Despite more encouraging economic data in the last month, this is no time to be complacent, says Mark Wormald of Sandler Training in West Midlands.
Understandably there has a been a great reception to the purchasing managers’ index following news that the sector has expanded for a third month in a row and at a faster rate. However, UK manufacturers need to continue to think about how they can maintain and grow sales.
The market conditions continue to increase, with the narrowing gap between China and UK. Costs for raw materials and shipping have a knock on effect for importing produce from overseas manufacturers. Furthermore, overseas labour costs are rising, which is further reducing the price differentials between overseas and domestic suppliers.
However, a change in market conditions won’t increase sales alone, especially if sales people rely on old, tired 1970s methods of ‘quote and hope’. This approach encourages buyers to judge manufacturers on cost alone – commoditising suppliers, in which case, foreign manufacturers may still have the edge.
To increase sales, and circumvent foreign competitors, UK manufacturers need to take the lead to proactively create the demand and educate prospects. Here are some top tips to get started:
The price of everything and the value of nothing
Firstly, it’s imperative to develop a bespoke system for dealing with prospects. Educating prospects that products and materials are only one aspect of your company’s offering will foster long term relationships and will reinforce that by working with you, they not only get the benefit from your products, they also get your expertise and added value. As such, it is essential to lead your conversations with value and not cost. To do this, demonstrate an understanding of your customer’s problem and then develop a value-added solution. It’s important to remember that when presented with a choice, most people don’t want the cheapest option; they want the best option – one that adds value and provides an unparalleled solution.
Work outside of the direct buyers
Enhancing your relationships outside the buying department complements the idea that value should override costs. Engagement with your customers business, from engineers to key decision makers, demonstrates a willingness to gain a comprehensive understanding of their business, adds value, and better equips you to find viable solutions to address their business needs. It also further develops your relationship with influencers throughout the business. For example, with engineers they have the ability to add value through innovation in the supply chain and may have the ability to influence top-level decision-makers.
Streamline efficiency and improve leadership
Take a step back and align your business and sales objectives. They go hand in hand, and it’s important to think that the overall company should be responsible for assisting and boosting sales KPIs. By making this connection known internally, it will help make sales a focus for everyone and engender a culture of accountability, from the top down.
Working in such a tough economic environment can be disheartening, so it’s important to give your sales team the tools and techniques they need to sell confidentially. Teach the sales team how to change or tweak engrained behaviours and learn new selling techniques, like avoiding free consulting and generating after leads that will make a measurable impact.
While giving your sales structure a jolt may seem like a daunting task, it’s important to remember that sales is a skill and thus can be taught and perfected. The time for the manufacturing industry to grab the bull by the horns is now – whilst the market is in their favour.