As is happening in every other industry, manufacturing companies are seeing their sales models changing quickly. Sadly, many of these companies are still using antiquated, ineffective sales models and processes, leaving their sales staffs fighting an uphill battle. If this describes you, luckily there are a number of things you can do to give your manufacturing sales team a boost, to sell more:

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1. Go completely digital.

Manufacturing companies aren’t known for extensive online cataloging, so going the extra mile will give you a competitive advantage. Don’t settle for simply putting your existing catalog online, so prospects can download it as a PDF file. This can be useful if a customer wants to browse your catalog, but it doesn’t serve as a functional sales tool.

Instead, take things a step further by making a truly interactive digital catalog. Create a comprehensive database that includes every product you sell and detailed information about those SKUs. Allow customers to search and filter by key criteria. This will speed up your sales process greatly and offer your sales team members a tool they can use when they give presentations and work with existing accounts.

2. Create sales plans for each account.

This is especially important if you’re in the business of managing a few big budget accounts rather than a large portfolio of smaller ones. This process should be completely separate from locating and developing new accounts. If you have a mix of these accounts, it will be useful to start by creating sales plans for your most valuable accounts and then working on the smaller ones later.

For each account you work on, list every contact you have, and develop goals for each contact. Figure out exactly what you need to do to reach these objectives and track these tasks closely. Taking the time to do this is a major endeavor, but it will increase profitability with your accounts and be well worth the effort.

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3. Treat sales like operations.

Manufacturing is all about efficient operations. Six Sigma and long, detail-oriented process documents are utilized throughout the organization to drive down costs and keep everything running smoothly. This is useful for many of your company’s operations but usually just bogs down the sales team.

Unlike your manufacturing concern's specific products, every sale is completely unique. Each customer works for a company with different needs, sales processes and decision-makers. One sale might require only one or two tasks while another requires hundreds. Don’t require your sales team to follow a cumbersome document, performing extraneous tasks when they could be spending time prospecting for new leads or diving deeper into a particularly valuable account.

4. Attack new customers instead of markets.

Keeping in mind that customers are vastly different from one other, you should prospect new accounts individually. Even if you’re looking at several accounts in the same industry, they’ll be vastly different. Approaching each prospect individually will work much better than creating an industry-based pitch and trying to land the sale immediately.

Instead of having salespeople pitch to customers on their first call, have them ask plenty of questions and listen to customers' problems. Determine what the purchasing process is and if there are any other decision-makers to reach out to. With this information at hand, a highly effective personalized pitch can be created.

5. Implement the Pareto Principle.

Applied to sales, the Pareto Principle states that 80 percent of your income will be generated from only 20 percent of your customers. If you want to increase sales, the greatest impact will be felt from focusing on the top 20 percent of your accounts. Shift your resources to these key accounts by spending time on-site and providing more dedicated service. Identify the accounts in the bottom 80 percent that have the potential to grow into key accounts, and spend more time nurturing them, too.

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Improving the sales process throughout an organization is never easy, no matter what industry you’re in. If you’re able to follow the advice above, however, you can ensure that your company sells more than ever, whatever your industry.