Miller Heiman Group, a world leader in improving sales performance through training, consulting, technology and research, reveals in a report that manufacturing organisations must re-train sales teams to provide perspective and value, in addition to technical expertise, if they’re to survive the changing and volatile European landscape. The report includes a survey of 103 manufacturing sales leaders worldwide.
Manufacturing currently accounts for 15 per cent of European GDP, but with €17 billion in funding earmarked for industrial leadership by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 programme, that number will likely jump as more companies incorporate advanced robotics, sensors and other advanced technologies. Given the investments that many countries plan to make, understanding the unique challenges that European manufacturers face will be key to supporting its current and future salesforce.
Top Challenges in Manufacturing Sales Performance
In the 2018-2019 Sales Performance Report, CSO Insights, a division of Miller Heiman Group, surveyed manufacturing sales leaders globally on what they viewed as the factors that needed major redesign or improvement for closing new business and managing existing accounts. It identified the following:
Top 5 Challenges for Closing Business
- Identify and gain access to all decision makers (72.2 per cent)
- Conduct thorough needs analysis (71.2 per cent)
- Build solid business case/ROI for solutions (68.0 per cent)
- Develop and execute opportunity plan (68.0 per cent)
- Provide perspective which helps customers advance thinking (62.0 per cent)
Top 5 Challenges for Managing Existing Accounts
- Penetrate other business units within existing customers (72.2 per cent)
- Generate referrals from existing customers (67.0 per cent)
- Develop and execute account plans (65.7 per cent)
- Create and maintain case studies and references (65.7 per cent)
- Effectively cross-sell and upsell (56 per cent)
The report also identified three main external challenges that are affecting European manufacturers’ ability to sell: Firstly, a globalised manufacturing market means greater sensitivity to geopolitical factors, causing even the most informed seller to be overwhelmed by issues such as Brexit.
Secondly, while not a new problem, without a thorough understanding of a customer’s end goals and priorities, sellers will find it nearly impossible to overcome price competition from lower-cost Asian manufacturers that they’ve battled for decades.
Thirdly, the high-quality standards required for the aerospace and defence sectors make them a natural fit for European manufacturers, however stakeholders are conservative and prioritise safety, meaning contracts take longer to negotiate and finalise.
Richard Hilton, managing director EMEA, Miller Heiman Group, said: “There is no question that European manufacturing is in the midst of a massive change. Businesses are having to navigate challenges surrounding globalisation, labour shortages and rising competition, while also adapting to new technologies and changes in buyer dynamics. While those changes are not insurmountable, a big problem facing European manufacturers is that the company owner or CEO will always invest more in products than in people. It’s long past time to reverse that perspective.
“European manufacturing companies must shift their focus to people, training all external-facing employees in sales, especially those with complex technical expertise. By modernising and transforming industry sellers to meet the evolving expectations of buyers, manufacturers will find themselves with a sales force ready to grow new business and mature existing relationships.”
With all of this change in the manufacturing landscape, the report concludes that European sales teams must re-examine how they approach selling. By understanding how to sell with perspective — how to identify the appropriate stakeholders and show them how to solve business problems unique to them — manufacturing sales teams will win more deals and grow market share.
To find out more, including the five steps manufacturers should take to create a roadmap that will drive change, read the full Miller Heiman Group whitepaper here.