For growing companies in the manufacturing world, several common problems continue to hinder sales effectiveness.
For any company, operational efficiency is key, and recently companies are casting their eyes on how to improve sales effectiveness in particular. For growing companies in the manufacturing world, several common problems continue to hinder sales effectiveness.
1) Multi-channel selling
All businesses need to strategize on how to strike a balance and create consistency in their physical store, online presence, and direct salesforce. (i.e., it’s not fun to be Best Buy competing with Amazon, when buyers scope out the products in Best Buy stores, but order online anyway). This is where using sales technology is key.
In setting a multi-channel strategy, penetrating new markets and different geographies without hiring an army of salespeople presents a challenge, particularly when disseminating product knowledge and options to various sales channels. Most companies have a strategy to use partners for a broader reach, and this strategy comes down to what sales truly is: people selling things to other people. You want your partners to make pitching your product a habit, and to do so, they need the tools to help them get over the knowledge hurdle, turn over quotes efficiently, and do needs analyses effectively for each prospect. For companies looking to boost their sales effectiveness and efficiency, innovation isn’t just about having differentiated products; it’s also about being the company that is easiest for customers and partners to do business with. And to accomplish that goal, innovative technology is increasingly necessary.
2) Price transparency
In today’s global economy, where a vast amount of manufacturing has moved to the lowest-cost provider, companies are looking to address the issue of price transparency- a blessing and a curse. Everyone knows what materials cost. Open your smartphone as an example; the level of detail is visible, and savvy observers could determine the market value of each component. For manufacturers, this issue begs the question: if everyone knows what the price is and should be, why would anyone buy from me?
The only solution is to sell on value, explaining to customers how you customize, how you do it differently, how you make it easy for business partners and customers to work with you, and how you take customer specifications and create a “just-right-for-you” product. This has to be done efficiently, though, to maintain positive margins and avoid the price-competition trap. Companies that feel they can eke out a living on volume and competing on price just don’t keep up with today’s market.
3) SKU proliferation
Every time you sell a new combination of products, there’s a new part number, and as long as there’s a paying customer associated with those SKUs, they exist forever. New products, different product combinations, shifting price points, products sold through different channels- all of these threads contribute to the web of SKUs that becomes practically un-navigable for sales reps--particularly new hires. Additionally, as time goes on, the number of SKUs makes it hard to sunset old products because someone, somewhere is using that combination, and simply removing the SKU will only produce confusion.
Contributing to the problem is immature technology that might not give you the proper insight to see which new products could replace the SKUs that are becoming obsolete and still be an appropriate choice for the customer still using the soon-to-be-sunset product. Costs to maintain inventory skyrockets without technology in place to address this problem. In order to solve these problems, manufacturing companies are increasingly turning towards more mature, automated technology that can control SKUs by dynamically showing which products are acceptable replacements for discontinued products, and giving sales reps and channel partners full visibility into updates to the product catalog to ensure they are configuring deals that reflect the current product offerings and availability.
The path to mature sales effectiveness technology
Key industry analysts--including Gartner--agree that guided selling software is a widely effective tool for growing companies to improve their sales efficiency and effectiveness, with KPIs such as better quality of offering, overall deal profitability, and accuracy of information. With guided selling solutions, manufacturing companies can:
- Sell on value since sales teams can customize exactly the right deal for each customer
- Easily spot upsell and cross-sell opportunities
- Ensure maximum efficiency from sales channels by enabling access to up-to-the-minute pricing, bundling, discounting, and product information
- Control SKUs by showing which products can replace items that are going to be discontinued, and also allow sales teams to quickly access existing SKUs and deal combinations that could work for a new prospect
Plain and simple? Selling is difficult. The average person can only retain 4 items in his or her short term memory at any given time. For companies trying to sell large catalogs of products with seemingly infinite combinations, the way to truly utilize your sales reps and channels to their fullest potential is implementing technology that makes it easier for customers, partners, and sales people to make quick, informed decisions and create deals that are optimal for both customer and company.