While there are nuances specific to various manufacturing segments, this report will provide insights into the global trends including:
- Growth by Acquisition: While organic growth is slow in this industry, expansion through acquisition is on the rise. Global organizations are making gains by acquiring companies, thereby widening their footprints.
- Sales Through Distribution Channels: Buyers, influenced by channels, often dictate the marketing strategy of a company. The industry norm of using a distribution model is growing amid efforts to minimize overhead and stay competitive.
- Innovation Driving Globalization: Companies are constantly seeking new markets. Therefore, leaders need to invest their money with a focus on the best potential growth. This growth begins with a focus on innovation. Sales opportunities based on innovation are becoming a driving force for global growth.
Sales Challenges in the Manufacturing Industry
These strategic shifts are becoming the focus for many manufacturing companies facing challenges like differentiation, and market share preservation. Here’s a look at some of those challenges, with insights on how to overcome them.
Consistency in Sales Approach
The reach for growth via acquisition is creating new complexities. Imagine one global organization, acquiring five different companies. Each company introduces five distinctive processes and five unique (and sometimes conflicting) sales methodologies. As a result, pricing strategies fall out of alignment.
In this example, the confusion for these five respective sales teams and their clients can be overwhelming and ultimately leading to brand corruption, decreased customer satisfaction and client turnover. Ensuring that these disparate teams are aligned and consistent is a huge challenge for most sales organizations.
Acquired growth creates diverse sales teams. As a result, it will be necessary to implement a consistent and easy to execute selling methodology. Salespeople must have a uniform process that checks for verifiable outcomes consistent with customer buying behavior. They must also have excellent and consistent dialogue skills to be successful. Reinforcement tools that are embedded in their everyday work will ensure that processes and skills are strengthened, adopted, and become part of a consistent selling culture.
Overcoming the Commodity Driven Sales Pursuit
Amid diversity and competitiveness, the industry has always had sectors of price-driven deliverables. However, today’s buyers are treating the business as a commodity.
Competitive inflows from emerging countries are causing a downward movement to a price-only focus. The result is a saturated market. Salespeople are now challenged with procurement-driven sales pursuits and clients that are unimpressed with standard value-adds. Unfortunately, selling in a commodity market is the new norm.
The effectiveness of a simple “feature-benefit” presentation is waning. Even traditional consultative dialogue and a value-based sales approach, is becoming less successful in the attempt to avoid deep price discounting.
To overcome this price-driven market, salespeople must establish a deeper trust with the client. That means providing compelling and thought-provoking value. The key is to understand the client’s market and business objectives while educating key decision makers on the long-term implications of buying decisions.
Set Channels Up for Success
Salespeople in this industry essentially have two types of customers – direct customers and distribution channel customers. Smart manufacturing sales organizations implement insight driven, consultative dialogue with direct customers, resulting in improved trust and ultimately increased revenue.
The same dialogue that has been effective with direct customers, however, may not be effective with the channel. Channels are an entity of their own, as are the salespeople who represent them. Manufacturers have little control over a channel’s approach or sales results. The role of the manufacturer’s salesperson is one of influencing the channel to recommend their product to future customers. The challenge for the salesperson is how to best influence and persuade that channel partner.
Selling to different audiences in manufacturing is a challenge. It’s critical to create a sales approach specific to that audience. To increase effectiveness salespeople will need to tailor their sales approach and dialogue to align with the channel model.
Take time to ask broader questions and understand channel needs. Then, position persuasively based on those needs while remaining cognizant of the audience’s nuances. Salespeople will need to be intimately aware of the channel’s business model, and what represents success for them. Also, remain aware of influencing versus selling. Building persuasive skills that influence the channel to promote their product long-term will result in a stronger direct channel relationship.
Transitioning Technical Resources into Sales
Subject matter experts (SMEs) are becoming customary in client-facing situations. While a technical SMEs brings a strong level of expertise to the table, they do not always have the sales skills to effectively uncover opportunities or close business. Moreover, technical SMEs such as Sales Engineers, rarely consider themselves a salesperson.
If not skilled correctly, SMEs can overwhelm the customer with so much technical information that it deters from the needs-based discussion. The challenge for salespeople is ensuring that SMEs are skilled in consultative vs. technical dialogue.
Companies will need to help SMEs develop their consultative dialogue skills by strengthening their questioning and positioning skills to ensure they will learn customer needs before presenting technical data. As a result, they will be able to tailor metrics in a way that speaks to the customer’s needs.
SMEs also have tremendous exposure to the client both during the sales pursuit as well as in post-sale support. Helping SMEs understand how to effectively listen for additional needs is an excellent way to uncover additional opportunities. They will be more effective once they’re able to listen for sales cues while learning through questioning.
Organizations will need to equip disparate sales teams with a consistent and effective sales approach. It is critical for salespeople to provide compelling value through insight-driven discussions to compete in a commodity market. To effectively grow the distribution channel, salespeople will need to tailor their dialogue to influence channel representatives to promote their product long-term. Finally, SME’s will need the skills to lead a consultative dialogue.