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B2B ecommerce

From the Shopping Cart to the Shop Floor with Steve Stessman

June 16, 2021

Our VP of Business Development, Steve Stessman, had the opportunity to visit the Zilliant B2B Reimagined podcast, a bi-weekly conversation of thought leaders, across multiple industries. Here are some highlights of the conversation, where Steve gives industry insight on the innovations happening for manufacturers in the B2B e-commerce world.

Barrett Thompson:

Hello everyone. My name is Barrett Thompson. I’m the general manager of commercial excellence at Zilliant, and I’ll be your host. I’m joined today by Steve Stessman, Vice President of Business Development at KBMax. Steve, welcome to B2B Reimagined.

Steve Stessman:

Well, thanks for having me Barrett. It’s good to be here.

Barrett Thompson:

Today we’re going to talk about digital transformation and innovation and B2B e-commerce for manufacturers. B2B e-commerce can be extremely complex and so simplifying and improving on that would seem like a worthwhile goal. Steve, I’d like to get a quick overview from you on KBMax, the company, the solutions, and how you simplify the complex.

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Steve Stessman:

I think the best way I can describe it is we go from the customer’s shopping cart to the shop floor. Our solutions play a big role in what the customer puts in the shopping cart. As the customer’s making choices, in the background we’re creating all the quote information as well as bill of materials – everything the manufacturer needs. A lot of times, unfortunately, when a customer wants something and they talk to a sales person potentially, things get lost in translation, leaving your customer frustrated. We aim to streamline that process. We also allow a manufacturer to use the same configurator across all levels, whether it’s on their marketing platform or through a distributor or through internal employees.

Barrett Thompson:

When a manufacturer doesn’t have configuration tools or satisfactory configuration tools, how do they get this ETO and CTO work done?

Steve Stessman:

Many manufacturing companies rely on people to close the gaps between what the customer is dreaming up and what they can actually build. One person may figure it out, but then unfortunately, it’s difficult to get that information translated across an entire organization.

Barrett Thompson:

We want to do that with some automation or technology enablement. Is that the play that you’re really running with KBMax?

Steve Stessman:

Absolutely. We’re not trying to eliminate the human element. What we’re trying to do is take all of that tribal knowledge, so to speak, and put it in the cloud.

Barrett Thompson:

That gives you both a comprehensiveness and a consistency. Let’s think then about the B2B e-commerce experience. What is the number one reason that innovation is required in B2B e-commerce and your opinion?

Steve Stessman:

Well, the number one is that the marketplace is demanding it. Business to business buyers want an Amazon-like experience. They want to be able to go on and model things out, put it in their shopping cart.

Barrett Thompson:

I think pre e-commerce that relationship was chiefly carried and represented by the direct sales rep, but what happens in the e-commerce world? What is the buyer taking their cues from? How do they experience the company?

Steve Stessman:

I think people still buy from people. In a B2B relationship, maybe that first transaction or the second transaction after, there’s been an initial introduction done by the salesperson. But subsequent transactions, they just don’t have time – I think past that initial introduction, they want a tool that they can use to personalize and meet their business needs quickly.

Barrett Thompson:

Years ago, when I looked at some configuration tools, I got the sense that they were specialized tools that you needed training for. What I hear you saying is this technology has maybe crossed that threshold where it really can be put in the hands of every buyer. The tool is performing that specialist role for you.

Steve Stessman:

Exactly, you don’t need a person to connect the dots all the time. As long as the customer likes your idea, your product, and you have rules on how it should be sold, we can extract that and put that into our system. It allows the manufacturer’s customers to really self-select and take care of the sales process themselves in the time that they have.

Barrett Thompson:

What are some of the benefits that might be in it for the seller to adopt these kinds of innovations?

Steve Stessman:

Number one is that you have an aging workforce, and after being at a company for 40 years, there’s a pretty good chance somebody’s going to start to retire. The younger workforce doesn’t really want to memorize. They want to be able to click through, see drop downs and make it fairly straightforward. And the same thing on the manufacturing floor – as the workforce ages, you’ve got to give people better tools. The best thing a manufacturer can do is make the exact same object, the exact same way, every time. It’s the most efficient.

When you use a tool like KBMax, what you end up doing is you move from an engineer to order to a configure to order for the majority of your business. Call it 80-90%, because you’re always going to have some engineer to order given any manufacturer, but then you’re able to work with that as an exception instead of the rule.

The other thing is, the customers are doing the work. If you think about using the tool KBMax, they’re doing the seller process in the background, we’re creating the bills of materials, the quoting, passing that on to other systems. What you find is your salespeople become more productive, they can close more deals because they’re not handling sales that are replacement parts.

Barrett Thompson:

That sounds very transformational, this idea of taking what has been an ETO business and shifting it to a configured order CTO business, because of the efficiencies. Is this an idea that you’re bringing into manufacturers as you help them see the vision with this technology?

Steve Stessman:

When we’re talking with a customer, you’ll literally see the lights go on, or the light bulb goes off over their head and they’re like, “oh”, so every document becomes real time, and we don’t have all of these static assumptions. No, we’re going to build in a configured order environment. We’re going to build custom plans for every one of your orders, if that’s how you decide to go down the path, which allows them to be so flexible because if they change their plan, or a model number, or a component, you can always have the most up to date information.

Barrett Thompson:

At Zilliant we’re really interested in this area of configured order and engineered to order parts for manufacturers. We’ve discovered that dynamic product configurations need dynamic price calculations to go with them, if you will.

Steve Stessman:

Absolutely. I think a tool like Zilliant would help out tremendously, especially for manufacturers currently because commodity prices change daily, if not hourly.

I do think allowing choice also removes some of the competitiveness. They can perhaps search and find a price on a similar object, but if they’ve added four and five options, it becomes less apples to apples comparison for them, which is a fantastic opportunity for a manufacturer to harvest additional margin on the same sale.

Barrett Thompson:

I see the automation of those pieces working in step with the guided configuration that you talked about. Are there any other pieces that you’re aware of that need to happen, or are happening, with technology enablement, so that the customer can complete the transaction, configuration, pricing, and then push the go button?

Steve Stessman:

I think people are less price conscious if they’ve had an opportunity to choose themselves to solve their problem and understand that they’re the parameters. If they need it in a rush, then they have to pay more. If they can wait three weeks, well then maybe they don’t have to pay the rush charge or whatever it is, but the price becomes less of an issue if you allow the customer to make their choices and allow them to fulfill their own needs.

Barrett Thompson:

That makes perfect sense. Steve, talk to me for just a minute about the ecosphere in the IT landscape in which KBMax runs and operates.

Steve Stessman:

KBMax operates in a lot of different spaces. We are platform agnostic. We want to make sure that we integrate with anybody’s system and anybody’s platform. We’re a proud partner of Salesforce. If you think about a manufacturing life cycle, it starts with quoting and pricing. And once somebody has a relationship with a customer, and we play a big part in that, Salesforce does a great job helping us tie all that together.

Barrett Thompson:

Steve, this has been a great conversation today. You’ve given us many ideas to consider as we strive to improve that B2B e-commerce for our manufacturing customers. Thank you for sharing your perspective with us today on B2B Reimagined.

Steve Stessman:

Well, thank you for the opportunity. One of the reasons I joined a SaaS company is because I did a digital transformation myself at a manufacturer, and I know the differences that technology can make in an organization. It’s my absolute passion to talk about this stuff, I really appreciate the opportunity.

To listen to the fill podcast episode, click here: Spotify Episode

 

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The Author

Steve Stessman

Steve Stessman
VP of Business Development at KBMax

Steve came to KBMax after being a customer. As the VP of Sales and Sales Operations for Tuff Shed, Inc., a manufacturer of sheds, garages, cabin shells, and custom structures, he led the effort to streamline their entire sales and manufacturing process by leveraging KBMax, Salesforce, and the Salesforce partner ecosystem. Now, as the Vice President of Business Development at KBMax, Steve will enhance and grow KBMax’s partnerships with key players in the CPQ space, like Salesforce.

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