In today’s dynamic and competitive wholesale distribution landscape, having a consultative solution partner for ecommerce can make a substantial difference in your success and growth.
We’ll explore what it means to have a consultative solutions partner, assess whether distributors are receiving value from their current partnerships, and provide guidance on evaluating and selecting a new partner.
What is a Consultative Solution Partner?
A consultative solution partner goes beyond a traditional ecommerce implementor relationship. They act as trusted advisors, understanding the distributor’s unique challenges, goals and market landscape. They’re not a shop of order-takers who just receive the ask, scope and build, but rather seek to understand the goals and business outcomes of the ask and work together to arrive at the best solution.
This requires fostering a relationship of trust to align with the strategy and culture of a distributor along with effortless communication. Only then can a partner integrate with a client’s team to collaborate, design and architect the path to success. A true consultative solution partner offers strategic guidance, leveraging their expertise and industry knowledge to help distributors make informed decisions, improve operations and drive growth.
Importance of a Consultative Solutions Partner
In a recent webinar presented by Master B2B, “Platform or Partner: Which is more critical to B2B eCommerce success?,” Stacy Hanks, vice president of Global Digital Commerce at SureWerx said:
“Your partner is going to be the one that helps you; it is in their best interest to make you look good. And they’re going to figure out a way. They do this all day, every day. And they know how to get around road bumps.” In the same webinar, 72% of 117 participants said that a partner was more important when asked “In B2B ecommerce re-platforming, is the partner or platform more important than success?”
A consultative solutions partner must be more than just a vendor; there needs to be two-way trust to make it all work. Building that trust takes time but its existence becomes evident when there is alignment of goals, healthy conflict and repeated success. While these results don’t come easily, the steps can be obvious. They include spurring new ideas, challenging norms, and quickly finding creative solutions to the problems at hand. These behaviors have the secondary benefit of creating a culture of learning by bringing in ideas from other industries, clients, and engagements.
Assessing the Current Partner Relationship:
To succeed in a competitive market, it’s critical to not fall into the rut of maintaining the status quo. Good organizations evaluate whether they are receiving sufficient value from their current partner. Consider the following questions:
Alignment of Goals: Is the partner aligned with your long-term goals and vision? Do they actively seek to understand your business needs and provide tailored solutions? Do they challenge your team and offer insightful suggestions and forward-thinking opportunities? Has their advice led to a new goal for your team? Has their advice led to more revenue or cost avoidance?
Expertise and Industry Knowledge: Does your partner demonstrate deep knowledge of your industry and distribution best practices? Have they “seen something like this before” and can draw on experiences with similar clients? Have they suggested solutions on your ecommerce platform that you didn’t know were available? Are they up to date with the latest trends and innovations?
Proactive Problem-Solving: Does the partner proactively identify and address potential challenges? Are they in tune with your growth and have plans for potential bottlenecks or limitations? Do they offer innovative solutions to optimize processes and enhance efficiency?
Communication: Is there open and transparent communication with your partner? Do they actively engage with your team, providing regular updates and seeking feedback? Do you hear from them as much as you would like? Are they providing the information you need to feel confident?
Frequency of Delivery: Do you receive regular and timely releases? When was the last time you released a feature? Did it perform how you expected?
Challenge: Do they challenge you from a pragmatic business stance? Do you find yourself getting upset sometimes that they aren’t just accepting what you say at face value? Do they appear to be personally invested in your success to the point that it’s obvious they are thinking about it on an hourly basis?
Measurable Results: Are there measurable outcomes or key performance indicators (KPIs) in place to evaluate the partner’s impact on your business? Are you seeing tangible improvements in areas such as revenue, customer satisfaction or operational efficiency?
Subjective Results: Does your partner make your life easier? Do they multiply your efforts? Do they make you look good to your internal stakeholders?
Evaluating a New Partner
When considering a new consultative partner, distributors should keep these factors in mind:
Experience and Track Record: Assess the partner’s experience in working with distributors in your industry. Have they successfully addressed challenges similar to yours? Request references and case studies to gain insight into their past performance.
Technical Acumen: Verify they know your ecommerce platform (or the one you’re looking to implement). Do they have certifications or badges awarded by the ecommerce platform? Ask for examples of how they’ve solved complex problems leveraging tech.
Working Structure: Understand how the partner approaches projects or engagements. Do they follow a structured methodology? Do they operate with boxed feature-based projects or long-term rolling engagements? Are they flexible enough to adapt to your unique needs? Seek partners who are collaborative and value your input throughout the process.
Levels of Team Interaction: Determine the level of involvement and accessibility of the partner’s team. Will you have a dedicated team or point of contact? Ensure there is clear communication and regular interaction to foster a strong working relationship.
Software Delivery: Evaluate the partner’s software delivery methods. What is the style and frequency of deployment? Consider factors such as scalability, integration capabilities and ongoing support.
Thought Leadership and Resources: Look for partners who actively contribute to thought leadership in the industry. Assess if they provide educational resources, timely blogs or training opportunities that can benefit your team and keep you ahead of industry trends.
Selecting the right consultative solution partner is a critical decision for distributors seeking to maximize their success in the ever-evolving ecommerce landscape. With a clear understanding of their goals, needs and desired partner characteristics, distributors can forge partnerships that drive growth and innovation, and enhance customer experiences.
Remember, a good partner fit will align with your vision, bring valuable expertise, foster collaboration and help achieve your long-term objectives.
Adrian Folsom serves as director of marketing at Layer One, a consultative ecommerce solutions partner who helps distributors discover and implement strategies to drive ecommerce adoption, gain wallet share and increase online sales. He brings a decade of B2B software solutions experience including early natural language modeling, Airbnb pricing and unit management forecasting and fixed wireless internet service provider automation and optimization.