Perhaps the most significant determining factor in whether or not an online solution will be successful is how you prepare internally for a transition to an online ordering system. New roles and responsibilities are going to be required. Sales personnel need to be communicated to early and sold on the fact that an online solution is being implemented to complement their efforts and not to replace them. Data in your back-end system needs to be cleaned to ensure it is accurate and up-to-date. And finally, the entire sales staff needs to be trained on the new solution since, in most cases, they will be the ones called upon to train and work with retailers who are being onboarded. Below please find some suggestions, best practices and samples to assist in your internal onboarding efforts.
Cleaning Item Data and Retail Account Information
Distributors have grown accustomed to their back-end systems and current ways of taking orders. However, since the content in your back-end systems will be used to populate a retail ordering website, the data must be accurate and complete. Solution providers will assist you with this, but it will also take a lot of work with your back-office staff. The same holds true with your retail account information. If you ask an account to start placing online orders, you better make sure you have all of their information correct in your system, so their order links to the correct account.
Hopefully, one tool that will help a great deal regarding item information and imagery is the recently launched BIECC Master Product Catalog (MPC). The MPC's goal is to serve as a single source of accurate, up-to-date brand information and imagery for all brewers' brands. Access to the MPC is freely available to distributors, retailers, vendors and other industry stakeholders. The aim is to keep numerous individual industry members from keeping and maintaining their own item catalogs that may or may not be fully accurate.
Cleansing/Preparing Product Data
RAS/ERP file maintenance needs to be scrubbed:
Readable product descriptions
Retail Account information
Communicating with and Training Employees
Securing the buy-in of employees is imperative to making the transition to online ordering successful. This includes sharing the benefits of a new solution with your sales team and identifying early on what new roles and responsibilities need to be filled in the back office. Below please find some suggestions and examples of employee communications around online ordering.
Another sometimes successful tactic in securing buy-in is offering employee incentives to adopt the new solution. When considering any possible employee or retailer incentives, please first consult your legal counsel or state associations to determine whether you are able to offer such incentives in your state.
How to communicate with and prepare employees for the transition:
Business-to-business (B2B) does not replace the sales team but is an INVESTMENT by the company to make the sales team more effective.
What new responsibilities are needed? Roles and responsibilities to consider when starting B2B:
A "captain" to connect all of the pieces and manage the overall implementation
Whether it's a new product rollout or the transition to new software, employee buy-in is critical. Employees will have questions about online ordering systems, and there will be new roles and responsibilities needed in the office for it to be a success. Preparing staff early, investing in educating your team and communicating frequently can help make the transition smoother.