In the past, manufacturing sellers could succeed by working with one or two decision-makers, developing friendships with handshake deals were agreed upon at the ballgame, on the golf course or during extravagant dinners. All this has changed. Now according to CSO Insights’ 2018 Buyer Preferences Study, sellers face an average of 6.4 buying influences per deal, spread across many roles in different departments and each with unique interests and pain points. To succeed in modern manufacturing sales, sellers must identify each of these buying influences and tailor their messaging to address their specific needs and wants.
Yet many manufacturers struggle to coach their sellers on how to identify these buying influences. In fact, 72% of manufacturing sales leaders say their greatest challenge in winning new business is identifying and gaining access to decision-makers, according to CSO Insights’ 2018-2019 Sales Performance Study. This statistic is reflected in sellers’ performance, as the World-Class Sales Practices Report revealed only 56.9% of sellers attained quota in the past year.
To improve the performance of your sellers, you must train them on common buying influences they’re likely to encounter, then provide ongoing coaching to help them identify these influences in every deal and tailor their messaging to address the unique pain points of each.
Four Key Buying Influences in Manufacturing Sales
Sellers encounter different buying influences in every industry and company. For instance, some manufacturers have a commercial director, others rely on IT to see if they can leverage technology to offer additional services and, depending on your product, others may integrate marketing into the purchase decision. However, four common buying influences in manufacturing include:
- Procurement: Also called Purchasing in some organizations, these buying influences are primarily concerned with price. To address these concerns, your sellers can focus on how your reliable supply chain and superior product quality reduces downtime and total cost of ownership.
- Finance: Similar to procurement, buying influences in finance are concerned with price, but also about how your product impacts the company’s financial performance either by increased revenue potential or cost savings. Consequently, your sellers can focus on value propositions, such as potential preventative maintenance contracts other customers have implemented to generate additional revenue.
- Bid Manager: Complex manufacturing sales are typically conducted through RFPs and bids. The bid manager is concerned with timelines and efficiency. Your sellers should address how your reliable supply chain always meets customer deadlines and how your superior product quality helps end-users perform better.
- Technical End User: As the buying influence using your product, they are concerned about safety and efficiency, as well as meeting tight deadlines. Your sellers must stress product reliability, on-time delivery and ease-of-use. Additionally, sellers can describe the beneficial impact of changing government regulations. For instance, sellers can discuss how increased safety regulations have improved product quality, reducing the likelihood of your solution malfunctioning.
As the sales leader, you must coach sellers on how to identify each of these stakeholders and other buying influences unique to that particular industry or company.
How to Coach Sellers to Identify Key Buying Influences
Because there is an average of 6.4 buying influences per deal, sellers must identify all the right stakeholders by remaining proactive and asking the right questions, such as:
- Who is the champion behind the purchase decision?
- Who has to sign off on the deal?
- Who holds the power to veto the deal?
- Who is most impacted by the deal?
- What roadblocks should we expect?
While identifying all the buying influences, your sellers need to focus on developing relationships to leverage a coach, or someone inside the buying company actively trying to help your seller win the deal. A coach can help your seller identify the other buying influences, reveal the executive’s decision-making style and provide insights about company politics. For example, they can share if one of the buying influences is in the running for a promotion but has faced continuous challenges with another supplier’s unreliable supply chain. Your seller can leverage this information to tailor their messaging around your reliable supply chain and how it has helped your customers.
If the prospect is already a customer, coach your sellers to discuss specific details with customer success managers and the service department, such as new strategic initiatives or aging equipment due for an upgrade. Sellers should also ask about executives who regularly check in on the progress to see if there are any hidden stakeholders they haven’t identified. Customer service often has 10X the amount of customer interaction as sales, which means they are an important resource for sellers to leverage when engaging with existing customers.
Provide Value to Each Buying Influence
Once a seller identifies all the buying influences, their goal is to discover their specific pain points and tailor their messaging to address these needs. To provide unique perspective, sellers must go beyond the sales environment to understand the customer’s business, including external factors impacting their organizations. Coach them on how to include experts or SMEs to discuss these external factors, such as government regulations, tariffs, changes in currency valuations, political unrest— along with how they impact costs, supply chain efficiency and regulatory compliance. Sellers should include the service department during the sales process to share insights about the post-sale relationship, and what to expect.
Next, sellers must discover the decision-making style of each buying influence so they can tailor their messaging to align with how each communicates, negotiates and makes decisions. Knowing this will allow sellers to have a better idea of how to present their solution to each style.. Often, the messaging remains similar and can address the differentiating factors of your solution, including best-in-class customer service, increased supply chain efficiency and reduced maintenance costs because of superior product quality. To discover the decision-making style of each influence, sellers can work with their coach to reveal how each has made recent decisions.
As a sales leader, you must train your sellers on the most common buying influences, how to identify them and how to provide perspective to each. Doing so allows your sellers to tailor their messaging to address the specific challenges of each and provide information on how your solution can help the company achieve their long-term objectives.
If your sellers struggle to identify all the buying influences, discover our Strategic Selling with Perspective training. The methodology teaches sellers how to simplify complex sales to create a consistent and repeatable sales approach.