When was the last time you went into a restaurant, and the server told you that you would be having the crab without even giving you the chance to look at the menu? It sounds absurd, but it is exactly what buyers experience when exploring solutions in manufacturing sales every day.
In every vertical of manufacturing, you can find reps that are trying to cut through the noise by shouting that they have the solution, without ever fully understanding the needs of each prospect.
The result – below average sales, frustrated reps, and management teams scrambling to build a strategy that works.
5 Tips To Increase Manufacturing Sales
Increasing sales in a manufacturing company used to be about rubbing elbows with customers, but digital disruption has thrown a monkey wrench into the equation. Buyers have become overwhelmed with options, and sales reps have failed to adjust.
We’ve put together five tips that a manufacturing company, in any segment of the industry can implement.
Evolve Your Sales Training
Chances are, any sales training that has been conducted in the past focused on sales skills and the product, or solution, your team is selling. Both of these components are incredibly important because product knowledge in the manufacturing industry is critical to success, but these only make up two-thirds of the equation.
Training must also include the customer. That is not to say that the customer has to be involved in training, but they have to be at the forefront of how sales are approached. We refer to this as an Other-Centered® mindset, where the customer’s needs come before the need to close a sale.
As sales leaders, a portion of our job is to impart knowledge. But should also strive to inspire our team members to champion the customer. When both are achieved, sales results follow.
The challenge for most sales leaders is that they are stretched thin and any additional steps just add to the workload. Having systems and tools in place to assist before, during, and after training makes the process much easier. This includes dashboards to monitor KPIs, performance gaps, and progress on an individual basis.
Refine How Your Team Prospects
Are your sales reps approaching the right customers? That shouldn’t be a loaded question, but for many sales leaders, it isn’t perfectly clear.
Let’s go back to the server that insists you’re having crab for dinner. The fact is, the server made an assumption, and pushed a product on you without ever asking you if you even liked crab. Without asking, they would never know that you may have a shellfish allergy.
For years, prospecting lists have been developed based on the assumption that a product could help a company solve a specific problem. The only issue with these types of strategies is that needs and priorities aren’t the same from one manufacturer to another, much less those in different manufacturing sectors.
The only way to successfully prospect, and qualify potential customers is to seek a deeper understanding of each customer’s needs and challenges. Not every conversation will lead to a conversion, but it will lay the foundation for a relationship.
Make It Easier To Buy
Ask most sales managers about “systems and processes” and they will immediately go into their CRM, pipeline management, and ways that they streamline the sales process. The sales process likely has nothing to do with why sales reps are struggling. The more likely scenario is that they fail to make the buying process easier.
Think back to the last time that you made a major purchasing decision, such as a car or a home. Did you want the process to be complicated?
No, you knew what you wanted, did your research, and wanted to be able to complete the process in as little time and steps as possible. Your customers want the same thing.
As salespeople, it can be easy to get caught up in our own processes, to the point that we completely forget about how it impacts the buyer journey. It might be hard to hear, but your process doesn’t provide any value to the customer no matter how much time has been spent fine-tuning.
If you went into a car dealership and you got bounced between multiple sales reps, the sales manager, the finance manager, the showroom manager, and the trade-in manager you would walk away from the deal. That might be their process, but can be annoyingly complicated.
Find ways to remove barriers, instead of building new ones. A great example is in the negotiation phase. As tension builds, empower reps to Drop the Rope® in the proverbial tug-o-war that happens as both parties try to get the best deal possible.
Keep in mind that a paying customer, that was giving a few concessions, is better than a prospect that walked away.
Foster Strong Customer Relationships
Solutions and products don’t build relationships, they are tools – nothing more. People still buy from people, meaning the relationship matters. Even with all of the increased competition that has come about with globalization in the manufacturing industry, this still holds true.
Fostering relationships is very different than rambling off a product overview or an elevator pitch. It requires each rep to choose service over the sale in each and every conversation. The goal with each call through the prospecting and negotiation process should be to build trust, not push the product.
Trust takes time and dedication. The idea of building trust and getting a quick sale is like mixing oil and water which is why most sales reps struggle with adopting an Other-Centered mindset. As leaders, it is our responsibility to emphasize the importance of long-term relationships and encourage our teams to make the customer the priority.
While digital disruption may have thrown a few wrinkles into face-to-face meetings with prospects, the relationship aspect is still alive and well within the manufacturing industry.
Continuously Monitor and Analyze Sales Performance
You can’t improve what you don’t measure. That line has been in the sales industry for years and for good reason. Most KPIs focus on touchpoints, the sales pipeline, time spent in a specific stage, and other sales-centric metrics.
Before we set the field on fire, it is worth acknowledging that these aren’t inherently bad metrics. Where they fall short is in assuming that all reps have the same industry knowledge and that skills gaps don’t exist.
Every manufacturing sales team will have reps with varying degrees of sales acumen and experience. Putting them all in one bucket as you monitor performance and development makes it more difficult to diagnose performance gaps.
Each rep should have a customized development plan that focuses on both strengths and weaknesses, as well as their motivating factors. Treat them the same way they should treat a prospect, ask questions, and understand their goals and aspirations. Only then can you truly drive change and improve sales results.
Improve Manufacturing Sales With ASLAN Training
If your sales team is struggling, know that you aren’t alone. Across the globe, reps are struggling to connect and make meaningful relationships within the manufacturing industry. The tried and true sales tactics of yesteryear are no longer as effective as new challenges have been introduced into the game.
At ASLAN, we know that we take a drastically different approach to sales, but it is a proven process regardless of industry. The simple fact is that when the customer is prioritized and the sale becomes a byproduct of the relationship, trust can be built and everyone wins.
To learn more about Other-Centered Sales Training, or our Catalyst™ leadership training workshops, visit our website. If it makes sense, connect with our team and we can get the ball rolling.