Day by day, B2B eCommerce is becoming more of a widespread phenomenon. Forrester recently released a forecast predicting US B2B eCommerce would grow from $780 billion in 2015 to $1.13 trillion in 2020. In a separate report, Frost & Sullivan predicted that the global B2B eCommerce market would hit $6.7 trillion in the same amount of time.

Driving this trend are major advancements in sales technology and real shifts in B2B buying preferences. Forrester predicts that 56% of B2B buyers will complete at least half of their business purchases online by 2017. In a similar vein, 60% of B2B companies report that B2B buyers spend more overall when interacting with multiple offline and online channels.

Amidst this rise of B2B eCommerce in wholesale, there’s one question on everyone’s minds: what does it mean for sales reps? For those who may be thinking that sales reps will eventually be replaced by technology, don’t buy into the hype. Sales reps are here to stay.

Why Sales Technology Won’t Replace Sales Reps

1. B2B Purchases Are All About Trust

There are two main emotions that tend to govern a B2B purchase decision. The first is trust, and the second is fear. Retail buyers need to mitigate risk and feel confident that they’re making the right choices for their store––choices that will either drive business success or result in possible failure.

That crucial sense of confidence is built upon the foundation of trust the buyer has formed with their sales rep. Retailers don’t buy from a faceless, monolithic brand. They buy from people they connect with and trust. Each deal between a wholesaler and a retailer is more than just a sale. It’s part of a long-term partnership.

2. Trade Show Sales Prove Face-to-Face Interaction Is Key

Among many wholesalers, trade shows still account for a huge portion of overall sales. The face-to-face interaction that occurs at these events is often key to helping buyers get to know a product line, find out about new product offerings, and build a strong relationship with the brand.

While the B2B eCommerce experience is largely a one-way interaction, in-person events like trade shows and store visits are ways for retailers to meet the people behind the brand and become part of a broader dialogue with their wholesale suppliers.

3. Sales Reps Are Taking On a More Strategic Role

Ultimately, no one knows a brand’s products, services, and industry better than a great sales rep. In order to make rational, educated purchase decisions and justify those decisions to their superiors, B2B buyers seek expertise.

As sales reps move from a historically transactional role to more of a consultative one, B2B buyers are finding that their sales reps can ultimately provide the information and insight they need. As it becomes more and more difficult to play the margin game and compete on price or product, the personalized service provided by sales reps is becoming many wholesale brands’ most important competitive differentiator.

In fact, many reps are now harnessing the power of sales technology themselves in order to gain access to critical data like sales reporting and customer order history to provide more insight-led sales experiences to their customers.

Ultimately, technology isn’t going to render sales reps obsolete. Quite the contrary, technology is helping sales reps become more effective at their jobs and improving their relationships with retailers.

Questions about the evolving role of sales reps in a B2B omni-channel environment? Let us know in the comments below.