Sellers in all industries win fewer than half of the deals they forecast to close, according to CSO Insights’ 2018-19 Sales Performance Report. The report also found that sales leaders consider their sellers to be less effective at the vast majority of common selling activities today than they were five years ago. Even more telling is that only 39% of manufacturing organizations feel as though they have the talent to succeed in the future and just 20% assess why their top performers are successful.

One important reason that sales leaders lose confidence in sellers is that the buying process has changed, and sellers haven’t kept up. To meet the demands of the modern buyer, your sales team needs to do more than simply ask the right questions. Sellers need to add value throughout the entire customer’s path to develop trust and differentiate themselves. As the existing manufacturing sales force retires, more millennials enter a field that looks very different from what their mentors grew. Here’s what they need to know to succeed.

Product-Savvy Does Not Mean Sales-Proficient

Many manufacturers train engineers to become sellers because they possess a high degree of proficiency in the technical knowledge of a product. During sales training, some companies reinforce this emphasis on technical acumen by focusing on the product and not on selling techniques. Once the training is complete, engineers-turned-sellers understand the technical benefits of the product, but may not be able to ask insightful questions while prospecting or know how to identify critical stakeholders throughout a customer’s path to purchase.

To find success in manufacturing sales, training needs to focus on:

  • Maintaining a customer-centric focus
  • Developing a systematic approach to assessing leads and potential deals
  • Building relationships with all the key buying influences

To achieve this level of proficiency, new sellers need training on the sales process and using sales methodology to understand the specific behaviors that increase the likelihood of achieving successful outcomes.

Buyers Have Changed—and So Must Sales Training

Many companies have not fully grasped the impact of the changes to the buying process, which is contributing to the decreased effectiveness of sellers. Some manufacturing companies still rely on older, more experienced sales reps to train new sellers. They teach the techniques that led to their success, focusing on perks and personal relationships, such as golf outings or box seats to sporting events. But buyers want something different now, while building rapport will always play an important role in sales, many buyers want relationships built over more than nine holes. Instead, they seek sellers who provide compelling insights and value-added perspective that buyers can’t find themselves.

To do so, companies must teach consultative selling, which emphasizes uncovering a buyer’s business motivations and needs and learning how to connect with common and hidden buying influences.

It’s Still Who You Know—But You Need to Know More Influences

In the past, manufacturing sellers only needed to connect with purchasing or procurement to find success. Those buying influences focus on price, which is only one facet involved in a complex deal. As the sales process has changed, so has the need to connect with every decision maker—which means more than six people over the course of five months, according to CSO Insights. With this elongated buying process, it becomes more important for sellers to engage with all the buying influences so they can address each of their pain points and sell on total value. Finding those buying influences can vary greatly by industry, and even within categories of an industry.

Why it Matters

As millennials replace retiring members of the workforce, they need to understand how the buying and selling process in manufacturing has changed. To be successful, companies in the manufacturing industry need to adapt their training to meet the challenges of this new buying process. To do this, sales leaders need to:

  • Emphasize sales strategy and process alongside technical acumen
  • Focus on meeting modern buyers’ needs rather than entertaining them
  • Coach sellers on how to sell on value by connecting with every buying influence, not just the traditional ones

Are you ready to help your sales team get past the pervasive challenges that stand in the way of successful selling in the manufacturing industry? Let Miller Heiman Group provide you with a proven roadmap for closing more deals with our Strategic Selling with Perspective training program.

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