Why do strong B2B HVACR distributor websites fail?

Your website journey is often the most difficult journey for a B2B Construction focused distributor.  

By Jason Capshaw and John Gunderson

The digital journey for many HVACR distributors started like a race where you psyche yourself up for the 100 Yard Dash. What often starts as what you think is a sprint actually turns into a 110 meter hurdle race. For many distributors their digital journey has seemingly been a never-ending track event….with hurdle after hurdle, after hurdle.

Jason and I have been on many distributor teams where we initially struggled in the digital world. We struggled to work out the ERP connection, build the functionality, building in the products, get the prices loaded, and more.

What we learned together was the biggest hurdle to success is always how to engage your distributor teams in the digital journey.

Challenges with Engaging your Siloed Distributor Teams

With most distributors you have gaps between the IT, Marketing, Sales, and Operational silos.  For example- IT’s customers are typically internal — from their perspective, advancement happens by cutting costs and efficiently serving the organization itself.

Marketing thinks about the customer, but often may get lost in analytics and end up seeing the customer as a number. Likewise, sales-facing teams may lack digital technical skills and don’t always understand ecommerce.

Reconnecting siloed teams and building a customer-centric digital approach can be accomplished with simple steps. Such as sending marketing teams out with sales reps, customer service and delivery trucks. There is no better way to interact with the customer than in their day-to-day dealings.

You really need to live the customer journey from the customer’s perspective. Jason and I have lived this experience both as teammates at leading distributors and with Dorn Group. We’ve thankfully had more wins than loses, but the number one reason for failure as distributors is usually not engaging the sales teams properly.

For a distributor your sales teams drive sales by being the experts their customers count on and delivering exceptional service. “Whatever you need you can call me, and I will help”. This “one throat to choke” (OTTC) approach is the ultimate in full service.

Digital programs are designed to be Self-Service, and can be perceived as the enemy of the Account Manager full service approach.

So, how can you tell that you might have some silos that are hurting your digital progress? If you hear your sales team says things like…

“I’m in sales and I sell on relationships, why would I send a customer to our website? I would be talking myself out of a job”

“All my customers want to talk with someone when placing orders. The website is not how they want to order. I take care of my customers and that is how they like it.”

“We lose the sale most likely because I know what the customer needs, and I get no credit for writing the ticket. It’s a Lose-Lose”

“The prices on the website seem too high. They will get better pricing by calling me.”

P.S. These are real responses from HVACR account managers from recent Dorn surveys when asked confidentially why they do not use their digital platform.

Your sales teams may view that your customers using your digital platform is the opposite of full service….it’s self-service.

The challenge today is your customers want both: traditional Full Service and digital Self Service. It’s no longer just a 100% full service world for the HVACR channel. The only proven way to find out what your customer wants is to consistently survey and ask them.

We advise the best place to start is to do the following. Meet and with your customers, choose a journey and participate like you’re that customer as a team. Sit down, talk through, what does it feel like to be that customer in this process?

We think your team will be amazed at how many ideas flow out of that process.

As always we appreciate your feedback, please feel free to reach us at jason.capshaw@dorngroup.com or john.gunderson@dorngroup.com



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