Sales and marketing activities for most manufacturers have typically been separate and not very integrated in terms of generating results. As a matter of fact, many manufacturers I’ve worked with during the last 25 years don’t really have a defined sales or marketing process. In the past, many companies have depended on reps or relied on a few large customers for the bulk of their revenue and never had to worry much about sales or marketing beyond maintaining their relationships with their biggest customers. Any additional sales they found was just gravy.
This situation has changed dramatically for virtually any manufacturer in the US during the last five years, and has particularly accelerated during the last year as the global economy has dramatically declined. What are your options to improve your current situation and be poised for growth when the economy turns around?
Your first priority is to take an objective look at the way you manage both sales and marketing. One excellent way of looking at both is to consider the Pipeline and the Funnel and determine how you can improve the process to find customers, determine opportunities and book orders.
The Pipeline is an old sales management term that most people are somewhat familiar with. But what is the Pipeline really and why is it important?
The Sales Pipeline is typically broken into three parts:
- Stage One: Business that will book in 4 – 18 months
- Stage Two: Business that will book in 1 – 3 months
- Stage Three: Business that will book in the next month
These three stages are also separated in the steps that it typically takes a sales person to develop an account from the beginning through repeat sales and account maintenance. Look at these steps in the following order:
- Identify Suspect Customers
- Prospect with Suspect Customers
- Generate Lead
- Qualify Suspect to Prospect
- Develop Relationship & Opportunities
- Determine Needs
- Develop and Vet Solution
- Propose Solution
- Evaluate Solution
- Negotiate on scope, conditions & price
- Secure Purchase Order
- Monitor Contract
- Maintain Account
- Prospect for Repeat Business
The value in managing the Pipeline is that it provides much needed structure for improving your company’s sales process by pinpointing and fixing inefficiencies and weaknesses. It will also help you develop your sales team into higher performing and more motivated sellers.
So what about the Funnel?
The Funnel represents the marketing side of the equation. Managing the marketing Funnel has changed fairly significantly with the use of the Internet and in particular how Google has perfected the use of the Funnel. You may not be in the Internet web search business but the lessons apply to your business as well. The goal with the Funnel is to generate as much intelligence on suspects in your Pipeline to accelerate the process of converting them to prospects and then to customers.
So how does the Funnel work on the marketing side of your business? Think about how your website works now. Can you track inquiries about your company’s products and services directly to your Pipeline? If not, then you should begin thinking about how to do this.