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Common Sales Issues in Manufacturing Part 2: Management

In our last post, we discussed how the sales cycle has evolved and what manufacturing companies can do to adapt. It’s time to review some observations we’ve made after working with various manufacturing companies and their company wide sales process. We will focus on Team Management and interdepartmental interaction in this segment.

Sales Team management

When managing any team of people, including those involved in sales, it’s necessary to set standards for performance and objectives for the role. In sales, this usually includes sales quotas, prospecting standards, achieving or surpassing closing ratios and general standards for doing the work. We’ve previously mentioned how important it is to properly understand your team members so you can optimize their performance. This includes knowing their skill set and motivation.

Managers that rely on negative pressure to motivate reps and measure staff solely against target achievement often hurt sales more than help. This style creates a sales environment with high turn over, discourages information sharing and sets the ground work for a negative customer experience as the high pressure ultimately flows down to them.

The flip side is also true. Without a system of measurement and goal setting, it’s easy for teams to become complacent or lose their way. The customer experience may also be negatively impacted in this scenario due to a perceived lack of will to win or keep them as clients.

How well does your organization factor in what personally motivates your employees into effective compensation plans? Does your management team apply unrelenting pressure on the staff? Does your company spend time to understand your employee’s strengths and align job roles to those strengths?

If you find that your teams struggle with performance issues or staff turn over, look to how you manage, motivate and communicate with your staff first.

Managing Interdepartmental Challenges

Manufacturing companies especially rely upon all departments to work together to complete the sales cycle. If there is infighting between departments, a broken process or a lack of working toward the same goals, company sales will suffer. Adding more people to the sales department when these problems exist will do little to improve the businesses revenue situation.

Everyone in the company is part of the sales process in one way or another. If you are unconvinced of this, try shutting down one of your departments for a month or two and observe the impact to your sales numbers and customer experience. Ex. Can sales exist without the production staff to fulfill orders?

Any bottleneck, communication challenge or inconsistency in terms of company objectives in any department will impact sales. So when sales are down, avoid the temptation of just throwing more people into the sales department or hiking up the pressure on your reps.

How do you know if you may have interdepartmental challenges that impact sales? Here are some signs:

  • Negative attitudes toward the sales team in other departments (and vice versa).
  • Teams being caught by surprise when a larger order is placed.
  • Persistent shortages of parts or inventory necessary to fulfill incoming orders.
  • Disagreements between marketing teams and sales teams over lead quality or conversion.
  • Unhappy customers upon receipt or installation of their orders.
  • Sales people that have to sell to internal staff more than their customers.
  • Plateau in company revenues despite ample marketplace need.

There are many other signs too. The point of this article is to always look for the cause to sales challenges rather than to quick fix the symptoms. It is your best path to long term sustainable growth.

Want more insight? Reach out to us to get started.