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American manufacturing has changed a lot over its long history — and how industry leaders have embraced and adapted to the continuously evolving landscape has influenced if and how their business has grown. As technology, demographics, and economics continue to shift, manufacturers must be creative and smart to stay competitive and give their customers reason to keep coming back.
Are your sales numbers low, production sluggish, or team members overwhelmed? Maybe you feel that your competitive edge has been lost or softened over the years. There could be many contributing factors to these challenges. For one, your expectations could be unrealistic. Or perhaps your processes have broken down. Maybe you don't have enough employees to offer the level of customer service buyers have come to expect. Perhaps your team's operations are cumbersome, confusing, or overlapping. Maybe you need to redefine yourself so that your business isn't overlooked in the market.
Here's a look at six areas to consider to help you unstick your sales numbers, boost your production, and empower your people, making your business more efficient, productive, and competitive.
As a business owner, one of your most important tasks is workforce management. It's your job to make sure you have the right people in the right roles to keep your company and operations running smoothly. Sometimes business challenges can be overcome by rearranging your employees so that they're in positions that play to their strengths. Sometimes it means hiring a new employee with a fresh set of eyes. With the right team in place, it's easier to identify inefficient processes, internal shortcomings, and growth opportunities. If you're looking for a way to shake things up and unstick stuck or stale processes, hiring a new employee with keen insights and innovative ideas might be the right move for your manufacturing business.
Staff training is an essential part of talent development efforts, and it seems many companies are aware of its importance in moving business forward. This can extend to your floor employees, managers, office staff, and sales team. For instance, your floor employees may benefit from equipment training or a health & safety workshop. Your managers could improve their leadership by learning decision-making skills or effective communication styles.
And don't forget about your sales team. In 2019, ATD Research surveyed 200 professionals and found that company’s spent an average of $2,326 (median = $1,000) per salesperson on sales training annually. Investing in your sales team will empower them. It will also help to improve the sales process, leading to greater efficiency and effectiveness, contributing to company growth.
Having a strong sales team with emotional intelligence, a strong work ethic, excellent relationship building skills, and the right tools (hardware, software, apps, integrations, etc.) will set them — and the company — up for success.
There are many processes and procedures that your business follows every day. Some work well while others have proven to be less efficient than they once were, contributing to challenges, production slumps, and more. Which of your processes or procedures could use some tweaking?
Regarding sales, surprising as it may seem, many teams don’t have a defined sales plan or a clear sales process. Within businesses each sales rep handles their customers in a way that works for them. What if everyone followed the same sales playbook and worked toward the same goals using the same database? A united effort could drastically improve results.
Formulating a sales process can feel tedious and overwhelming. However, taking the time to create one puts you ahead of 50% of your competition. Developing a sales process can be done in three general stages: 1) outline and define the steps that should be taken from the point of contact through the close of the sale, and 2) review and critique these steps with the entire team to get buy-in and validation, then 3) set up training sessions to ensure each sales rep is on the same page, working from the same playbook. Evaluating and overhauling a process like this can provide your sales team with clarity that will help to streamline work and close more sales.
While investing in your people and creating efficient processes can take your business miles beyond the competition, there’s more that can be done. The world of technology is ever-growing, and with it comes opportunities for your business to get ahead. Just as you’ve automated your assembly and packaging lines, so can you automate recurring tasks, reminders, and emails. And as equipment has upgrades that lead to incredible production improvements, so do software and computers. Read further to see how technology can put you at the forefront of your niche, setting you apart from the competition.
Automation empowers businesses to optimize internal resources, capitalize on opportunities, and scale while ensuring consistency in prospect and customer experience. The benefits of automated operations are higher productivity, reliability, availability, increased performance, and reduced operating costs.
Studies have shown that businesses that don’t use automation spend 71% of their time and resources doing repetitive tasks. By automating time-consuming and recurring efforts, you can free up your employees to focus on more important activities, particularly those that are high-touch, high-value.
For instance, automation can help the sales team nurture new leads (e.g., setting up a touchless MQL email sequence) to focus more attention on SQLs who are ready to buy. Once a sales team has a defined sales process, it’s easier to identify which steps or pieces of the sales process can be automated.
With many sales software options on the market, there’s no reason why your team can’t have access to time-saving automation tools, many of which are included in marketing and/or CRM (customer relationship management) software. Sales automation tools can provide your team with set-and-go templates, workflows, real-time data, and more that allows them to quickly take action, closing as many sales as possible, maximizing efforts, and making work efficient and profitable.
To manage account and operation teams, some manufacturers use spreadsheets and paper notes. While spreadsheets and physical file keeping can work great for a while, there comes a time when they create problems instead of solving them. For instance, as the number of spreadsheets and files grows, there's more opportunity for entry mistakes, outdated versions, and misplacement. On top of that, they're not designed for collaborative work and can become increasingly hard to consolidate and store.
Other manufacturers have chosen to use software like a CRM, ERP (enterprise resource planning), MES (manufacturing execution systems), or QMS (quality management systems) to manage account and operation teams. These provide a way for team members to align efforts and offer a primary platform for collaboration and real-time information.
Yet others have chosen to use a stacked system. For example, some pair a CRM for sales and customer service with an ERP for monitoring internal costs and maintaining inventory.
There are many options, and there's no right or wrong way to it, but there could be a better way.
A step up from spreadsheets would be CRM software. Data organized and presented by a CRM platform keeps account and operation teams on the same page. When those teams can seamlessly share data and collaborate, it's easier to accurately drive predictable business performance, meet commitments, and improve customer satisfaction.
If you think CRM software would benefit your business, consider one that can grow along with you, and integrate with an ERP, should you decide to use one down the road. For example, HubSpot offers a robust and adaptable CRM with ERP integration capabilities. HubSpot also gives you the ability to grow as it also provides sales, marketing, website, ecommerce, and custom reporting. Oh, and HubSpot is known for its superior marketing and sales automation capability. This impressive combo gives your team what they need to do their job well, gives you the closed-loop reporting you crave, and provides a seamless and superior customer experience.
You might be asking yourself, “I already have a website. Do I really need an ecommerce site, too?” Or “Do ecommerce sites actually generate sales for manufacturing companies?” In short, the answer to both of these questions is YES.
Selling through an online store benefits a multitude of business sectors — industrial manufacturing is no exception. Undeniably, the number of manufacturers using ecommerce sites has grown over the last few years. A push for more convenience, efficiency, customer satisfaction, and cost savings has created this growing demand. Manufacturers who aren’t investing in ecommerce may not be positioning themselves competitively.
Because manufacturing ecommerce sites are optimized for B2B buyers who are shopping online, it opens the door of opportunity for sales that may have been lost otherwise. They give ready-to-buy customers a way to purchase immediately, allowing the sales team to focus on high-touch, high-value work like personal check-ins and critical conversations. Ecommerce websites also give repeat buyers a quick way to purchase replacement parts, stock items, and accessories. And don’t overlook the potential to reach untapped markets.
A good manufacturing ecommerce website like HubSpot can easily integrate with ERP and CRM systems. With new advancements in ecommerce, price lists, catalogs, RFQs, and IFBs can be easily managed, and PO processing, net payment terms, and credit applications are all absolutely possible.
An ecommerce site may be what you need to gain your edge on the competition, empower your team, and grow your business.
After considering these six areas that could help you increase sales numbers, improve production and processes, empower your employees, and gain back your competitive edge, where is the right place for you to start? How can you best set up your company and employees for success?
If you need help deciding where to begin, we can help. We specialize in positioning manufacturing companies as leaders in the industry and work to connect with and engage ideal buyers. From creating ways to stand out from the crowded market to generating more high-quality leads, the TANK New Media team can help you grow your manufacturing company by connecting your brand with the right audience through better processes and technology. To learn more, visit our website.