Sales departments will self-destruct if they aren’t cared for. Reps are blaming each other, there’s unhealthy competition and poor lead conversion rates.
There’s also the concern of fierce overseas competition and the ever-delayed Brexit deal. It must be hard for Sales Directors to inject any enthusiasm into their teams to allow them to flourish in an insecure environment. This is especially true if you’re still stuck in the spreadsheet age.
Sales enablement is giving sales teams the training, tools, technology, knowledge, and whatever else they need to enhance the sales process.
Sales enablement gives manufacturing organisations the ability to look at the sales process with tremendous insight and provides context to the data created from these processes.
Stop looking at sales as a bunch of red or green numbers and start to look at the process holistically. If you do this, you’ll reap the rewards we’ve listed below:
1. It improves collaboration with departments
No more yawning through the Finance Director’s monthly presentation or being annoyed there isn’t enough in the budget for your monthly sales training course (ehhmm, night out!).
Collaboration begins with the CEO or company owner and should resound with company directors, who then drip feed information to managers and their teams.
For example, let’s say your company is a plastic bottle manufacturer, and the CEO has a goal to make a 100% switch to biodegradable bottles within ten years, with a 20% plastic reduction per year.
Each department would have separate goals and objectives that would support this goal:
- Marketing: promote the company as the leading provider or biodegradable bottle solutions, while generating five high-grade leads to pass onto sales.
- Sales: educate potential buyers about the benefits of biodegradable bottle solutions, and convert two of the leads passed on from marketing.
- Production: manage production efficiency to hit a target of 20% plastic reduction in a year, which will give sales 20,000 units.
If the company wants to achieve the primary business goal, each department has to understand other departmental goals.
For example, if the production team report it’s feasible to reduce plastic production by 20%, the marketing and sales teams have to promote this message to generate interest and sell the new products.
Sales could then generate a report for units sold and customers acquired, and next year’s goals would be adjusted accordingly.
2. Your salespeople will understand their buyer
Buyers are more informed now, so why aren't your sales team? Your buyer has access to the biggest library of resources in the world, the internet.
Let’s say they’re looking for a food manufacturer, the questions they could ask are plentiful:
- What packaging is cheapest when ordering food in bulk?
- What types of food are best to order in bulk?
- Is it better to buy bulk food fresh or frozen?
If your sales team have access to information like this, they’re better informed to know the answers in advance.
A more informed salesperson is a salesperson who’ll have better judgement. If your sales team know that a prospect usually asks a question at a specific point in their buying journey, they’ll know when to bring it up and when to leave it.
They’ll also understand how to ask the right questions and dissect the questions prospects ask. If a ’handrasier’ (someone that specifically asks to be put through to a salesperson), calls and asks about delivery fees and lead times, the salesperson that understands their buyer will know that they should still qualify the lead before giving out this information.
These salespeople are intelligent, intuitive, calm, and need a lot of coaching, training and experience to reach this level.
3. Sales enablement is relationship first, conversion second
As a manufacturer, you’re probably used to building relationships — but it may have been in a different way to how we do it now!
Sales is a high-pressure environment, especially if your sales staff are bringing in high-value clients that will be paying a lot of money for your products.
So why would you have your sales staff contact companies who’ve never heard of you to deliver generic sales pitches they don’t care about?
As soon as we feel like we’re being sold to, we switch off. Okay, you might get sales from doing it this way, but the ROI is low, and it doesn’t make people feel valued.
We aren’t saying you should be best friends with your prospects, but it helps if you build positive relationships that have strong, valuable foundations.
You need to work out whether your organisations match. For example, an ambitious, technology-driven, growth-focused company would be an excellent match for a company with similar values.
It won’t always work out perfectly, but it helps. When you have strong relationships with your clients, you’ll reap the following benefits:
- Customers are more likely to stay loyal to you
- Your customers become brand advocates and recommend you to others
- You’ll have a better understanding of what people want
- You can create testimonials that help you secure more business
- You can ask customers for advice on subjects in their field
- Any future proposals you create will usually be easier to secure because you’ve built up a degree of trust
4. A CRM will streamline your sales process
Before the sales CRM became popular, sales departments were being dragged back by manual processes and endless amounts of paperwork and spreadsheets.
The introduction of the sales CRM means it isn’t just the production floor that needs to embrace automation, sales teams can now automate parts of the sales process and access critical information at the click of a button.
Whether it’s how many sales qualified leads you have in the system, deals you have in your pipeline or tasks scheduled for the day, a CRM can give you information quickly and easily that can help your team make better decisions.
This is an example of deal stages in HubSpot's sales CRM. As you can see, you can create custom boards which reflect different parts of the sales process. Users can then move deals to different stages depending on what stage they're at.
Here are some of the advantages of using a CRM:
- Make rational moves based on data you collect in your reporting and analytics hub
- Minimise admin tasks so your team can spend time on the activities that matter
- Know when to contact your customers — for example, if you know a customer places a product order at a particular time, schedule a call
- Your team can organise their schedules, so they always know what they’re doing, meaning they’ll be more productive
- A CRM is one big file storage folder, so your team can access important documents when they need them
How does it work?
Let’s say marketing pass on a lead that has expressed an interest in your alloy wheel manufacturing business.
They’ve downloaded a guide about different metals used to make alloy wheels which documents aspects such as durability and price. As a result, they’ve used a meetings calendar to schedule a call with a rep.
In the form they filled out to book the meeting, it asked them what their meeting was about (alloy wheels), and after they’d booked the meeting it sent the lead a follow-up email with a video of the company’s alloys being manufactured, as well as a questionnaire about why they’re looking for alloys.
The prospect will fill in this resource and bring it to the meeting, meaning the rep has automated 100% of the journey and all they have to do is 10-15 minutes research before the call starts.
There’s some work involved in setting up these processes, but once they’re complete, they’re self-sufficient and will only need monitoring and tweaking.
5. Fuse marketing & sales departments
We’ve already talked about departmental integration, but sales and marketing deserve a special mention because they have a special relationship!
They’re codependents who rely on each other for success. However, there can be common friction between these two departments, and it can come at the expense of the smooth functioning of the organisation if it isn’t controlled.
Here are a few problems you may experience with marketing:
- Your sales department either cannot digest or don’t get any content from the marketing department
- Marketing doesn’t know what a sales qualified lead looks like
- You’re fighting for the budget with the Marketing Director, which creates friction in both teams
If both departments can not only work in harmony but work for each other, you’ve got an excellent chance of generating more business.
How do you do that? By helping marketing understand their role in sales enablement. You can do this by:
Getting marketing to acknowledge and celebrate your sales team!
Marketing could mention them in social media posts, include reps’ knowledge in their content, or ask them if they think a content idea could be improved to suit the sales team.
Getting marketing to involve sales in their marketing calendar
We don’t mean every single marketing meeting but ask marketing to involve the team in a way that suits them. If there’s a new campaign launch, marketing could send out an internal email with a slideshow detailing what it’s about.
Get marketing to make content easy to use
Let’s be honest, your sales reps don’t have the time to familiarise themselves with a 2000-word blog post, so marketing needs to simplify content and make it easier to digest.
Infographics are a great way to do this, as well as bulleted lists and short videos. While marketing can tailor content to the prospect, they can also do it for the salesperson. However you do it, marketing’s inclusion in the sales process is vital to your company’s success.
Want to learn more about manufacturing marketing? Read our Ultimate Guide!
6. Get the best out of your sales team
A lot of organisations have a narrow view of what sales teams do, they think the sales team are only there to sell a product. Well, this philosophy is wrong. Granted, it’s the main way a salesperson will be judged, but a salesperson needs the right training and coaching to be good at it.
When you’re hiring reps for a manufacturing company, it’ll take them while to build up the knowledge of whatever it is the company sells.
For example, if your company manufactures VTUAVs (vertical take-off and landing tactical unmanned aerial vehicles), — a fancy name for a military helicopter — will they be able to learn about this particular machine in a week? A month? A year?
You may have hundreds of products and hundreds of ways of making them, various package offers, shipment costs, tax restrictions. It isn’t an overnight crash course. Here’s how to educate your sales team for success:
Provide the right training for your sales team
People don’t usually get good at anything without training, and you shouldn’t expect your sales team to excel without it.
Here are a few ways you can ensure your sales team get the most from training:
- Use the content you have to train your team — product descriptions, marketing material, product demos
- Keep training sessions short — who doesn’t yawn at the thought of a full day of training?
- Empower your sales team — ask the team where they need additional training, and encourage them to be honest without repercussions
- Pair new reps with older, more experienced, willing sales reps
- Use e-learning — make sure you get the right provider (HubSpot has some FREE inbound sales courses)
Provide consistent coaching for the team
Once training is complete, that’s when the real work starts. People learn at a different pace, and you need to understand that. The Sales Manager has to be committed to improving reps at all times, not just monthly training sessions.
Here are a few ways you can coach your sales reps:
- Build trust — reps are more likely to share information if they can trust the Sales Manager they’re reporting to
- Don’t give orders — your reps are more likely to engage with a Sales Manager if they ask probing questions that stimulate thought
- Pick an area to focus on — giving the rep too many areas of improvement will confuse them and make them feel inadequate, whereas one area is more manageable
- Encourage the rep to evaluate themselves – the rep is more likely to be up for discussing their weak points if they identify them
- Create a plan of action you can both stick to — an improvement plan shouldn’t just be aimed at the rep, the manager should stick to their part as well, such as booking the rep onto a course or divulging more information about a specific topic
Retain your team
Sales professionals are in the industry for one reason in particular, which is money! The key is in the profession name. Sales = money. But that doesn’t mean that money is the only thing that motivates sales reps. You need to dig deeper and understand each rep if staff retention is one of your top priorities.
Here’s how you can do it:
- Don’t treat them like salespeople — we’re never going to escape the terminology, but you can make salespeople feel like more than your personal cash cow. Salespeople provide solutions to problems, and when they don’t think about their commission, can provide real value.
- Give them genuine praise — focus on areas that aren’t about selling, maybe they’ve got infectious energy, are really good with numbers or connecting marketing to sales. Don’t just give them a pat on the back when they hit targets, tell them why you’re happy
- Connect them to product/production — salespeople can often feel disconnected from the people who make the products they sell, and it makes sense for the sales team to soak up their valuable knowledge
- DO NOT REDUCE THEIR COMMISSION — if you want a one-way sales team evacuation, reduce their commission. Salespeople work to hit targets, their commission is their bonus, so stick to what you offered them in the first place if you value them.
So, there you have it, six ways sales enablement can benefit your manufacturing company, let’s recap:
1. It Improves Collaboration With Departments
2. Your Salespeople Will Understand Their Buyer
3. Sales Enablement is Relationship First, Conversion Second
4. A CRM Will Streamline Your Sales Process
5. Fuse Marketing & Sales Departments
6. Get The Best Out of Your Sales Team
Follow these six steps to get the best out of your sales team and increase your manufacturing sales.