Wholesale Ordering: 4 Ways to Sell in B2B
Wholesale ordering can seem like a free-for-all sometimes. Ordering in the B2B space has yet to be standardized, with many manufacturers and distributors, alike, stuck in old-school, cyclical manual ordering processes.
There are various methods that make wholesale ordering possible (some requiring more effort than others), each with its own trade-offs and considerations. If you’re a supplier looking to enable wholesale ordering for your business, you’ll need to weigh the options and decide what makes the most sense for you.
Common wholesale ordering methods include:
Let’s take a quick look at each of these wholesale ordering methods in more detail…
Wholesale Ordering: 4 Ways to Sell in B2B
- PHONE, EMAIL, AND FAX
Part of the reason why wholesale ordering is so all-over-the-place is because many suppliers are still using highly manual ordering methods, such as receiving orders via phone, email and fax. You’d be surprised at how often we still encounter suppliers that are dealing with this manual process.
These manual wholesale ordering methods are still common for many reasons. For one, some manufacturers and distributors have yet to prioritize their digital selling strategy, even though many of their competitors have B2B eCommerce in place. And even when suppliers attempt to digitize their wholesale ordering process, unless the benefit is clear to your buyers, they’ll continue to call, email, fax and text their orders to you.
Technically, these wholesale ordering methods are free, but that doesn’t they don’t come with a price. Manual orders are often inaccurate and unclear. Your staff has to then translate these vague customer orders and manually enter them into your ERP—another process that is highly susceptible to human error.
Ultimately, your customers will receive incorrect product shipments, which you’ll then have to correct. Not to mention, you’ll waste your staff’s time keying in manual orders. These costs add up, making this wholesale ordering method not worth the effort.
Use this wholesale ordering method...if you absolutely have to. This method only makes sense if you’re new to the wholesale game and only sell a few SKUs, infrequently.
- B2B ONLINE ORDER FORM
An online B2B order form is a slight step up from the more manual ordering processes mentioned above. This type of form is relatively simple to set up and often requires minimal financial investment.
The most simple version of an B2B wholesale order form could be created and hosted by Google Forms, and linked somewhere on your website. This could also take the form of an Excel spreadsheet template that allows wholesale customers to only edit certain fields. A more complex order form would be hosted as a tab on a B2C eCommerce platform (you may see this as a work-around for software vendors that don’t offer a robust off-the-shelf solution for wholesale ordering).
Online B2B order forms are typically more accurate than orders received via, phone, email, or fax, since they can include a pick-list for customers to choose products from, but they are often quite visually unappealing. Common ordering mistakes via order forms can often be attributed to a lack of high-resolution product images that allow customers to sanity check their orders before they click submit.
Also, order forms do little to save time for your data entry staff. While online B2B order forms usually export data in a consistent, structured format, there is still a sizable amount of data cleanup that will have to take place by your back office staff before uploading to your ERP. And, the lack of personalization of order forms will make it near impossible to ensure that your buyers are seeing the products and prices available to them, as they fill out the form.
While order forms can come in handy, buyers are often slow to adopt this method because it’s typically easier for them to just call or email you, instead.
Use this wholesale ordering method...as a temporary, band-aid solution. In the off-chance that some of your buyers choose to order this way, it will save your back office staff a little bit of time.
- SALES REPS
For many manufacturers and distributors, it makes sense to hire sales reps to service accounts and take orders from customers. Sales reps take the stress off of customers needing to remember when and how to order from their suppliers. That’s the sales reps’ job.
But, it’s not cheap to deploy a sales rep in the regions you want to service. Sales reps need to maintain a busy calendar of customers to visit, lug around product samples, and remember the products, prices and preferences that are specific to each customer they serve. And, since they can only visit a limited number of customers per week, the amount of orders that can be placed through them are limited as well.
Sales reps also serve as the primary contact for your buyers, so they’re the ones fielding phone calls and emails when shelves are running low on products. It is then the sales reps job to translate their notes (assuming they can read their own writing), and make sure orders are manually entered into your ERP, either by themselves or your back office staff.
In theory, using sales reps should make your customers’ jobs easier, but often the stress of manual wholesale ordering is just offloaded to your sales reps and back office staff. Without technology to make them more efficient in the field, your sales reps’ best efforts will not solve your company’s data entry and fulfillment issues.
Use this wholesale ordering method...if in-person sales is important for your business, but don’t simply offload manual processes onto your sales reps—enable them with technology.
- WHOLESALE ORDERING SOFTWARE
Wholesale ordering software offers suppliers the only method to sell in B2B that doesn’t require traditional manual processes, either from your customers, or sales reps and back office staff.
An online wholesale ordering system works by allowing orders to be placed on digital desktop and mobile devices, and automatically syncing those orders to your ERP and other backend systems, immediately starting the fulfillment process.
Software solutions for wholesale ordering often give users a highly visual digital catalog to browse products and add to their orders. Since wholesale ordering software is password-protected and integrated with your data, this catalog offers a highly personalized experience, showing only the products, pricing, and promotions that apply to the specific buyer that’s logged in.
This type of software takes the guesswork out of self-service customer ordering, making it easy for buyers to access your entire product line and submit their own orders—on any device—without having to pick up a phone, draft an email, or interact with your team.
Wholesalers can also make their sales reps more efficient in the field with order entry software. With access to a mobile app storing all the information they need to service their accounts—including order history, customer-specific pricing, sales notes, and the same image-rich digital catalog customers can access—sales reps no longer have to waste their time with manual processes, paper catalogs and product samples.
Use this wholesale ordering method...if your customers and sales reps are asking for a better solution, your staff is wasting too much time keying in manual orders, and you want to remain competitive in 2019.
Wholesale Ordering: Choosing the Best Way to Sell in B2B
Wholesale ordering can feel like a complex process, but it doesn’t have to be. By implementing new technology, suppliers are setting aside manual and cumbersome wholesale ordering methods, and embracing a much more efficient, digital way of selling in B2B.
Between customer-experience and product discoverability improvements, and the time saved from automating the flow of data to and from back office systems, suppliers are finding that wholesale ordering software is well worth their investment. It’s important to mention, however, that some wholesale ordering software options are better than others, so be sure to research your options.
Hopefully this blog post gives you a better understanding of the wholesale ordering options that are available to your business. Ultimately, you’ll need to consider your own processes and choose the wholesale ordering methods that works best for your business.
We recommend looping in your sales reps, back office staff, and even some of your loyal customers to help you decide what wholesale ordering method is best for you (feel free to forward them a link to this blog post).
If you decide it’s time to go digital, and you’d like to see our wholesale ordering software in action, sign up for a 10-minute call with one of our experts. We wish you the best of luck as you choose the wholesale ordering method that’s right for your business!