It’s no secret that sales support resources often end up on the back burner at small- and medium-sized manufacturing companies. But how can you get back on track quickly?
You may have already tried investing in inbound digital marketing technologies and got nothing in return. Or you tried having customer service pick up the slack, or have given your outside sales team yet one more chance to find the time to cold call in their spare time.
What you really need are real people doing real work. Manufacturing and B2B sales are different because they often have a specific product with a specific message selling to a narrow market. In manufacturing, what works is dedicating staff or outsourced inside sales to do the hard work of mining cold leads, qualifying prospects, and nailing down sales appointments.
Here’s 6 mistakes and the fixes that will drive outside sales:
1. “Do you believe in magic?”
Mistake: Expecting Existing Staff to Magically Prospect New Leads
Fix: Dedicate Staff Members to Prospecting Cold Leads
Most manufacturers have established sales staff for maintaining clients, upselling current clients, and closing sales. But sometimes they don’t have a staff member whose number one priority is prospecting and qualifying. The right person for this job is comfortable with the fact that sometimes it can take eight or more calls to get the best contact on the phone. And they trust that the process, the script, the CRM structure, and their own persistence will ultimately pay off.
And that person doesn’t need to know everything about the history of your company—or even be a product expert—as many sales managers fear. With thorough onboarding, a new person can understand enough about your product, its value proposition, your market, and your competitors to begin prospecting and pushing qualified leads through the sales funnel.
2. “Are you selling square pegs for round holes?”
Mistake: Sticking with Generic, Outdated Sales Processes
Fix: Redefine Your Sales Processes to Fit Your Product
One of the most critical processes in today’s B2B sales strategy development is how sales teams use CRMs. Everyone has heard of the old computer adage: “Garbage In, Garbage Out.” If you input bad data into any software system, bad data will come back out. To use your sales CRM to its fullest potential you must have a process that outlines what data you input, maintain the discipline to follow through and actually input that data, and—most importantly—take the time to analyze that data.
The hard work is systematically calling and emailing prospects on a schedule that you commit to. Systematic mining of prospects will yield the most valuable insights into that company’s pain points, its current competitors, and its pricing strategies. But it’s no secret that systematically calling prospects requires a defined process, allotted time, and encouragement.
3. “Is your Rolodex full?”
Mistake: Underutilizing Your CRM—or Not Using a CRM at All
Fix: Optimize Your CRM for Qualifying Leads Fast
When optimized to fit your product’s sales process, a CRM shortens your sales cycles dramatically and enables you to transform prospect and lead conversations into new opportunities. A CRM can fit your unique set of objectives and establish best practices for inputting, maintaining, and utilizing important sales data.
A CRM automates business processes between departments to create a more efficient experience for customers. Stop waking up in the middle of the night wondering what you need to do to grow your business or trying to figure out whatever happened to that prospect that you thought would close a few months ago. Optimize your CRM to align with your sales process so you can rest easy.
4. “Do you know all you need to know?”
Mistake: Ending Quality Sales Calls Too Early
Fix: Prioritize Your Quality Calls over Quantity
It may be surprising, but even many successful companies haven’t studied their customers in enough detail to understand the buying process from the buyers’ perspectives. They often stop before ask- ing more open-ended questions about the day-to-day environment they live in. Who are the main competitors? Are they competing on price, quality, service, speed, or something else? How far in advance of need does the decision-making process start? Don’t end any call before trying to get answers to these questions.
Quality calls deliver valuable market intelligence insights into buyers’ tendencies that replace investments into separate research and reserve your valuable resources for more fruitful tasks. If you’re using your sales processes and CRM correctly—and asking the right questions—those market intelligence insights will become obvious and your sales forecasting will also improve dramatically.
5. “No man is an island.”
Mistake: Neglecting Your Sales Team by Offering Little Support
Fix: Support Your Team with Coaching, Management, and Accountability
Tell your new salespeople the hurdles that you’re trying to overcome. Tell them what works, what hasn’t worked, and supply useful resources. What are the critical benefits of your product or service? What are the key talking points that a salesperson should stress? What are the current buzzwords?
Outline your levels of expectation for the processes you are investing in. However, don’t become too fixated on hard sales numbers or targets for qualified leads. Even if those don’t ramp up immediately, the right processes always deliver valuable market intelligence that will help you fine-tune your sales processes.
6. “Competition means striving together.”
Mistake: Limiting Communication Between Inside and Outside Sales
Fix: Nurture Trust Between Inside and Outside Sales Teams
Early cooperation and collaboration between inside sales and a company’s outside sales staff can yield dramatic results. As trust grows and projects progress, the relationship can expand, evolve, and became more and more interactive. Hot prospects and qualified leads can be shared so that they can go to the right person for immediate attention, and each side can use the other as a valuable ongoing resource.
For instance, while prospecting one segment, a dedicated salesperson can naturally learn about other segments from the nature of the questions that prompt fruitful conversations. Expressing a genuine interest in understanding the product and the market opens up new lead generation avenues, new market penetration opportunities, and new sales tactics to close sales.