Disruptions occur daily and can be costly for your business. As the Delta variant spreads, distributors must continually adapt to stay afloat. Unfortunately, even after COVID-19 is under control, other disruptions such as severe weather, geopolitical conflicts, accidents and supply chain disturbances will continue to cause setbacks and damage to the bottom line. In fact, according to Interos’ Annual Global Supply Chain Report, “global supply chain disruptions cost large companies, on average, $184 million a year” per organization. And that’s just one of the threats businesses face today.
Whatever your company’s size, it is necessary to prepare for operational obstacles that may come your way. Here are five strategies to build resiliency for any disruption.
Refine Your Remote Sales Strategy
Companies around the globe found themselves unprepared when COVID-19 hit. Widespread shutdowns required outside salespeople to readjust their strategies and adapt to working remotely. Without visiting clients in person, many salespeople found themselves unable to provide the support their customers needed.
AI, automation and digital sales operations can help your business adapt to sudden changes and outperform competitors when global disruptions occur. The right programs will not only support your outside sales representatives but will fill in the gaps when problems arise. By creating a remote sales strategy, you will be safeguarding your business while giving your team the tools they need to perform their jobs more efficiently.
Combine People and Technology to Boost Sales
Many salespeople worry that technology will replace their jobs, but this is not the case. Instead, consider technologies like AI as an assistant to your sales team. With it, your sales team can take a step back from manual data entry and analysis to spend more time engaging and interacting with customers.
AI technology can:
- Give your team a more comprehensive view of customer buying behaviors
- Send helpful reminders about reordering
- Analyze buying profiles to uncover up-sell and cross-sell opportunities
- Provide valuable statistics and information when customers have questions
- Suggest relevant items to customers before and during checkout
AI and other technologies are fantastic tools but could never replace the human touch your sales reps provide to their customers. With the proper training, technology will equip your salespeople with the tools needed to enhance their performance while giving customers the consultative care they require.
Create Informed Business Strategies with Advanced Tools
In addition to supporting your sales team, technology can give you insight into your overall operations. With C-Suite AI programs, you can see overviews of every aspect of your business – from sales and inventory to human resources and productivity. These advanced tools can help you understand how your company is operating and develop informed strategies for improvement.
Some AI technology can even create revenue models and individualized disruption simulations, so you can prepare for setbacks before they impact your business. Utilizing this technology is one of the most efficient ways to build resiliency and cut costs.
Equip Your eCommerce Website with AI
The ability to make purchases online is becoming more important to consumers. According to some analysts, the shift towards digital sales channels caused by COVID-19 will be permanent. While AI is working hard behind the scenes to improve your team’s efficiency, it can also enhance your customer’s journey on your website.
The right programs will streamline your ecommerce site while providing useful up-sell and cross-sell recommendations directly to customers. In addition, AI enables you to provide consultative value in the same way the best B2B sites do.
A convenient, reliable web experience has been proven to improve customer satisfaction and retention. Gartner estimates that over the next year, businesses with AI integration will see a 30% jump in revenue from ecommerce.
By implementing AI-powered recommendations such as “similar items,” “customers also bought” and “customers also viewed,” you can improve your customer’s digital experience while enjoying a boost in sales.
Connect and Coordinate Sales Channels
Unlike many companies, distributors often take advantage of multiple sales channels. These can include ecommerce, counter sales, customer service, outside sales, inside sales and more. While this has many benefits, these departments can be siloed and difficult to coordinate. Over time, a lack of coordination – especially during supply chain disruptions – can cause operational issues, disrupting sales and negatively impacting your customer’s experience.
With data warehouse technology, you can easily connect data from all departments. By adopting CRM (customer relationship management), salespeople can see up-to-date information on company-wide accounts and deals. From there, deep analytics can provide managers with an overview of sales channels and help them keep track of each person’s roles and responsibilities. These technologies allow your sales reps to devote their time to more meaningful, revenue-generating tasks.
Over time, AI and other distribution-focused technologies will enable your team to make better sales, enhance each sales channel, and improve customer interactions. But, most importantly, they will allow your company to function at its peak, even amid disruptions.
Benj Cohen founded Proton.ai, a growth engine for distributors. His company’s mission is to help distributors harness cutting-edge artificial intelligence (AI) to drive increased sales. Benj learned about distribution firsthand at Benco Dental, a family business started by his great grandfather. He graduated Harvard University with a degree in Applied Math, and speaks regularly at industry events on the benefits of AI for distributors. Benj has been featured in trade publications including MDM, Industrial Distribution, and Industrial Supply Magazine. His company, Proton.ai, announced a $20 million Series A round of funding in 2022, led by Felicis Ventures.