Manufacturers are under pressure to improve productivity and meet ever-increasing demands for innovation.
But, before you can start producing more, you need first to be selling more.
Here are three tried and tested methods for using new technology and open communication to help increase manufacturing channel sales.
1. Focus on existing customers
Strengthening relationships with your existing customers is one of the best ways to increase sales. Your selling investment is lower and you can leverage these established relationships to cross sell and upsell. Make sure your account management and operational teams are clearly customer-focused and empowered to provide creative customer solutions..
Research has identified key customer service gaps that companies need to address in order to achieve peak performance.
- Improve training for frontline staff. These are the staff that are interacting directly with your customers. Train them in client protocol and procedures
- Provide timely responses. Being responsive to your customers’ concerns is a clear indicator of your company’s desire to meet and exceed expectations. This includes not only responding timeously but also adequately addressing their need or problem in your response
- Offer more creative ideas. Your clients rely on you to manufacture products that they can’t. It helps to be proactive in your ideas in how your products can solve their problems
- Understand requirements. This is basic level account management. It extends from understanding the manufacturing process through to the product delivery and the requirements needed at each step.
2. Align marketing with sales
One of the critical strategies to improve sales growth within manufacturing is to ensure that your marketing and sales teams are cohesive and collaborative. It can be a big challenge to open the lines of communication between these two teams, but the results are worth the effort.
When sales and marketing teams work together, companies see 36% higher customer retention and 38% higher sales win rates.
Taking the time to foster a relationship will ensure that your marketing team’s efforts are helping the sales team close deals. This alignment will increase revenue, shorten the sales cycle and improve conversion rates and forecasting in the long-run.
According to research from Marketo and ReachForce, sales teams tend to ignore up to 80% of marketing leads, and instead spend half their time on unproductive prospecting.
Here are a few ways to improve the relationship between marketing and sales:
- Make sure that the two teams align on goals, lead definition, and the sales process
- Give both teams a voice when outlining strategies and planning content
- Provide the same dashboards and tools, including customer engagement platforms
- Continually track and measure the impact of marketing on sales
- Synch marketing and sales activities. This includes segmentation, targeting, content development, contact strategy, nurturing, engagement, closing, and customer support.
And don’t forget about aligning goals with physical production capabilities. For example, if you know that your factory can only manufacture 50 units a day, don’t make your sales goal 80 units a day. You won’t be able to keep up, which can lead to unhappy customers. As in the example here.
A case of misalignment
A Fortune 250 B2B manufacturing company launched a new product line in order to grow market share. When the new line failed to deliver, the company spent a quarter of a million dollars trying to find out why.
The problem: The sales team’s compensation was structured to incentivise sales reps based on profit margin maximisation when it should have been based on sales volume. Because their commission margin was smaller on this particular product line, the reps rather focused on selling other products which had higher commission margins.
The conclusion: Misaligned goals between marketing and sales teams.
It happens too often that the marketing and sales departments set their strategies and goals separately from each other.
3. Generate, manage, nurture leads
Lead management, lead scoring, progressive profiling and validation systems can each help scale up marketing-to-sales efforts, allowing teams to focus on hitting goals.
- Build campaigns that improve customer acquisition and retention
- Analyse what content and efforts assisted in the conversion of a lead
- Set monthly strategic goals according to the number of qualified leads per month
- Make their monthly goals progressive.
Once you’ve attracted qualified leads, you then need to nurture them using strategic communication based on their role, buying capabilities, behaviour, activities, interests and pain points.
Consider practising permission-based marketing. Research from Keller Research Centre at Baylor University found that only 1% of cold calls for sales ultimately turn into customers. Proving that the best leads are voluntary leads.
Instead, develop a sales strategy across your channels that will build trust, prove your business authority and demonstrate leadership.
For example, if you are manufacturing beauty accessories, develop a content strategy that positions you as a thought leader in your industry. Create content that educates and informs your ideal customer, this helps to build trust. From there, the content needs to pull them further into your sales funnel.
People buy from businesses that they trust. So focus on keeping the trust of your potential customers by attracting the right leads and nurturing them.
Strengthen, align, manage
You need to marry these three strategies for best results. Strengthen existing relationships, align sales and marketing and be smart about attracting and nurturing leads.
In each scenario, the key to success is communication. Whether it’s communicating with your existing customers, encouraging more communication between your sales and marketing teams or providing better content for lead nurturing. Better communication, across your channel, is an ideal strategy.
Successful, well-executed marketing strategies take time to build and require consistent effort, but can deliver significant rewards.