25. May 2020

Bye Bye Bullshit Bingo – digitization in B2B sales

Why are B2B sales still using instruments that seem almost Stone Age, while B2C sales are largely digitized? Is it the fear of the ubiquitous “digitization bullshit bingo”? Isn’t there also a pragmatic way to digital B2B sales?

CEO André Roitzsch in conversation with CTO Manuel Diekmann

If you take a look at the finesse with which customers in B2C e-commerce are ensnared down to the smallest and furthest corners of the buying process, then you will be struck by the comparatively stone-age-looking methods that are currently used in large parts of B2B e-commerce is worked, hands almost together over the head. The hand-filled order fax is still more the rule than the exception. Why is that? Why are all digitization registers being pulled out in retail, while B2B commerce, whose total sales potential undoubtedly exceeds that of the B2C area many times over and which is the revenue generator of the future, is still acting in an incredibly analogue way to this day? Force of habit? Is it the fear of unmanageable investments in digitization projects, the results of which I cannot estimate and for which I cannot acquire the necessary IT specialists anyway?


Let’s leave out the digitization bullshit bingo we’ve heard so many times and, as paradoxical as it may sound, consider the topic “non-digital” first. This perspective opens up completely different, but no less interesting insights. B2B sales was and is fierce competition, an economic struggle for existence, and will remain so. According to Darwin, it is not the strongest or largest that survive this competition, but the most adaptable ones. And we are just about to enter a phase of digital Darwinism: Technology and society are developing so quickly that parts of the economy and administration are not keeping up.


In short cycles, digital technologies are constantly opening up new opportunities to gain competitive advantages. However, an honest look at the status quo shows that in reality many of these opportunities are not yet being used. And as long as that’s the case, everything stays the same. We are currently still experiencing deceptive calm in parts of B2B sales. So far, no one in the many industries has found the golden, digital key to happiness. And that’s why it still works “old school”. It’s the calm before the storm. In addition, in many mechanical industries there is simply a lack of access to the potential of digitally supported sales in terms of personnel and content. The questions in practice are then: With what and how do we start? And who should do that?


The described calm is deceptive, because the storm is coming. As soon as a player appears on the market who finds a new, more efficient approach to customers by cleverly using the opportunities offered by digital technology, everyone else is forced to adapt the new approach quickly. When trying to position themselves more digitally in B2B sales, many start with the simplest online shop and are not very successful with it. These actors then come to the supposed conclusion: “With us, digitization doesn’t work.” I have come across this original quote frequently in my practice. It perfectly reflects the completely wrong approach, which is: “Our customers don’t buy steel in the online shop!”

CTO Manuel Diekmann


So it doesn’t make sense to transfer solutions unchanged to your own business just because they are successful in other industries. The keyword is “online shop”. While it works in B2C retail, that doesn’t mean it’s transferrable to B2B business. In B2B sales, it is much more about optimizing completely different sales processes and generating significant cost efficiencies or groundbreaking customer services from them in order to stay ahead of the competition. Success in digitization in the B2B area always begins with understanding and developing ideas for optimizing processes typical of the industry.


A reliable first step, because it is necessary for every digitally supported process optimization, is the digitization of the offer. Goods and services that are offered to the customer can be adjusted and processed as desired using a digital catalogue. In this way, experience with digital mechanisms is gained and internal know-how is gradually built up. Costs remain manageable. A partner who understands digitization can be gradually introduced to their own processes in order to question them with their digital expertise and to supplement commerce functions. This is the short way to quick results in the form of timely first digitally supported sales. And this short path then lays a solid foundation on which the path to further B2B sales digitization can be continued in a sustainable and permanent manner.


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