Globally the manufacturing industry has undergone a massive transformation in the past decade. Recessions choked demand, employment continues to fall and the floors and lines don’t have the same consistent flow of work to be done. With all of the nuances between each manufactured product and the manufacturers themselves, what is to be done to start to right the ship and save one of the most critical industries to America’s economy?
While I won’t wax poetic about inventory management or the technological advances on the floor, there is one aspect of manufacturing that lies at the root of its stability and growth. Sales. From small plants to those that sprawl for miles, this one critical function of the organization has been left unattended to. When it comes to advancements that the rest of the business world has already adopted, implemented and reaps the ROI on that manufacturers have done little to change. So what’s the problem?
For decades manufacturing companies have been in constant bidding wars, filling out painful RFPs and letting their prices be driven so low. In doing so, they have trained the market how to treat them, and how not to treat them as sales professionals. With painfully slim margins and a lack of true human connection in the sales process, the manufacturing sales rep is often no more than a bid fetcher, hoping that they are cents less than the other guys, and quickly moving on to the next bid.
It’s time to shift…and fast. In my studies and client cases, when we empower the sales staff to embrace a more proactive, soft and nurturing, relationship-based sales process certain things begin to shift.
Accountability: When you give your team members the processes and tools to get results they get a surge of ownership. They don’t feel as if they’re a victim to the bids and can own their numbers and results…and exceed them.
Bigger Orders: In the process of building relationships reps will typically increase their client’s orders by 15-30% over the course of 2 years. It takes knowing the right questions to ask to uncover hidden needs and pain points of client’s to really make this kind of impact.
Authentic Relationships: Ever had an order go out late or wrong? We all have, and it hurts every time. But if your team has the experience to and education to build a real relationship of honesty and trust with your customers, you are way less likely to lose the client when a mistake happens.
Client Retention: If your sales team is spending time putting together 100 bids a day and only getting a 3% return, how effective is your process? What if you were able to cut out that 93% of time wasters and create powerful relationships with clients that are GOOD for your business, that are invested in the relationship they have with you and are even willing to refer you business? By cutting out that 93% of the bidding that sucks time, energy, and let’s face it, the will to live out of your team, you get to build a client book of evangelists. Do that.
Talent Acquisition: Sales talent can be hard to find, and in the manufacturing world you are up against a wall when it comes to matching the technical acumen with the sales skills, and these rarely show up on the first day polished and ready to go. Having a consultative sales process that empowers your staff is going to result in the things good salespeople want: personal development, more commission, a more enjoyable work experience and the thrill of winning that BIG client.
All of these things sound great right? Well, they don’t show up magically. The shift has to come from the top – and that means that you, the business owner, must learn how to sell. They will not follow if you don’t lead. And I will tell you, it’s not a workshop kind of lesson. As you embrace a new way of processing sales, understanding the why behind decision making and showing that you are walking the walk it will allow you to hold your team accountable because you will become a credible messenger.
The big question is…are you ready for change? Are you ready for more revenue? And will you be the catalyst or a bystander in the future of your company?
Now is the time to solidify the profit of your company.
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