Wholesalers: Keep the Personal Touch of the Account Manager, Online Too!

April 18, 2023

A personal approach through the use of account managers: it is what the B2B market is known for. An advisor who knows the customer inside and out and consistently offers solutions that fit their exact needs. This is great, of course, but not exactly scalable. And with executives in the business market increasingly making their purchases online, that same personal touch has become indispensable on digital channels. In this article you will read how personalization strengthens the account manager’s role, while ensuring you provide customers with customized, and on-demand offers online.

It is a change that has been going on for some time: customers in the business market are increasingly serving themselves online. They search for their information and place their orders online. A phone call to the account manager with a question or for advice has become optional instead of necessary. In short, digitization, driven in part by millennials and other digital natives who are increasingly taking on the role of decision-makers and purchasers in the business market, is causing a significant shift in the role of the account manager.

Always Personal, Anytime, Anywhere

Let’s take a step back. The account manager has always been an expert in personalization. This person knew exactly what the customer needed, when and how often, and effortlessly understood which new products would fit the customer. Perhaps this person even knew when the director’s wife’s birthday was so that they could send a nice gift on that day.

That same personal touch is key for B2B, even as the market becomes increasingly digital. But how do you translatethat unique feeling through to your online channels?

The Indispensable Advisor: Online and Offline

The answer is quite simple: focus on personalization online, just like the account manager always did offline. Personalization simply means that you need to connect with the customer’s needs and desires. Always and everywhere. At every touchpoint throughout the entire customer journey. Online and offline. Reactively, but even better, proactively. This transforms an online wholesaler from a supplier to a digitally indispensable advisor.¬†Become the company that understands, informs, inspires, and serves the customer’s company both online and offline. The place where they make purchases with confidence and where they return time and time again.

The good news is that online personalization is within reach for wholesalers. Thanks to customer cards and account managers, you already know the customer very well. The customer has always been at the center of attention, which means there is plenty of data available. It’s time to move forward now!¬†In this article, you can read more about how to step-by-step transition from traditional wholesaling to data-driven eCommerce.

Focus on the Largest Accounts, Without Losing the Long Tail

And what about the account manager? What remains for him or her in this new reality? A lot, but the role does change. Thanks to online personalization, all accounts, large and small, are well served with tailored advice. This gives the account manager room to focus on the biggest and most important customers, with data-driven insights about the customer up his sleeve, providing even sharper advice. This makes the account manager’s job even more interesting than ever before. The emphasis is no longer on selling, but on deepening the relationship with the customers. Make optimal use of your wholesaler’s expertise to really help the customer move forward, and win and maintain trust.

In short: betting on online personalization ensures that all customers receive good personalized service and product offerings, both online and offline. Moreover, it frees up time for the account manager to focus on the the businesses that account for the bulk of wholesale sales. There are only winners in a digital transformation.

Inspiration from practice

The Schippers Group: From Account Manager to Coach

The Schippers Group: From Account Manager to Coach

It was a significant change for family business The Schippers Group. But by now, the shift to eCommerce and thus a webshop has largely been made. As Ruud Schippers and Constantijn Viezee explain in this (Dutch) Consuminded podcast, this has resulted in a substantial change in the role of the field sales team. Whereas the focus used to be primarily on sales-related KPIs, the emphasis has shifted to sharing knowledge and expertise about their products with the wholesale’s most important customers. It’s more about coaching and truly helping those customers – in their case, farmers – than pushing products. This way, The Schippers Group’s account managers build the necessary trust.

The farmers feel understood, and the help they receive is genuine. This, in turn, boosts conversion and share of wallet: even for products the customer never purchased before. The farmers have faith in the fact that The Schippers Group will always recommend the best possible option for them. This additional service, thanks to coaching by the account manager on the largest accounts, positively effects the customer loyalty.

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