Sales - The end to which all businesses aspire, however, the world of sales can be daunting for small businesses, as there is so much to know, and so many different approaches out there. In terms of the manufacturing industry, sales can be a particularly tricky area to research because a lot of the advice available focuses on selling either a specific product or service.
Here, we’ve tried to collate some of the sales advice we’ve found, and apply it to the manufacturing industry, and the idea of selling a capability. The focus of this article is to provide insight into the attitude behind a successful sale, from beginning to end, and how a small manufacturing business might go about achieving this.
Unfortunately it’s not as straightforward as providing a product and receiving remuneration – especially today, as your customers have myriad options. You need to make sure that your sales procedure is as professional and customer-friendly as possible, and bear in mind that the whole process is a learning curve. Be prepared to keep yourself informed on your customer base, and your industry’s market trends.
Just like with marketing, to achieve a successful sale, you need a strategy. Of course, marketing itself comes into this greater sales goal, but you should always have a plan in place as to how your company will go about selling your capability. Below we have detailed a list of the things that you need to consider when pursuing sales, and ways in which you could implement each stage.
1. Rule number one in sales is ‘Know Your Customer’
In our uber-connected internet world, connecting with your customer base on a more personal level is becoming easier and easier. Enter social media. A tool that is both readily available and free, connecting with a social media platform is a great way to get your business’ name out there, and build a dialogue with both prospective and existing customers. Use platforms such as Twitter to build a rapport with both your leads and fellow businesses. You can use the 140-character platform to post interesting info about your work, or to engage with your followers by asking their opinions or linking to interesting articles relevant to your industry.
It is, however, very important to remember that social media is not the place to bombard followers with adverts or sales pitches. Play the long game, and assure your customers that you are informed and responsive; that way they will be more likely to engage with your business on a professional level.
2. Remember: Every customer is different
Whether engaging with individuals or on a business-to-business level, every customer will have slightly different needs. A large part of an individualized sales strategy is definitely based in knowing your customer, but also being prepared to alter your approach depending on their requirements. Rather than compromising your quality and value, work with your customer to find the balance between what you can sell, and what they need. For instance, if the customer has a particular budget, take their concerns on board and show that you are taking into consideration their needs and tailoring your sales package to them specifically.
3. Understand your Value Proposition
Just as important as knowing your customer is knowing your own business value. In order to be able to project your value to others, you need to be clear about what it is yourself. Do some research into your industry area, and make a list of what your company offers that others don’t. Making a note of your philosophy or mission statement and sticking it up on your desk is a good way to make sure you keep your value in mind while you pursue your sales strategy.
4. Branding is essential
It may seem that with all the focus on the customer in sales, it could be easy to compromise your company’s mission statement in order to land a client. It is actually very important to keep your brand in mind whenever you are pursuing a lead. Although you can be flexible with your approach, customers respond to consistency, and they will return if they can be sure of great service time and time again. A customer will buy benefits, but will stay for the continued and sustained features of your service. Ensuring a consistent approach to each individual customer, and being confident in your brand, is essential to this relationship.
5. The customer relationship doesn’t end with the sale
Once you have sold your capability, it is tempting to cease efforts and concentrate on landing more clients. However, it will be incredibly beneficial to both the customer and to your business to follow up on a sale. Contact the client and make sure they’re happy with the service you have provided – you don’t need to be intrusive or spam them with emails and phone calls, but a courtesy call to ensure they are happy with everything will really go a long way.
One of the greatest advantages of building a lasting customer relationship is that, not only will they likely return themselves, but will often pass on recommendations to other prospective customers. This leads to what is termed ‘discovery-based selling’, which just means that customers come to you themselves, rather than you going out and having to actively seek them. As well as allowing you a wider access to clients, a positive customer experience can also create the possibility for upselling. For instance, if a customer is happy with one service you have provided, when they return you can offer a more comprehensive package. If the customer has already had a positive experience with your company, trust is built and they are more likely to invest with you again rather than go elsewhere.
6. Keep learning
As with most areas of business, the sales process is continuously in flux, and new strategies and trends are emerging all the time. Implementing a feedback and review system for your sales strategy will ensure that you’re doing everything you can to keep your processes current, and are taking full advantage of the tools available to you (for example social media) as well as working out what does and doesn’t work within your strategy. Research always helps in setting up an initial process, but a lot of the refining process of sales is in trial and error. Don’t be afraid to try things, but some preliminary research in order to eliminate paths that won’t work for your business is a good idea, especially if you have a limited budget.
These are just some of the things you need to think about when considering how to go about launching or expanding your sales platform. Every business will be different, but these basic principles should help any small business succeed. Stay tuned for more sales tips in further articles.
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