Conventional wisdom says that most B2B products will be sold across the web. For anything that's a commodity, customer will simply get online, compare prices, and order what they want. Sales reps are only required when the B2B offering is complex and strategic.
B2B buyers will eventually get sick of websites that require them to learn about another industry in order to make an intelligent buying decision. I predict that, in 20 years, most B2B buyers will prefer to offload all that nonsense onto a sales rep, rather than waste time learning to do the job themselves.
I think it's HILARIOUS that busy managers and executives are willing to waste their valuable time learning all about somebody else's products and industry, in the (probably forelorn) hope of shaving a few pennies off their B2B spending dollar.
I think it's only a matter of time before they wise up.
There's even evidence that shift in behavior is already taking place. Take, for example, the travel industry. There is no product that's more of a "commodity" than travel. All airlines are the same, all hotels are the same, all rental cars are the same, etc., etc., etc.
Even so, as the New York Times reported yesterday, a new report from Forrester Research "found that far from embracing the do-it-yourself era, many consumers were fed up with the complicated process of planning and booking travel."
As a result, more consumers are turning to travel agents -- human beings, that is -- in order to eliminate the hassle. They'd rather have an agent do the work of putting together a package than learn how to be a travel agent themselves.
Same thing with insurance, at least in my own case. I could certainly buy insurance online. There are plenty of sites, after all. I can even get multiple companies to bid for my business. In fact, I tried that once. Three years later and I'm STILL getting SPAM from that BIG mistake.
So guess where I buy my insurance -- a commodity product if there ever was one? From my insurance agent. A guy I trust. Doesn't even have a website.
I also happen to know that there are many companies out there that manage the buying of office supplies for their customers. Sure, their customers could order all that stuff online. But the truth is that they'd rather not be bothered by the details.
Does this mean that people aren't going to buy stuff on the web? Of course not. Stuff like MP3 players and TVs, for sure. But B2B products and services? I don't think so. Not once they figure out how much time they're wasting.
READERS: How about you? You -- or anyone you know -- still drinking the "the web makes selling obsolete" kool-aid?