2020 is a new year and a new decade. The old way of hiring people in order to increase sales is over, and the era of using technology and automation to grow is here. Before you add someone new in sales, find out how technology can help you leverage your existing resources. Marketing applications have evolved to a point where they can give you a huge advantage in the marketplace without requiring you to hire new staff or ramp up your spending.
The key here is personalized automation. Let’s break this down – Automation lets technology take care of the repeatable tasks that had been done by people. Personalization means tailoring your message based on what your customer or prospect has done, is interested in, and where they are at in the process. Furthermore, personalizing means initiating follow up from a person, not a marketing email.
Here’s an example – it’s trade show season. Rather than trying to remember to follow up with everyone you met, you can use an app to follow up with a personalized message to individuals you metwithout lifting a finger. You can use your phone to scan their business card, and all the follow up messages are automatically queued up, delivered, and if they open your email or go to your website your sales team will be notified for further engagement. Pretty amazing.
What is the result of doing this? According to an extensive survey done by GetResponse, the biggest benefit is time savings – allowing your team to do more in less time:
How do companies get that benefit? By segmenting and personalizing your message. This survey done by Liana Technologies illustrates this advantage:
Once you have the right message into the hands of the right prospect, automation can also help your salespeople get follow up done. In our experience working with manufacturers and ag companies, it takes at least 3-5 “touches” for a prospect to become a customer. Most companies find that selling something new to an existing customer is less time intensive (maybe 1-3 touches), but getting outreach done is still a challenge. Using automation can ensure that each of your touchpoints happens every time! We believe that the revolution is just now picking up speed in using these tools to help companies. Studies show that the wave has gained steam – well over 60% of companies are already using these tools. Here’s a chart from back in 2015 that shows where things are heading:
If you haven’t implemented the tools listed, now is the time to begin your search. Using automation and digital communication tools for sales and marketing is the only way you can grow substantially without ramping your costs up significantly.
How to Begin
We recommend the following first steps to improving automation in sales/marketing:
Start with the process – If you haven’t done a process map recently, take some time to diagram your current marketing/sales process.
Identify repeatable steps – From trade show follow up to opportunity management, identify areas in your process that are manual and could be candidates for automation.
Look at what’s available – Spend some time to look online at what marketing, CRM, and other tools are available to help improve the process. Talking to your existing providers is a great start as well – your ERP/accounting system vendor may also have suggestions. You can also drop us a line and we’ll assist with helping you through the process.
Identify and automate low-hanging fruit – Find whatever process is costing you the most time and begin automating it. Simple is best – it is often the little things that make a big difference.
Measure & improve – continuous improvement is a key tenant to really getting the most out of your automation investment. Tools and capabilities change, and so will your team.
Are you ready for the impact of the deepening china trade war?
According to experts, we are now at the “pain threshold” for widespread impact:
The next round of tariffs could be the tipping point into crisis, according to a China specialist at Europe’s biggest asset manager.
“This is where the pain threshold is,” Qinwei Wang, a senior economist at Amundi in London, said in reference to the Trump administration’s consideration of 25% duties on the remaining $300-billion or so of Chinese imports not yet affected by tariff hikes. There would be a chain reaction, “and everyone will suffer. A global recession is a real risk,” he said.
Anchalee Worrachate - Bloomberg
How can you prepare?
Manufacturers who proactively engage with their market (customers, prospects, and dealers) effectively have a key advantage: first mover. If you have the right tools and processes to address your market, you have a key sustainable advantage. If you don’t other manufacturers who can properly address customer and reseller concerns will begin to take market share from you.
The enemy of commerce is uncertainty. If your customers are unsure of how you will react to the impact of tariffs, they will go where that certainty exists.
What you can do.
Take control of the message – Use marketing (email is the least expensive) to proactively stay in touch with customers. Even your message is “nothing is changing for us at this time” – that is a positive.
Get in front of customers consistently – Don’t want for customers to ask you, get in front of each of them. Schedule out a special touchpoint for all customers and make sure you salespeople touch each customer at least once in the next month.
Build an ongoing communication plan – By creating ongoing, customized communication with customers you’ll be able to stay ahead of other competitors in the messaging game. We recommend using automation to do this – segment your customers on what product/service they purchase from you and tailoring the message to them.
Flywheel provides both automation and a sales/marketing methodology based on industry best practices to assist manufacturers in effective customer communication and engagment.
We offer a complimentary tool to help you identify sales/marketing processes that you could streamline/automate using process maps. Learn more about this service and book a sessions here.
Are you wasting time and money on sales? In today’s competitive climate, manufacturers need to focus on more than just streamlining production. Getting efficient and productive in sales and marketing is key to optimizing the overall business. In fact, front-office expenses account for more than 40% of the cost of operating the overall business.
That means there’s a lot to be gained by optimizing sales processes.
If you’re interested in optimizing your sales process, watch the webinar below on how another manufacturer gained a six-figure advantage in less than 90 days using “Lean” methodology and automation to achieve results.
Interested in optimizing your sales process?
Consider taking our 15-minute Sales Efficiency Assessment. It will help you identify steps in your process that could be optimized or automated.
Ready to begin?
After the assessment we’ll send you a customized 15-page report on our findings and score you vs. top performers and peers.
Ready to start eliminating waste in sales and marketing? Once you’ve identified high-level business goals to improve efficiency, we recommend doing a Value Stream Map.
What is a Value Stream Map (VSM)? It’s a process mapping tool used by leading manufacturers to understand how you deliver value to the customer. In Sales/Marketing, this applies to how you communicate with customers prior to the order, and during cross/upsell activities. A good Value Stream Map will help you identify specific areas of waste as outlined in the 8 Wastes of Lean Sales & Marketing. Specifically, a VSM will help you improve the following:
Cycle time – how much time it takes a person to complete a task.
Process time – how long it takes to… (deliver a quote, for example)
Duplication – what kinds of work/tasks are being re-done and could therefore be eliminated.
Accuracy – how often a task is completed 100% correctly the first time.
Here’s how a VSM is built:
Before you can eliminate waste, it’s important to clearly understand how your company currently operates. By creating a Current State Map, your team can visualize how processes are actually being performed. It’s a critical point of departure – before improvements can be measured, the current way must be understood fully.
This is the fun part – set your team free to think about how they would like to operate – free of the constraints of the systems/processes you have in place today. It’s important to set a time horizon on the future state – for example, 1 year or 3 years from now. This goal helps drive the improvement plan.
Once you’ve identified your Future State clearly, it’s important to build a management-supported plan to eliminate waste in sales/marketing. We recommend going after the “low-hanging fruit” – processes that are currently wasteful and could be eliminated or automated. Flywheel is a tool that is often used to grab low hanging fruit and automate it – often times right out of the box.
Where should I begin?
If you’d like to do your own value stream map, there are great resources online like this one that can guide you through the process.
For many manufacturers, working with your local MEP (here in South Dakota we recommend Manufacturing Technology Solutions) to build the map with your team. There’s a lot of value in bringing someone in who has experience with the process to help guide your conversation.
Ready to start eliminating waste?
We offer a complimentary Lean Sales & Marketing Consultation to help start the conversation. Click below to schedule a time!
Lean can help eliminate wasteful sales & marketing spending.
Lean Manufacturing is a trusted and widespread methodology for eliminating waste in manufacturing. In fact, nearly 70% of manufacturers use Lean practices. However, if you’re like most manufacturers, Lean concepts get applied to production, but not to sales and marketing. Why is this? It’s tough to apply Lean to customer interactions without good tools and a clear methodology. The good news is things are getting much easier and eliminating waste in sales/marketing is within reach of any manufacturer.
What kind of waste should you look out for? Here’s the list – each area will look familiar – they are the same 8 Wastes of Lean, applied to sales and marketing challenges:
What are the 8 Wastes of Lean Sales & Marketing?
1 – Defects
Any time you interact with a customer with the wrong information, you are creating a defect. Whether that is a proposal with the wrong product in it due to unclear needs assessment or not delivering a message tailored to the person you’re communicating with. Every time communication defects occur, you’re leaving trust, dollars, and a strong relationship behind.
2 – Overproduction
With customer communication, more is not better. If you can collect everything you need to serve a customer well in one short needs assessment meeting and deliver a quote quickly, you’ve done well. Anytime you re-engage the customer to gather more information or clarify needs, you’ve added production time and waste.
Another form of waste here is trying to close a sale before the right information has been confirmed. Customers don’t commit to purchases or agreements unless they have everything they need to make the decision.
3 – Waiting
Effective sales and marketing initiatives operate at-the-ready and deliver information quickly and on committed timelines. Waiting for answers internally from design, production, or inventory kills momentum and slows down deals.
In addition, you should be able to “act as one” with clear lines of communication and customer information storage so you can get answers right away with no waiting.
4 – Non-Utilized Talent
This could also be titled “under-utilized talent”. Sales and marketing folks should be able to focus nearly all of their time on serving customers, not running internal manual processes, digging for information, or creating proposals. Creating simple processes that keep sales and marketing folks in front of customers and out of administrative functions is key to eliminating waste – no one wants to be in sale or marketing to do non-selling activities.
5 – Transportation
Digging through email, remembering to make calls and follow up on tasks, editing word/excel documents, and creating lead follow up spreadsheets can be a thing of the past. Good CRM and marketing software like Flywheel can eliminate transportation overhead and keep you focused on deals.
6 – Inventory
Good Lean processes and systems in Production should make delivery timeline promises solid, inventory on hand reliable, and lead times reasonable.
However, sales and marketing should hold the same standards – quote delivery should be kept to a minimum size queue with clear timelines to give customers quotes. Costs and margins should be transparent to salespeople so they can make good decisions at the time of need on pricing. Lastly, it’s important that good “Control Tower” principles are applied to sales/marketing so folks get answers quickly.
7 – Motion
Help your team become more productive by automating everything you can:
“Automation is cost cutting by tightening the corners and not cutting them.”
Modern software can help you get more done with fewer people. For things, you can’t automate, eliminate as much duplication as you can using Value Stream Mapping. You can reduce cost and improve delivery by speeding up motion – often small adjustments in flow can have a big impact.
8 – Extra Processing
Many sales teams use many different tools to do their job – email, text messages, proposal tools, inventory management software, and many other systems.
The best way to eliminate waste here is to buy systems that connect to each other or connect the systems you have. Sales and marketing should not have to dual-enter information or deal with spreadsheets. Data re-entry cause time loss and errors. In fact, according to Harvard, bad data costs US businesses $3 trillion per year. Ouch. Not only is it a drag to ask your team to enter things twice or more, but it’s also probably costing you a lot of money.
Where to start?
Flywheel offers a complimentary Lean Sales & Marketing Consultation to find out if we can eliminate waste with our sales & marketing platform. Contact us to set up a time – we can cover the high-level overview in 60 minutes with you. Click below to book a time!