November 14, 2019
Updated: May 23, 2022

Five Ways to Overcome Complexity in Manufacturing Sales

The manufacturing industry is changing. And so is the buying process when it comes to B2B manufacturing sales. According to our research, almost a quarter (24%) of all B2B buyers said more than five people were involved in their last purchase.

And more seats at the buying table isn’t where the complexity ends. Manufacturing product portfolios are growing broader, product lifecycles are getting shorter, and multi-year service contracts are becoming the norm. 

And if that’s not enough to have your sellers singing the words of Canadian punk icon Avril Lavigne (“Why’d you gotta go and make things so complicated?”), throw a global pandemic into the mix, pushing most buying experiences entirely online.

TL;DR: It’s harder to sell in manufacturing now than it’s ever been, and getting harder.

So how can manufacturing sellers keep up with an evolving industry and the demands of modern buying teams? Here are our top five Modern Selling tips to help sales reps deliver a standout buying experience in this complex industry (and hopefully, close more deals): 

1. Identify and connect with decision makers — including the ones hiding under the surface 

Usually, a seller will only really get to know one primary contact from a buying team, and maybe their contact’s boss. But that’s only the tip of the buying team iceberg. 

Dive a bit deeper and you’ll discover there’s an entire buying team of decision-makers under the surface. (Don’t worry, we don’t mean that literally. No buying teams were harmed in the making of this blog post). 

We mentioned earlier that there are usually five or more buyers directly involved in most major B2B purchases. But even that’s not really the full iceberg. Each of those five-plus stakeholders will have their own teams with the power to influence their decisions. This means your sellers will need to put on their detective hats and do some expert sleuthing to better understand the company, its culture, its goals, and all the people and teams that will influence the ultimate buying decision.

2. Customize the buying experience and help win internal buy-in

There are many things in life that shouldn’t be a one-size-fits-all situation, and B2B manufacturing sales is definitely one of them. The same way that 20 different people can’t all buy the same suit off the rack and expect it to fit, you can’t use the same canned email sequence for all your buyers and expect them to close. You need to tailor the experience. (See what we did there?)

Now that your detective work is done, use your intel to create a collaborative buying experience tailored to your buying team. You can also use what you’ve learned to support your primary contacts in getting internal buy-in. Think of primary contacts as the Watson to your Sherlock – ultimate partners in closing the case … oops, we mean the deal.  

Oh, and did we mention that 73% of B2B buyers are willing to pay a higher cost for a great buying experience? That’s right. The time and resources you put into creating a standout buying experience will pay off big in the long run. 

3. Invest in tools that enable your go-to-market teams to deliver better experiences

When there are so many parts of the revenue team involved in making a sale (from sales, to marketing, to product, to solutions engineers, and so on) it can be hard to keep track of what’s going on. There are just too many cooks in the kitchen. This can lead to slip-ups that annoy your buyers. Imagine calling a buyer five minutes after they’ve gotten off the phone with one of your colleagues. (If you’ve been in the industry for long enough, you likely don’t have to imagine it … you’ve lived it.)

And while B2B sales in manufacturing is already hard for sellers, the industry still lags behind others when it comes to the use of customer relationship management (CRM) and sales enablement tools.

Today’s CRM suites do more than just keep track of who’s making calls to whom. Modern CRM systems can track which content has been sent to which buyer and at what stage. When combined with a sales enablement platform, Modern Sellers can use their CRM to track which parts of their content have been read by which buyers, what content works for what sectors and many other valuable insights. 

When used together, a good CRM and sales enablement tool can help go-to-market teams make insight-led decisions to deliver better buying experiences — and close deals faster.

But don’t just take our word for it. Take a look at Bossard, a manufacturer of industrial fasteners. Bossard implemented a sales enablement platform to create a seamless feedback loop between their marketing and sales teams. Both teams are now working with a “single source of truth” when it comes to understanding which content is working best with their buyers. This helps them approach new prospects as a unified go-to-market team and make analytics-driven decisions that improve the experience for their buyers.

4. Help your sellers bring their A-game with regular coaching

Your sales reps can’t sell what they don’t understand. But most manufacturing organizations still fall behind when it comes to sales training and coaching opportunities. 

Many manufacturing organizations only hold dedicated sales training sessions during the initial onboarding ramp-up and ahead of new product launches. That’s like an NFL team hosting one week of rookie training camp and one practice the day before the Super Bowl. Except … we doubt they’d make it to the Super Bowl with that kind of coaching strategy. 

In an industry where things are changing quickly, you need to keep your sales teams up-to-date with the information they need about your products, your buyers, the market and the competition. This calls for continuous learning and coaching sessions that keep your sellers at the top of their game.

5. Give ’em a reason to break the status quo

Sure, your competitors can get in the way of your deals closing. But most of the time it’s status quo that’s the toughest nut to crack. 

Obviously, YOU know that your buyers’ lives would be easier if they bought your product or solution. But buying that product or solution takes work. And it’s easier for buyers to say “we’ll circle back next year” than it is to get their buying team together and to work with your sellers to make it happen. 

So, how do you push your buyers to break the status quo? Make their problem seem bigger and more urgent with the right content, served up at the right time. Adynamic sales enablement platform like Showpad can help you do this. *winks*

Once you’ve got your buyer ready to move past their “It is what it is” mentality, make it easier for them to buy from you. Understand where they’re at in the buying process and meet them there

  • Is it the end of their financial year and they’re short on cash? Work out a payment schedule. 
  • Is your product something that requires a big CapEx investment? Explore some leasing options. 

Bringing your buyers into the conversation and creating a collaborative, adaptive buying experience (rather than boring them to tears with a rigid sales script) will help inch them out of their comfort zone and into your deal room.

Ready to learn more? Check out our new, interactive guide: Are You Ready For the Future Of Manufacturing Sales? to learn more about the digital-first future of sales in manufacturing and how your sellers can cut deals in this new virtual world.