How the Manufacturing Sales Process Changed Over 40 Years

I think we all can agree that the manufacturing sales function has had its challenges and has changed over the past several decades.

Alan SipeToday we have a guest post from Alan Sipe, President of Toolbox Sales and Consulting. Alan has over 40 years of experience including Sr. VP of Sales and Marketing for Klein Tools and President of KNIPEX Tools. His insights in selling through various distribution channels and professional contractors are invaluable. Alan can be reached at alansipe@gmail.com.

I am possibly the oldest living American who in 40+ years of manufacturing selling has pretty much sold just pliers for 35 of those years! Twenty four with Klein Tools, eleven with KNIPEX plus the four with Stanley and one with Waterloo fill in the rest of the 40. This successful career longevity gives me a pretty long view of what it takes to have sales success.

It doesn’t matter whether you’re selling hand tools or building supplies, I think the basics remain the same. People buy from other people. Remember – Nothing happens until somebody sells something.

So what has changed in 40 years and better yet, what has not?

Here are my thoughts:

Not:        Very few customers find you… you must go find them.

Has:        It is easier and faster to find customer locations with your GPS.

Not:        Customers are busy and have little time for salespeople.

Not:        If you don’t give a customer a reason or desire to see you a second time… they won’t.

Has:        It is easier and faster to communicate with customers via text, email and mobile phone.

Not:        The more customers you touch, the more you sell.

Has:        Customers can now buy the same products you sell from many sources and many channels since there are very few exclusive territories… Amazon… Grainger…

Not:        You must explain your products thoroughly and emphasize what good things this product will do for the customer.

Has:        Video and cool graphics give you a better variety of ways to present your products.

Not:        You must explain why and get confirmation from the customer that buying from you and your company is a good choice for them.

Not:        There are always customers who will change suppliers for a dime! But most won’t.

Not:        When a customer has a problem, make sure you communicate to them that you welcome the opportunity to solve the problem for them and will act fast. YOU ARE THERE FOR THEM!

Not:        Given the choice of buying the same product from a variety of sources, most customers will buy from the person they know personally and like.

Not:        If you are simply a Commercial Visitor giving the weather and sports report, your sales call results will be far less than acceptable.

Not:        No matter what the “know-it-alls” and sales scholars who don’t make sales calls tell you, in industrial / commercial selling, KNOWING YOUR CUSTOMER PERSONALLY MAKES SALES!

PRESENT YOUR COMPANY, DEMONSTRATE THE PRODUCT, AND ASK FOR THE ORDER, ASK FOR THE ORDER AND THEN ASK FOR THE ORDER AGAIN… NOW GO SEE A CUSTOMER AND SELL SOMETHING!

How have you seen things change over the years for the better or worse?

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