Manufacturing sales leaders need insight into your organization’s sales funnel in order to accurately manage the pipeline. A strong funnel management plan is one that uses your pipeline to guide decisions about your daily sales activities, strategies and selling time spent in order to achieve both short-term and long-term goals. Effective funnel management ensures that manufacturing seller’s prospects continue moving through the funnel and are managed at every stage. It’s also something that the industry struggles to do effectively, as only 30% of North American manufacturing sales leaders said they did well in the 2019 World-Class Sales Practices Study from CSO Insights.
Managing your sales funnel effectively can be a make-or-break moment for meeting your sales quota and closing deals. Spend the time now to ensure your manufacturing sellers are trained and prepared to manage your funnel so it remains healthy.
These five strategies help you manage your pipeline to move prospects down your manufacturing funnel and win more business.
1.Understand Your Buyers’ Business Drivers
The most successful manufacturing sellers know their buyer’s current and long-term priorities. Familiarize yourself with factors affecting your buyers including economic pressures, marketplace demands and rising costs and develop open communication around new project plans, lead times and how that affects costs. Buyers wait longer than ever to engage salespeople to help solve business problems, and so manufacturing sellers must be prepared to provide informed answers to problems their clients experience.
2. Monitor Your Estimated Close Percentages
Effectively managing your sales funnel means accurately scoring win probabilities at the bottom of your funnel. As part of our Sales Funnel Coaching, we recommend examining the top two deals of each salesperson projected to close in the next 30 to 90 days during your monthly or bi-monthly meetings. During these meetings ask questions such as:
- Have all the buying influences been identified?
- What are some challenges that may arise?
- Have all opportunities been scored accurately?
- Does the projected close date need to be re-evaluated?
Doing so allows you to accurately score every opportunity and ensure the right steps are being taken.
3. Sync Your Sales Funnel with Your Production Schedule
Your sales funnel should be aligned with your production cycle. This verifies that sales communications and close dates align to deadlines for ordering raw materials or other milestones that affect your production department. Misalignment on this could result in delivery issues or production delays, which reduce your credibility and impacts the likeliness of renewals and upsells.
4. Define Your Close Date
It’s critical that your organization has a clear definition of the close date—as it’s important for accurate pipeline forecasting. A close date is any of the following:
- A signed agreement or contract
- When you expect your customer to sign a contract
- When you expect your customer to verbally close the deal
- When you want to close the opportunity
Close dates are often a judgement call based on seller and buyer interactions, and likely will move during the deal cycle.
With a clearly defined close date, you reduce the risk of postponing an opportunity because your sellers lack clarity on the definition of the close date and the downstream impact. For example, a delay in the close date also affects other departments, including production ordering raw materials and product delivery, as well as legal, with potential contract changes.
5. Focus on the Right Buying Influences
Only 32% of manufacturers have a formal process to effectively gain access to and engage key decision makers, expanding from traditional influences like procurement to operations managers and executives. These end users focus on the value that your product brings to their processes. They want to understand your solution’s long-term plan for growth and what that means for on-time delivery and ease-of-use.
Additionally, the executives inside your customer’s organization possess greater knowledge about timelines, future projects and how they fit into the company’s long-term strategy. For access to these insights, your sellers need to work with the executives at their buyer’s organization.
Having a better idea of the timeline allows for a complete picture so that manufacturing sellers can better understand when certain actions (close date, product order date and production start date) need to take place. With a clear definition of the customer’s path, your sellers can address how your product fits into your customer’s long-term strategy.
Get Your Sales Funnel Strategy in Place Now
The right funnel management strategy ensures sellers know how to engage with buyers at every stage. Manufacturing sellers must understand their buyer’s pain points and what their short-term and long-term goals are, and be able to speak to multiple buying influences in the organization. Doing so creates a bigger picture and better understanding of the sales cycle from start to finish.
Learn more about how our Sales Funnel Coaching can help your sellers improve seller efficiency and boost your sales team’s confidence.