You think your sales plan is watertight. You’re passionate about the company and the product. You’re up-to-date with all the latest industry developments and trends. So why isn’t the company growing?
Sure, you can blame Brexit, technology developments, or lead times. But excuses are feeble. They don’t provide solutions. Sometimes, the way you do things is the problem.
In our two previous articles, we’ve talked about what sales enablement is, and why it benefits your manufacturing company. Now, we’re going to give you some tips on how to increase sales at a manufacturing company.
Action them, and you’ll be able to increase your sales with your current customer base, as well as improving your conversion rates with leads passed on from marketing.
Here are our top 6 tips for increasing sales in manufacturing:
1. Develop an ‘inbound’ sales mindset
Let’s be honest, salespeople have a reputation for being pushy. How many times have you bought something and felt like you were being pressured into it? Like you were another notch on the sales quota?
And consider this, have you ever been the person pushing? How do you think the person feels who’s being pressurised?
This is what we call an outbound sales mentality. Pushy, interruptive, and only concerned with making a sale.
If you manufacture products, it’s likely you could be suffering from ‘product-focused selling syndrome’. This is where the salesperson puts the main emphasis on the product over the person buying it.
Also, if you lead with a product before you know anything about the person buying it, there’s a good chance you’ll pick the wrong product anyway.
It’s traditional selling. And we think tradition should be broken. Tradition is a method of doing something because that’s how it's always been done. And what’s the point of that?
Inbound is different. Inbound beats tradition because it’s a better way of selling. Why?
- Identify — it’s tempting to try to sell to everyone that picks up the phone or sends an email. But don’t do it! If you’re a large manufacturing firm that works on permanent retainers with huge companies, you should target those companies. Don’t take odd jobs because you’re distracting from your target.
- Connect — sales is all about conversations, so your sales staff need to connect with people and make them believe they have a genuine interest in helping them, not selling them a product.
- Explore — engage with the right people in your sales funnel, and help them understand how you can help them solve a problem or achieve a goal. This requires mature, honest salespeople that are empathetic problem-solvers.
- Advise — build trust with your prospects and show them how your product or service connects to their business. Give them advice and secure the deal if it’s the right decision.
This is the most significant change you’ll make, and it’s company wide. If you can get everyone to buy into this philosophy, you’ve made the initial steps to changing your sales method.
2. Choose a CRM
If you’re surviving without a CRM, congratulations. We wouldn’t be able to do it. Spreadsheets are backdated, and the world has gone digital. You need to get with the times. There are plenty of CRM systems to choose from, but choice means more confusion. We use HubSpot, you can learn more about it here.
Here’s how a CRM can transform your sales activity:
- Share crucial information — All departments work better when everyone is informed, but sales even more so. Avoid cross-contact and sales staff getting under each other’s feet by checking prospect progress and reacting accordingly.
- Track sales deals — keep track of all the deals you have in your sales pipeline with a deal overview. You can customise the boards to represent your sales strategy, and move deals through the funnel as they progress.
- Generate sales reports with ease — one of the main reasons Sales Managers and Directors struggle to report on ROI is because they don’t have the tools to do it. A CRM will allow you to generate quick, accessible reports that need little explanation.
- Automate your sales process — you can get somebody onto a sales call without even making contact with them. It’s true. Let’s say someone downloads a guide on food manufacturing safety guidelines (exciting, I know), a few days later you automate a follow-up email with a risk assessment template, a few days later, you send them your calendar to book a meeting. Use this with care though, you can end up sounding robotic if there aren’t enough human touch points.
3. Get to know your buyers
Not knowing your buyers can be a bi-product of product-focused selling. You focus on the product rather than the persona buying it.
Also, many manufacturers want to enter new markets. Done right, this method can work, but many businesses focus too much on external factors like the demand for a product or following a market trend.
You have to remember that internal factors are vital, and the internal factors are the people who are making the decision to buy whatever it is you’re selling. If you can target the right people, you’re more likely to succeed.
IKEA vs The Home Depot: Entering China
China’s middle class is growing, so many global companies want to enter the Chinese market. However, you need to understand the people before you do. Let’s compare The Home Depot’s failed entry to IKEA’s successful entry.
Firstly, let’s consider the two businesses. The Home Depot is a home improvement store that relies on customers knowing what they're doing when repairing or upgrading their homes. IKEA is a furniture manufacturer that provides easy to install, stylish home decor.
The trouble is, China’s middle class is relatively new, and many are new homeowners. If The Home Depot knew the people, they’d have had the foresight to know that people that buy new homes won't be looking to improve them, and won't have the knowledge to do so.
On the other hand, IKEA knew the customer and their requirements and focused their attention on showing the customer how to decorate their home.
While you can focus your attention on new markets, you should know the people who buy in that market.
How do you get to know customers?
You can do this by creating buyer personas, semi-fictional representations of your buyer that you believe are accurate.
For example, If you’re IKEA, you may use demographics like house value to determine what ranges are affordable for a particular persona.
If your buyer persona is male, their interests could be BBQs and lawnmowers, whereas a woman might be interested in interior design.
It’s up to you to build a solid knowledge base, so you know how to market your products.
4. Start making warm contact
Who has ever asked to be cold called or receive unsolicited emails? Why would you want to connect with someone you’ve never met when you don’t know where they’ve got your contact information from?
It puts people on the defence instantly. Even if someone buys something from you as a result of cold marketing tactics, they’ll still feel cheated after. Cold contact is salesly and will start with a poor sales rep reciting a robotic script constructed by their Sales Manager.
Warm contact means your company has already had some connection with the company before your call. They may have called you, signed up for your newsletter or booked a meeting in your calendar.
To make warm contact, you must have sufficient means of getting people to interact with your business other than a contact form. This means investment into marketing and lead generation tools like social media profiles, downloadable templates and a CRM to gather customer information like email addresses and telephone numbers.
For example, if someone requests a brochure from you which requires an email submission, you automate a response email offering them an exploratory call at their leisure. You add the person on LinkedIn, view their job position and find out a little information.
They don’t respond to the automated email, so you send them an email with another resource explaining you’ll follow up with a call the next day, with the option to opt out.
Are there any downsides?
Developing the processes for warm contact takes time. You’ll need a CRM (see benefits above), marketing lead generation tactics and automation procedures.
You’ll also have to be patient and allow these systems to evolve over time, it isn’t an overnight installation.
5. Develop content for your Sales Reps
Content isn’t only for marketing, you know. It’s for everyone! Your sales team need to be involved in the content creation process to ensure they get the content that’s right for them.
For example, a sales rep isn’t going to read a 2500 word blog prior to a call with a prospect. But a 2-minute video? That’s feasible.
Likewise, it isn’t great practice to have sales reps bark out technical product descriptions from your company brochure over the phone. Not if you want your prospect to stay awake anyway.
Think about what benefits the product will give the prospect based on the goals and challenges they’ve provided, and how you can relay that information to them in a digestible form.
Take a look at this video. The production is shoddy, the footage looks like it was taken on a 1.2-megapixel camera, but I’m sold. I want Vienetta.
Get marketing to create content your sales team can use, and they’ll love you for it!
6. Use your website to sell your business
Your website is your best sales tool, it’s where most people make their first touchpoint and forms their initial impression of your company.
When you analyse or build a new website, you need to consider three things, design, user experience and marketing. One won't work without the other, and you shouldn’t ignore any of them.
Design: you need to ensure your website is visually appealing, an ugly website isn’t likely to generate much interest.
User experience: visitors need to be given a clear path or journey when they visit your site. If they’re confused by what you want them to do, they’ll leave.
Marketing: you’ve got entice people with your website copy, give them clear actions to take and provide them with useful resources for them to take an interest in what you have to offer.
Watch this video from agriculture manufacturer John Deere, who cover all the above aspects on their website.
Start increasing your sales today!
Follow the tips above to start increasing your manufacturing sales. Be patient, it won’t happen in an instant, but if you slowly begin to apply the principles, you’ll see small changes every day.