Whatever business or industry you are operating in, closing more sales will be a top priority.
While all businesses will ultimately have the same objective – to achieve healthy sales figures – there will be subtle differences when it comes to the most effective tactics that can be used.
B2B manufacturers often rely on traditional sales techniques, but in the face of modern day buyers – especially so-called ‘millennials’ who are tech savvy and put digital tools to full use – these methods just don’t work as well anymore.
Buyers today have their own ways of researching and investigating solutions to their problems. They’ll head online and look around, before ever thinking of speaking to a supplier directly. In order for B2B manufacturers to increase their closure rate, you need to understand these changes and how the sales process now works, so you can adjust what you’re doing.
Here are our top tips for closing more sales when you’re a B2B manufacturer.
Get on board with all things digital
In manufacturing, a lot of time and effort is spent optimizing operations and processes. But the same often cannot be said of the level of attention given to the process of making sales, let alone making improvements to it.
We now live in a digital world, but getting on board with all things digital has proven to be a serious challenge for some companies.
Simply having a website that’s a glorified brochure and offering buyers a pdf of the catalog to download, just isn’t going to cut it. What is needed is a complete digital transformation, if you’re to stay ahead of the game.
Reportedly, one of the biggest sales enhancement tools for manufacturers is building an online database of their products, which buyers can use to search through and find what they need.
When this is combined with a sales team focused on a consultative selling approach then you’ll have a powerful sales enhancement process at your fingertips.
Digital enhancements for high and low touch sales processes
When you have a high touch sales process with a strong sales force behind it, your best bet digitally will be to aim to advance your sales process. Look at your online lead generation, lead nurturing and lead management, and invest in ways to shorten a longer sales cycle.
When thinking about your low touch sales, your digital strategies should focus more on online advertising options.
Ideally, you need to find a balance of the two. Incorporate both high and low touch processes, so you don’t end up placing all your eggs in one basket.
Online content to help in the ‘research’ phase
Buyers head online to do their research. They will be typing words and phrases into search engines, looking at industry platforms, taking part in forums and being active in all sorts of other places.
Their aim is to find answers. They no longer need or want to talk to a sales rep to get the information they want. They’ll look for it themselves. Make sure that when they do so, they find your content. Use content marketing to help you close more deals. It’s one of the best and most effective digital strategies around. If you are thinking of giving content marketing a shot, get our Essential Guide to Getting Started with Content Marketing for some helpful tips.
Create opportunities for clients to communicate
Giving customers the opportunity to talk and help each other can be very powerful. Creating a simple Facebook or LinkedIn group could lead to great results and also aid long term customer retention levels.
This method will depend to a certain degree on the nature of the product you are selling, but is worth considering as an option. Whether you introduce a group on social media, or provide a closed off forum on your own website, people like to talk and share – even B2B buyers!
Work on improving your presales
The term ‘presales’ covers everything that takes place before a sale happens. This includes any preparation that’s done by your team.
If you’re using ABM techniques – account based marketing – to land accounts, then enhancing your presales will be particularly important for improving your results.
Looking at the data you hold about your existing customers. Use it to figure out in detail, exactly who your ideal customers are. That way you’ll be able to identify the best sales opportunities earlier on in the sales cycle.
Your technical team needs to look at what the client needs and your commercial team needs to look at how best to structure the deal.
Work out what will be the best possible solution you can provide for each potential client. You may need to collaborate with other vendors and partners to make it work, but if so, don’t shy away from doing that. The most successful companies around today focus on what their clients need and provide them with it, instead of pushing their own products onto others – an approach which is becoming less and less effective.
Harvard Business Review offers some great insights into how paying attention to presales can lead to improved sales.
Industry-based sales pitch vs customer centric approach
To win in today’s sales environment, you need to look closely at your general pitching approach. Instead of researching the market and then presenting the facts, turn it around and research your customer instead.
Figure them out – what makes them tick? what are their needs? what goals do they want to achieve? how do they position themselves in the market?
Next, look at ways you could help them achieve their goals. Your pitch will suddenly be centered on their needs and this will really grab their attention.
Tailoring your pitch entirely to a lead is one of the biggest and most important changes you can make. It will take more time to prepare if you do it this way, but the result will be a higher close rate.
Have a sales plan for each account
Are you operating with a ‘one size fits all’ sales plan (or near enough)? Then perhaps it’s time to rethink your approach.
Every customer is different and particularly when you are selling higher price items, it is vital you work out a sales plan for each prospect.
Make contact early on – perhaps let marketing pick up the phone – and find out as much as possible about the company, their aspirations and the decision makers. This will help you create a perfectly tailored pitch.
Make technology your friend
Have you got the tools you need, so your time is being spent in the most efficient way? And do you know your pipeline priorities and where you should allocate resources for the best possible returns?
Intelligent tools are coming out all the time that can help businesses at every stage of the sales journey and beyond. They can ensure you never drop a ball or miss an opportunity.
Advanced CRMs that are connected to your marketing and customer service tools can provide you a 360-degree customer view, which will put you well ahead of the competition.
Make sure you’re gathering as much data as you can and then analyze it, to help you improve your sales process.
Define the parameters that are most important to you (such as a lead’s job role, buying capability, purchase readiness, lead behavior, sales lifecycle, customer retention, etc.). Track and analyze each one and then work to improve your results.
Combine digital with traditional methods
Find ways to combine your online and offline marketing efforts. Trade shows are one great example of where this can work.
Get printed copies of your articles or e-books and take them to trade shows with you. Make sure there are easy ways for visitors to find you online. Use things like QR codes and easy links.
Top marks if you get to the stage of using UTM tracking links, as they will also give you great feedback on the effectiveness of your campaigns.
Help your sales force become masters at using social selling tactics.
The world is becoming more and more connected – and so are buyers and vendors. Make an active push to enhance the opportunities that are being created here.
Bonus tip: Stop cold-calling once and for all
Invest in online lead generation software, such as Lead Forensics, and create a marketing funnel that’s overflowing with qualified leads your sales team can work with.
Make use of the automation functions available through the software, to set up alerts so you know when target accounts are active on your website. If they’re on your site and actively researching you and the company, then being able to speak with them right away will be a huge advantage. And the benefits don’t end there – have a look at what some of our customers had to say about the benefits of working with Lead Forensics and the impact it has had on their business.