Every company, from blue-collar manufacturing and industry to white-collar high tech, has struggled when it comes to successfully navigating the sales cycle of a new potential contract. We often hear complaints about the length of time it takes to close deals. Particularly in manufacturing, where the sales cycles can be both long and cumbersome.
So what are some of the best sales and marketing strategies for manufacturing that will help cut down the sales cycle?
Ask yourself why are the sales cycles so long? First, high value products naturally take longer to close. Big deals take time. Too, we’re often competing to take over long-term existing contracts, so you must wait for contract expiration to be close before new vendors are even solicited to bid. You can wait years for these dates to come around.
Also, the bigger the deal, the more parties are involved in the process. After you’ve run the marathon, and jumped all the hurdles, then the contract goes to legal. It’s enough to drive a sales person mad.
So what’s the ultimate strategy for manufacturing businesses to cut long sales cycles? We have three tips:
#1:Take a lesson from Star Wars:
As Obi-Wan Kenobi said to Anakin Skywalker, “Patience. Use The Force. Think.” These three phrases will guide you to:
- Figure out ways to improve targeting.
So often we waste time prospecting clients who will, in reality, never buy from us. Look at who buys from you now. Then develop a list of key characteristics of the types of buyers that say, "Yes.". Finally, look at your prospecting list and do some research to confirm that you're going after the right targets.
- Practice speedier prospecting
While we're not recommending you are too scripted, we do recommend that you take the time to hone down the sales process, from first email conversations to initial gatekeeper conversations, so you can get to the point faster. If you're spending less time re-inventing your approach for each client, you'll have more time to go after more prospects. Sales is, in part, a numbers game, so if you can increase your activity through efficiency, you will have a better result.
- Set better ticklers in your CRM to track contract renewals
This is incredibly important! Sometimes you win the deal just by being more organised than the other guy. (True fact!)
- Even simplify your contracts
If your sales cycle is long enough, can you shorten any part of your own internal process to speed things up?
#2: Use content marketing to build industry credibility:
Manufacturing companies can use blogs to market helpful tips to prospects as a way to reach them earlier in the buying cycle. Blogs help prospects recognise a problem and find solutions in your business.
Think of every blog post as a new opportunity for new prospects who are actively searching for solutions online to find you. Keyword optimised blog posts will feature high in organic search, and distributing your content through relevant channels such as forums, social media and industry publications will help boost the reach of your content.
#3: Nurture every prospect in your sales pipeline:
Keep the sales pipeline so full there’s always something ready to close. If your team is constantly hunting, you’ll be less affected by the long sales cycle. You can use marketing automation to constantly stay in front of prospects and keep that pipeline warm.
Develop relevant content in the form of blog posts, content offers and emails to use as a lead-nurturing tool and distribute this to targeted segments of your pipeline through marketing automation.
Types of content will vary depending on your audience and the stage they're at in the buying cycle, however, focus on content that speeds up the sales process, counters objections before they’re even voiced, and gives the prospect everything they need to support them in making their decision.
Nurturing content builds trust and keeps your business in front of prospects so that when they’re ready, they’ll call.
While there are some things you just cannot control, these sales and marketing strategies for manufacturing are great ways to control what you can. Potentially these tips could shorten the long sales cycles we struggle with in the manufacturing industry. Now go forth, and sell.
May the force – and the sales – be with you, and in the meantime, here's a handy eBook to help you on your way: