At its core, B2B sales enablement means giving your manufacturing sales team the resources, training, content, and tools they need to succeed. Sales enablement aligns the marketing and sales teams and ensures that a cohesive, persuasive message is presented to industrial buyers as they move through the funnel.
Sales enablement is quickly becoming standard practice across industries: Companies with a sales enablement person, program or function increased from 55 percent in 2019 to 74 percent in 2021, according to the State of Sales Enablement Report. With digital technology and Industry 4.0 changing the face of manufacturing, sales enablement becomes more critical each year. Here are five specific reasons why manufacturing sales teams need to adopt a sales enablement program:
1. The manufacturing sales process has changed.
Meeting customer expectations — let alone exceeding them — is more challenging today than ever in manufacturing sales. Rather than waiting for salespeople to come to them, or reaching out for a quote, industrial buyers begin the process by conducting significant amounts of research on their own. Opportunities to engage with them before they make a decision are limited. When they do have contact with salespeople, buyers expect to have their questions answered, and quickly.
Buyers also expect personalization throughout the manufacturing sales process, whether it’s a targeted introductory email or a sales presentation that’s been tailored to their company’s needs. While personalization was once a differentiator, it’s now part of the standard marketing and sales toolkit in many industries, including industrial ones.
Your manufacturing sales team has one major job: to bring in new clients and retain existing ones, and they can’t do it without the right support. You wouldn’t expect someone to catch a fish without bait and hook; not giving the sales team the resources and training they need is no different. When the tools that sales needs don’t exist, or they’re impossible to find, it leaves the team to their own devices, cobbling together presentation decks and handouts on airplanes or in coffee shops. Seventy percent of B2B salespeople say their company’s sales process has gotten more challenging over the past 12–18 months. A sales enablement program should help clarify what your salespeople need and ensure they have it.
B2B sales enablement gives your sales team the planning, technology, and content they need to reach industrial buyers and close the deal. Because the manufacturing sales team is part of the process from the beginning, they can align with marketing and other stakeholders to create the right resources for the right channels — and in turn, deliver the materials to buyers at the right time.
3. Sales and marketing are more effective when they work together.
Manufacturing sales and marketing departments often operate in silos, waiting to pass the baton to each other as customers move down the sales funnel. However, this binary approach keeps both teams from unlocking each others’ true potential when it comes to generating brand awareness and clinching the deal. In fact, failing to align sales and marketing teams around the best practices for technologies or processes results in the loss of at least 10% of possible revenues for B2B companies.
Your customer personas will be much more powerful if they’re based on actual data from the sales team instead of created in a vacuum without real-world input. Likewise, if the manufacturing sales team uses an official whitepaper polished by the marketing team — instead of copy-pasting a few numbers into an email — it will be much easier to show the buyer that your sales team understands their specific challenges and can help them find a solution.
4. Both marketing and sales should be held accountable.
Part of the initial planning stage of a successful manufacturing sales enablement process involves determining key performance indicators (KPIs) for all steps of the sales cycle. Common KPIs include the number of marketing qualified leads and organic search traffic to your website. This goal-oriented approach makes sure that both marketing and sales are a) pursuing the same objectives, and b) both are held accountable for their performance, which creates a feedback loop connecting the two departments.
This goal-oriented approach also supports data analytics and allows teams to track different variables across the sales cycle. By collecting and analyzing this data, companies can base their sales enablement decisions on the numbers instead of guesswork. By following the facts and not gut feelings, your sales process will become more effective as you replicate what works and stop what doesn’t.
5. Your entire company needs to buy into the sales process to achieve success.
Manufacturing sales enablement is a strategic initiative that requires commitment across the entire organization, not just marketing and sales. For it to succeed, you need to “sell” the idea internally at your company and institute mechanisms for tracking progress toward your goals, both of which require cross-functional collaboration.
While marketing and sales will naturally take a larger role in the process, sales enablement gets everyone on board and promotes cohesion across the company, from HR to IT. Rather than feeling like sales is a distraction from their jobs, industrial sales enablement helps everyone to recognize their role in delivering a quality product or service and growing the company.
A Sales Enablement Program Positions Manufacturing Sales for Success
Instituting a sales enablement program does require an upfront investment, but it pays off in the long run with more efficient and effective sales, not to mention more satisfied customers. Without sales enablement, manufacturers will fall further and further behind as digital technology and Industry 4.0 continue to advance. If you’re ready to start or improve your manufacturing sales enablement program, visit our web page devoted to B2B sales enablement to find out everything you need to know.
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