

A self-service portal bundles all applications and services required for the distribution and sale of industrial goods on a central platform, which can also be seamlessly connected to the rest of the technology landscape via interfaces. If you want to learn more on how Tacton CPQ Omnichannel makes self-service sales achievable – even for highly individualized industrial products – head over to our web page or schedule your personal demo today!

Author: Michael Brassea