Sometimes the industrial manufacturing sales world can feel like a high-stakes game of whack-a-mole. Challenges and obstacles are constantly popping up, and more reps than ever are struggling to earn a seat at the table and drive results.
Most industrial manufacturing sales reps are equipped with industry knowledge and fundamental sales skills. On the surface, reps should be crushing their numbers…so where is the rub?
The truth is, your reps may only have one major problem and it isn’t their pitch – it’s themselves.
This isn’t a slight against your sales team or your skills as a sales leader. The simple fact is that almost every sales rep is solely focused on the sale, instead of the customer. This is largely because it has been the sales model for decades, where reps are taught how to pull different levers and push with aggressive tactics.
As Bob Dylan infamously said, “the times they are a changin’.” Buyers are in control, with more information at their fingertips and more options. When they encounter a rep that has no concern for their needs, receptivity goes down and the rep is easily dismissed.
So how can reps find success? Here are seven tips to flip the script and create a customer-centric sales team.
Transform Your Sales Team With These Tips
Let’s address the elephant in the room right out the gate, there is no secret sauce to selling in the industrial manufacturing industry. If reps put the customer first, results will follow. Some reps will have no issue with pushing their own needs aside, but many will struggle. Change is hard, and it takes dedication to become Other-Centered®.
Making the change starts with these tips.
Choose to serve
The days of deals being sealed with a handshake are becoming more rare. While certain segments of the industrial industry may still see this, globalization has changed the way that business is conducted, as buyers can get better pricing and service from global providers.
The best way to differentiate yourself in a more competitive market is to focus on service, rather than the sale.
Sales is a service position, point blank. We are in a position to help our customers achieve their goals, the product is just the mechanism that we offer. Choosing to serve the customer is a mindset. It is a constant decision that each rep has to make with each interaction with a customer.
This means the reps need to hit their quota, make more money, or satisfy their own desires MUST come second.
Stop focusing on the sales process
It may sound counterintuitive, but your sales process doesn’t need to be the focal point. Everyone is working to streamline the steps to get a prospect to buy. Very few organizations are focusing on the buyer journey.
Understanding how your customers buy is likely the biggest missing piece for each sales rep on your team, simply because it isn’t discussed. We work tirelessly to put tools and mechanisms in place to make it easier to buy, while often assuming that customers buy in a particular way.
Don’t be afraid to ask a prospect how they purchase right out the gate. This will help you better understand their process and it gives you instant credibility. It won’t take long to realize that the shifts in the industrial industry have reshaped the way each organization buys.
Buying cycles and internal processes will vary from company to company and can be significantly different depending on the segment of the industrial industry your organization services. In addition to segment, the product your team is selling will also dictate how decision-makers buy. Raw materials are approached very differently than specialized products.
Earn a seat at the table
Everyone has the solution. Very few reps are focused on the problems each customer is looking to address. Because of this, earning a seat at the table with the right decision-maker is becoming more and more difficult.
The only way for reps to earn their seat is to transform from salespeople to trusted advisors. Global leaders don’t buy from salespeople, they buy from people that have taken the time to forge a relationship. The former is worried about closing a sale, the latter is focused on long-term growth. There is a difference, and your customers know it.
Sales acumen is only a small part of the equation. Advisors see the big picture and have the ability to gain a clear understanding of each piece of each customer’s manufacturing process. This opens the door for deeper discovery and potential cross-selling opportunities.
Building trust doesn’t happen in an instant. There is too much noise in the industrial manufacturing market, and decision-makers are constantly bombarded with messages promising the solution to all of their problems. If we are being honest, it is overwhelming to buy.
This means that the pitch that your reps have carefully perfected, is lost in the noise. Understanding value prop is important, but it can’t be the thing that sales reps lead with because it sounds like everything else decision-makers are hearing day in and day out.
Be an expert
Few industries have as many moving parts as the industrial manufacturing industry. The landscape is constantly changing, and customer priorities are regularly in flux. Reps have to be aware of the specific ebbs and flows of the industry, as they will impact buyer behavior and ultimately the buyer journey.
When reps are armed with industry knowledge and can speak to the rapidly changing environment, they will bring added value to every conversation. Rather than spouting their elevator pitch, they can have impactful conversations that lead to relationships and, ultimately, conversions.
Help customers fill in the missing pieces
Sales is nothing more than putting together a puzzle. Pieces must fit correctly, and if they don’t it is on the rep to recognize that and pivot if necessary. It is hard to admit that you might not have the best solution for a customer, but it can generate a lasting impact the next time the buyer is on the market.
As the picture comes into full view, encourage your team to be open and honest with the customer. There are many types of wins in sales, and not all of them require a closed deal.
Drop the Rope®
As reps near the finish line with any deal, the pressure increases. For years the saying has been “pressure makes diamonds.” Let’s face the fact, pressure causes deals to fall through. You know the drill, each side is pulling to get the best deal possible, the rep fails to give in and the customer walks away.
In a global industry like industrial manufacturing, there are too many options available, and buyers don’t have to deal with pushy salespeople. The only way to alleviate this pressure is to Drop the Rope, allowing the customer to win.
Industrial Manufacturing Sales Training
Creating an Other-Centered sales force isn’t an overnight process. It takes time and dedication to the process by every level of the sales organization. Reps that bring the customer, and their needs, front and center will find it easier to build relationships and become trusted advisors.
If your team is struggling to consistently close business, a different approach and mindset is the only remedy. At ASLAN, we help sales teams connect the dots and make the transition through workshops such as our Other-Centered Sales training program. Learn more about training with ASLAN and connect with our team if you feel we can help your team improve.