SyncShow B2B Marketing Blog

Manufacturing Sales: Then and Now

The manufacturing industry in the United States has undergone tremendous change in the last few decades. While automation has been around since the 1950s, it has gained momentum over the past decade, fueled by innovations in robotics and technology. While some experts are concerned about automation eliminating jobs, the opposite has been true in many work environments. These innovations have uncovered a need for highly-trained specialists to maintain and manage the robots, sensors, and software of the new manufacturing company. Yet many manufacturers still can't find enough workers to cover the traditional jobs in plants and factories.

New technology is boosting productivity, product quality, and new product innovation in many manufacturing fields, producing higher returns on capital. In addition, cost-cutting has slowed capital investment, salaries have been frozen, and suppliers’ profit margins are razor thin.

These trends have increased competition in industrial sectors. The key to surmounting these challenges lies in the success of a manufacturer's sales team. This team will be instrumental in forging lasting relationships and articulating a company's value proposition in a manner that conveys the genuine worth of its products.

The function of sales for manufacturers is also changing with the times. The traditional ways are not as effective as they once were. The new sales model involves using technology and data-driven strategies instead of manual note-taking and handshakes over dinner. In this blog, we will discuss how the manufacturing sales model has changed. We will also explore how smart business leaders use technology to succeed in the competitive business world.

Quick Tips:

  • Embrace Automation: In the evolving manufacturing industry, automation is a key driver of efficiency and productivity. Invest in robotics and technology to stay competitive.
  • Prioritize Workforce Training: With advanced technology, highly-trained specialists are in demand to maintain and manage automation systems. Focus on upskilling your workforce to bridge the skills gap.
  • Modernize Sales Strategies: Adapt your sales team to the changing times. Shift from traditional approaches to data-driven, technology-based strategies to convey the value of your products effectively in a competitive market.

The Traditional Manufacturing Sales Model

In the past, manufacturing companies hired third-party sales reps as subcontractors. These sales reps worked independently, spending time on the road visiting clients in person and developing personal relationships that lasted decades. Each salesperson was responsible for the entire sales process, from prospecting to closing deals. They handled a wide range of products or services.

Sales reps relied on spreadsheets, handwritten notes, and paper-based records to manage customer information. This made it difficult to maintain accurate and up-to-date customer data. They spent significant time on administrative tasks like data entry, managing contacts, and tracking interactions instead of actual selling.

Because there was little to no centralized reporting, sales leaders had limited insight into customer behavior, interactions, and buying history. Understanding customer needs and preferences was challenging. Qualifying, nurturing, and prioritizing leads was manual and often inconsistent. Each sales rep had preferred methods for finding the best leads and building successful relationships. This often led to inefficiencies and lost opportunities. The sales process was slow and cumbersome because it required multiple meetings, extensive travel, manual paperwork, and delays in processing orders.

The most damaging part of the traditional sales process was the loss of momentum and competitive advantage when a sales rep left a company. Because they were subcontractors, each person owned their book of business. When they left the company, they took it with them. The company had no visibility into who they were talking to, what they were working on, how many leads were in the pipeline, etc. The repercussions were catastrophic for smaller companies or companies with small sales teams. Some manufacturers still employ sales reps as subcontractors, but they are a dying breed. Most sales professionals today want to be paid a salary and benefits to do their job.

Manufacturing sales in the past involved manual, labor-intensive processes, a significant amount of face-to-face interactions, and limited technological support. Modern technology has changed much of that, but some companies have not embraced it for their sales functions. Yet, those that have are building a completely different sales model.

Quick Tips:

  • Embrace Modern Sales Tools: To streamline your manufacturing company's sales process, adopt modern sales tools and customer relationship management (CRM) systems. They will help you maintain accurate customer data and improve efficiency.
  • Centralize Reporting and Analytics: Implement a centralized reporting system to gain valuable insights into customer behavior, interactions, and buying history. This will enable better lead qualification, nurturing, and prioritization.
  • Transition to Full-Time Sales Teams: Consider transitioning from subcontracted sales reps to full-time sales teams with salary and benefits. This change can prevent a loss of momentum and competitive advantage when a sales rep leaves as well as offering better control over your sales process.

Today’s Sales Model

Manufacturing sales have been greatly influenced by the digital transformation. Technology has revolutionized sales by automating tasks, centralizing data, improving communication, and streamlining sales operations, leading to more efficient and data-driven sales strategies. 

Today's sales teams are full-time employees who are fully immersed in the brand and able to articulate the brand's value proposition, mission, values, and purpose. They are committed to building a book of business that nets profits for their employers. They use technology and tools like a customer relationship management (CRM) system to access centralized customer data, providing a single truth source for customer information, interactions, and transactions. This ensures data accuracy, consistency, and retention. 

Sales reps record all client touchpoints in the CRM so that everyone in the department has a comprehensive view of each customer, including their buying history, communication history, and preferences. This enables sales teams to collaborate and support each other in their efforts. It also provides critical customer data for future decision-making. 

Customer data and analytics are crucial in understanding customer behaviors, market trends, and sales performance. Sales teams use data to make informed decisions, personalize sales pitches, and optimize pricing strategies. Software and tools provide detailed sales analytics and reporting. They can track key performance metrics, monitor the sales pipeline, and make data-driven decisions to improve sales strategies.

Sales teams also adopt omnichannel sales strategies, allowing customers to engage through multiple touchpoints, including websites, mobile apps, social media, and email. No longer are sales reps reliant on in-person meetings to get a deal done. Using video conferencing, virtual product tours, and online presentations is now standard practice. 

Artificial intelligence is used for predictive analytics, sales forecasting, and chatbots that provide real-time support. In some manufacturing sectors, virtual and artificial reality provide customers with immersive product demonstrations and training.

Automation also streamlines repetitive tasks and enhances sales team productivity. For example, CRM systems automate time-consuming tasks like data entry, lead scoring, and follow-up reminders. This frees up sales professionals to focus on building relationships and closing deals.

The manufacturing sales model of today is characterized by digitalization, data-driven insights, and a strong brand-focused and customer-centric approach. The role of the salesperson has evolved to be more consultative and relationship-focused, working with digital technology to meet the diverse needs of clients in a rapidly changing environment. Those tools will be a critical driver of success. 

Quick Tips: 

  • Embrace Technology and CRM: Utilize a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system to centralize customer data, improve communication, and ensure data accuracy for more efficient and data-driven sales strategies.
  • Leverage Customer Data and Analytics: Use customer data and analytics to personalize sales pitches, optimize pricing strategies, and make informed decisions to improve sales performance.
  • Adopt Omnichannel Sales and Automation: Embrace omnichannel sales strategies to engage with customers through various touchpoints and leverage automation to streamline tasks, allowing sales teams to focus on building relationships and closing deals effectively.

Sales Automation as a Critical Driver of Sales Success

A CRM like HubSpot can be a game changer for a manufacturing sales department. Some users report that the sales automation tools within HubSpot increased their revenues by 37% within the first year. Companies that consistently use HubSpot daily see an average of 4.1 times more leads generated per month than those that do not.

There are tools and templates within HubSpot that sales teams can use to streamline and automate their workflows. Some of our favorite HubSpot automation recommendations are listed in this recent blog.

Sales Enablement as a Critical Driver of Sales Success

HubSpot is also a powerful sales enablement tool. Sales enablement equips sales professionals with the right resources, knowledge, and support to engage with potential customers, close deals, and achieve sales targets. Here are some key components of sales enablement through HubSpot:

  • Sales knowledge base
  • Lead generation and qualification
  • Sales playbooks with best practices, objection handling, and guidance for common sales scenarios.
  • Personalized sales coaching and feedback
  • Sales performance metrics
  • Alignment with marketing functions

Sales enablement is crucial for manufacturers to improve their sales processes, boost revenue, and enhance the customer experience. It ensures that sales teams are well-equipped to engage with prospects and leads, provide value, and close deals more effectively. HubSpot's all-in-one platform provides a comprehensive solution for sales teams, from lead management and prospecting to sales tracking and analytics. 

In the new world of manufacturing sales, the transition from remote sales subcontractors to in-house data-driven sales teams marks a significant paradigm shift. As manufacturers continue to harness the power of technology, equipping their sales teams with the tools they need to thrive in this competitive environment is essential. This transformation not only enhances efficiency but also empowers sales professionals to be more strategic and responsive to evolving customer needs. By embracing these changes, the manufacturing industry is not just keeping pace with the digital age but will shape its future, driving innovation and delivering superior value to customers. We're only beginning to witness the vast potential this transformative shift will have on the manufacturing industry.

If you are interested in learning how HubSpot can be a game changer for your sales team, please reach out to us today. 

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