Sales and business development for manufacturers caught in the Made in Britain Twitter net: 1 April 2021

EVERY Thursday at 1pm Made in Britain hosts #madeinbritainhour on Twitter. During that hour Made in Britain asks questions of its 19,500 followers and the results are fascinating. Previously this information was enjoyed by the audience at the time and then left to drift away in the Twittersphere, rarely read again. So, we have decided to capture some of the best comments and re-present them for a new audience and easy reference. Some of the responses have been edited.

This week we look at sales and business development for manufacturers.

Question one: What are the essential skills/characteristics of a good business development/sales person for a manufacturing business?

Response: Confident, knowledgeable, enthusiastic and resilient with great networking ability

Response: Great networking ability or a great network already built up before they join?

Response: Perhaps, but we all start somewhere so someone that enjoys networking and engaging with their community, building relationships etc. is a great skill to have

Response: How much specific knowledge of the product/sector is needed to be effective? you've got to know who to network with/focus on?

Response: Knowledge is power after all, and I think there does need to be a level of knowledge especially with regards to the product/service you are selling Knowledge can help strengthen your communication skills, enhance your selling (i.e. the benefits not just the features) etc.

Response: How much is product knowledge (which can be learned) and how much of it is sector knowledge (which takes much longer to pick up)?

Response: I volunteered to be trained in the factory within the CNC Metal Spinning department which provided me with tonnes of knowledge on the services and technical aspect of the spinning process which I can now apply to my marketing comms. I do highly recommend marketeers work on the shopfloor to better understand the product/service and understand the company culture It would grate me seeing sales promotions and product placements poorly made within a retailer I used to work for, being made by marketers who had never been inside a shop

Response: That's a great idea. My background isn't in manufacturing, but when I helped the team create step-by-step procedures for the machinery it gave me a much better understanding of the whole process, which naturally helped for marketing purposes too

Response: It's great because you can help customers further with an expanded knowledge of your product/service, and often, this is perfect for securing a sale It helps reinforce the viewpoint that you are an expert in your field, and boost confidence within leads

Response: An empathetic personality, a communicator, negotiator, goal focussed, organised, creative and analytic. An ability to understand cultures, and to also be persuasive. Preferred: fluency in virtual skills including ability to use tech and digital tools

Response: Does the specific skills depend on the size of the organisation? Whether the person is going to cover many bases or is just a door opener?

Response: It will vary depending on the size of the team and the operation. Smaller businesses will find themselves wearing many hats, while larger businsses have the resources to have a team doing research, engagement and that vital relationship management that happens online & offline.

Made in Britain: Which way do you see an individual progressing through a career ladder? From limited role in a big business to broader role in a small business? Or vice versa

Response: I'm fairly biased towards SME's but know many people progressing quickly within large organisations For me SME's have given me multiple responsibilities which in turn has given me the experiences, skills and qualities required to 'Excell' in my role (see what I did there?

Response: I can speak of my own experience as a part time worker at 15 yrs old growing into my present role in marketing and communications. I started initially as a 'spreadsheet filler' > social media marketing > marketing communications and now involved in the sales process. The organisation as an SME meant I have multiple responsibilities and previous roles over the 10 years have helped me learn the trade during my college/uni years and build the skills and qualities required for the role

Response: I think that is a great way to learn and progress your career. You do need to understand the sales process and how to build a relationship before you tackle account handling.

Response: I always used to be amazed at how people fell into the managing of some accounts. The worst BD people often got the best accounts due to time served and so their sales figures were high based on repeat business.

Response: I know what you mean...there are so many horror stories....just because you have done sales does not mean you are excellent at business development !!

Response: and there lies the question - someone has to define "making a sale" in the first place. It's a team effort usually, often the sales person created the lead and got the right people talking, then they get the commission......

Response: That is why it is so important that everyone understand the customer journey and path to purchase...it is not that final flourish of pen that seals the deal but the grunt work that is done beforehand by all the team.

Response: Knowledge, kindness and a problem-solver.

Response: I especially like the kindness and problem-solving skills.

Response: It is important to understand what they are selling. It is more important they: - understand the customer. - what the customer is buying, - the journey the customer is taking

Made in Britain: How much of that is general skill, how much is sector skill and how much is product knowledge?

Response: It is a mix. Your sales skills are vitally important, as are the product and sector knowledge to show your expertise.

Response: The largest percentage should be focused on the Customer, without them there are no sales.

Response: Product/service knowledge and understanding the customer's journey are our top two. After that, problem solving, time management, organization, communication and many other soft skills.

Response: Do you think the understanding the customer journey part is often overlooked by companies? or maybe subconsciously done? 

Response: I think it can easily be overlooked by sales because they are focused on meeting their goal or making the sale. If they can revert their attention back to trying to solve the customer's problem, making the sale would become easier.

Made in Britain: is that a lack of training of sales people, lack of education or merely lack of time and too many targets?

Response: I would say lack of time and too many targets. But I also think that sales people need refreshers. Sometimes they get too focused on their goal and forget the real goal is to solve the customer's problem.

Response: Mostly training. It is assumed that everyone knows how to sell. The art of sales was lost when the internet and search engines appeared. Sales became a task of order taking. It is only in times of crisis and economic downturn that Sales skills become a focus

Response: Totally, it is evident in the tweets, articles and content that is published. Writing to the competitors not the customers is often the result. What you sell is not what customers buy. Subconscious understanding is filled with biases created through experiential learning. Create a hypothesis (Persona) of your customer, then ask your customers to prove or disprove the hypothesis using autoethnographic research methods

Response: Great comment - "sales became a task of order taking" 

Response: That's what we would say as well . . . confident, enthusiastic, knowledgeable, resilient with great networking abilities 

Response: Resilient is an often overlooked factor. It takes a certain amount of knockbacks, mind changing by customers, empty promises to really understand the role

Response: Yes, someone with a hard skin! who can take a no and carry on as if nothings happened. 

Response: That takes a little bit of time to learn/experience.

Response: N.O. means next opportunity!

Response: That's something for new starters to learn quickly.

Response: It's a hard lesson though, but important to emphasise and let them know rejection happens to all of us, and in sales its very present

Question two: What changes caused by the pandemic to sales and business development activities will become permanent?

Response: Travelling to visit international customers has become, err, non-existent. BUT with the proliferation of Zoom/Teams/Googlemeets I believe I am having more conversations/meetings with potential and current customers.

Made in Britain: That is a fantastic positive, do you think the meetings are getting the same results as in-person ones would have?

Response: I agree, I think the introduction of virtual meetings will be something that is regularly used in the months and years to come

Made in Britain: Does that mean that BD/Sales Teams will be more efficient? Less travelling, more meets in a day etc?

Response: I would have thought so. I can talk to a group of mets in Australia in the morning and Americans in the afternoon all from my desk. I think thats brilliant!

Response: In some ways, it is easier to connect and chat virtually though it can get tiring as there is always so much taking place at the same time. I miss the focus of having a chat over a glass of wine.

Response: It's surprising how much business is achieved outside of a formal face-face, exhibitions and conferences are great examples of this

Response: Yes, I think the conference/exhibition space should really be turned in to a bar. Why have 5-6 hours standing up shaking peoples hands when you could have 5-6 hours of real business with a drink in hand :)

Response: Potentially, I think the process could certainly become quicker and easier to organise meetings Even now, we're able to explore new technology, arrange meetings with our ITA and push forward with updates for certain certifications. The same now applies to our customers

Response: Interesting question - I would say the ability to work in hybrid environments, fluency in virtual skills, ability to communicate well using all media (including video, podcasts, etc), sharper negotiating skills.

Response: I think the use of webinars for presenting valuable product and industry knowledge will stay

Response: Definitely. I think their value has increased tremendously in the last year.

Response: Very true. We've started to build up a suite of webinar content on @voltimumuk Academy.  It seems the demand has really grown for quality online CPD in the last year. We get leads and exposure, our audiences get USEFUL information, win-win.

Response: Zoom calls I can say has been a very big change and there will most definitely be less travelling, with working from home a few days a week becoming the norm. Good for the #environment too !

Response: I agree. Although I do miss travelling too

Response: Can we turn the question round - will customers go back to expecting in-person visits/meetings? 

Response: I think so! For us, our account execs do site visits and help with product information. That kind of survey work is irreplaceable

Response: We carry out face to face meetings when meeting a new client for the first time or for the first initial briefing of a new #productdesign. That hasn't been able to happen over the last 12 mths but we envisage that will continue once restrictions are lifted

Response: Do you think it will have made Teams triage more about when it should be face to face and when it should be virtual?

Response: What a good follow up question there! I think people love the social interaction and it would be a valuable lesson to use a videocall when you don't really need to come to site. Also, improving product information and using more tech documents helps!

Response: Very important groundwork. Depends on location I guess, and on their urgency too.

Response: Totally agree with this. Flexible working will include #wfh more than ever now. We had started to do this on a smaller scale even before the pandemic.

Response: Many of our customer love to visit our factory and take a tour of the processes involved I think that will certainly remain upon restrictions being lifted eventually

Response: Oh yes! Factory tours are always welcome and we miss those. To be fair, I think I underestimate how much people find factory's insightful and interesting. We had an open heritage day with factory walkrounds that proved very successful

Response: There does seem to be a pent-up-demand for factory visits. Watching films doesn't have the same effect, smell, sounds, temperature are all missing.

Response: Yes, most definitely. We have the site visit open days and customers that have to do press passes for printing we do.

Response: When we are allowed to visit, we should have open Made in Britain days and visit premises!

Response: We were talking about an in-person Made in Britain hour at some point in the future. Not sure how many would be interested in it though? 

Response: It would depend on the location for us, as we are on the south coast. If there were networking events closer to home, we wouldn't hesitate!

Response: Yesssssss!

Response: It also allows people to see people and the conditions which they work under. This is an important aspect of being Made in Britain.

Response: I agree, at the end of the day, people buy from people they know and like. So putting a face and a name to that BD person is very important.

Response: This is what I hear from our sales people and it is very true. 

Response: It certainly is interesting, and often fascinating how each manufacturer operates SMEs and large manufacturers can learn a lot from each other, despite often operating within different sectors

Response: Having worked in and with both, SMEs and corporates, I agree, there is much to learn from each other. Smaller companies tend to be agile and more open and transparent yet learn a lot from larger companies sharing best practice in their organisation and relationship management.

Response: Let’s see how the next 6-12 months pan out in sales. But the fact that you can have a F2F meeting with two people in separate cars in different carparks on their phones is quite impressive. Plus the 30 minute meeting doesn't need 48 hours of travel!

Response: Increase in remote workers, reduction of international travel, increase in virtual meetings, more webinars, less trade shows, more influence and dependency on technology

Response: Do you think the remote working aspects may become difficult in the coming months. Some companies wanting their staff to work back in the office 5 days a week and some staff wanting to be more flexible?

Response: I think that subject is a hot topic right now. Many companies want them back in the office exclusively and others are flexible. Management has the ultimate decision when the pandemic ends. I think some workers may need to align with their employer culture or find new employment.

Response: Do you think this could be a challenge for some management teams?

Response: Absolutely. I think if they are too rigid, they will loose key employees. Hiring and retaining employees in the manufacturing industry is very competitive.

Response: I agree with the comments about webinars and zoom calls. I have attended a few webinars that have been great for gaining knowledge, especially if you have the time to hang around afterwards for any Q&A sessions.

Response: How important is the customer? Where are they and how much do you want the sale? Needs must so for some Face to Face will continue and grow as restrictions reduce. I can't wait!

Response: Video meetings - Seems crazy to travel hours for a short meeting but this was common before. E-commerce - LINIAN and many of our wholesalers have had embrace online selling alongside traditional retail. Flexible working - office/WFH combo.

Response: We've been pushed to embrace this faster during these times, but I believe the changes were coming anyway 

Response: For some it has been a preferred way of working, from home. The year just highlighted for us how the contact we have with others is already mainly digital. We have some staff, office based, who i believe will continue this "new" way of working

Question three: How important is LinkedIn in the toolkit of an effective BD/sales person/role and how is it best used by them?

Response: It is a great tool for #research, contact, #engagement, knowledge-share, influencing and validating your offer. It fits into the whole #customerjourney and path-to-purchase for a b2b client

Response: A great question especially after @MarketAccents great presentation this week!

Response: We effectively repeat what was mentioned on their regarding LinkedIn using the platform to research new leads and connect and build relationships with the relevant people within those companies

Response: For us, LinkedIn is the perfect place to make valuable business connections and source new leads. Many of our enquiries come through LI and we get a great response to our videos. It’s best used by connecting with key people and sharing your work with them!

Response: Great for making new business connections as well as existing connections. We have managed to gain couple of new customers this way, when a connection has changed jobs. LinkedIn is very important for Business

Response: When a connection has changed jobs - wonder what would happen if a member of a sales team changed jobs? 

Response: more research, and new connections. Which is why you need to make sure you have connection both up and down that chain in your target market.

Response: LinkedIn can be a great tool if used effectively and not 'just' connecting with people and instantly sending them an obvious cut & pasted sales patter, especially if it will have zero interest to them.... I know i've had plenty!

Response: Some of it is quite painful - do you think it ever works for them?

Response: I'm guessing it must.... maybe they use the law of averages, hoping that if they contact 100 people saying/promising the same thing that a few will send a positive response/enquiry back...? I can't see it working though, far better to build a relationship, share knowledge etc

Response: It possibly depends what you are trying to sell?

Response: This is so true. I often use LinkedIn to discuss a topic that is relevant to our business. That way, you're letting people know you are there but not hitting them with a one size fits all sales message

Response: The more sales focussed the post the less interest and engagement it gets?

Response: Yes. There is a place for sales focussed content on LinkedIn and many use the InMail feature for this.

Response: I think it's importance in sales is growing exponentially right now. Making new connections, using Sales Navigator, and virtual networking are a necessity for a sales team right now

Response: I think LinkedIn is a great BD tool. It helps you connect to the right audience easily. Plus, the messaging option is powerful, as networking tool and as a means to connect to directly with people. I think we're still scratching the surface on what it can offer

Question four: Do manufacturing businesses need a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) to manage their sales and business development activities?

Response: Depends on how big you are. I do both roles!

Response: eCommerce is geared for CRM automations & this tech is incredibly powerful functionality (at least for some products) when it comes to lead gen, pipeline progression & conversion. A dedicated, skilled person will no doubt amplify this considerably.

Response: That sound really good. Probably right that it's important to have the right automations in place.

Response: It is pretty amazing what is possible nowadays, even w/o using the API functionality in products, to link email, forms, appointments, texts, internal & external action, & more - one step short of building a matrix for prospects. 

Response: Straight answer YES! because it helps ALOT! We've adopted Hubspot CRM and this has helped massively in streamlining our sales and marketing processes. It has also made it extremely easy to manage, see what urgent actions are need etc. 

Response: And it is quite affordable too

Response: A good CRM will help you to be organised & manage the pipeline. It may be easy when small, but as the business grows, it is hard to continue with excel sheets & various tools that aren't linked to each other. You want to have that singular customer view to manage the relationship

Response: Yes! It is the best way to stay organized and on top of deadlines. 

Response: Any tool that can assist in the organisation and development of the sales pipeline is worth having. Please make sure that everyone involved has sufficient training in the system before letting them loose on it! 

Response: Great point. We've found that it's only as good as the info that's put in. If everyone isn't using it properly, then CRM can get messy. We've invested a lot of time in training and periodical check-ins to discuss issues/tweak procedures and this has helped us massively.

Response: Do some businesses implement CRMs so that the management can have a simple oversight of what activity is going on? rather than a direct benefit to a team?

Response: If they do, it is probably 2ndary. CRMs are so vast & collaborative that managers could spend all their time simply reviewing them if they wanted the detailed blow-by-blow & their key role is colabn & sales uplift / acct mgt. Saying that, certain key reports are tracked by mgt

Response: It does also deliver KPIs so it is beneficial at all levels.

Response: A CRM system keeps everything organised and like @NigelTPacker says making sure that training has been given to all that use it!

Response: As has already been said by everyone - Yes!! Any tool that helps processes and can be integrated into existing procedures and work flows ensuring that everyone is 'on the same page' is beneficial to any company.

Response: Yes, yes, yes, yes! to a CRM and for manufacturer's even better if it is connect to your MRP so you can check on lead times and what's going on in the factory as well. It is a great tool. It fits the work smarter not harder mantra

Join Made in Britain on Twitter at 1pm every Thursday for #madeinbritainhour. We engage with everybody, members and non-members alike (some of whom become members as a result). Hopefully, see you there.

By Made in Britain 4 months ago | Made in Britain news

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