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How to sell into the manufacturing industry and get manufacturing companies as customers

Riya Uppal

Since the pandemic hit, we saw companies in the manufacturing industry face severe challenges which uncovered new risks as well as highlighting areas that exposed them to major disruptions. Depending on how they were affected, a wide range of tasks is at hand for many manufacturing companies to fulfil from recovering lost revenue to streamlining their supply chain.

The state of the manufacturing industry

In the 2021 State of Manufacturing Report, a survey of 230 senior manufacturing decision-makers revealed some very interesting findings. The key points being:

  • 68% report that increasing supply chain resilience and agility is a top business priority
  • 91% have increased digital transformation investments in the past year
  • 94% report concerns about their current supply chains
  • 95% say the pandemic has had long-term effects on their business

Overall, the main goal for manufacturing companies is to eliminate the risk of being exposed to the same disruption they faced during the pandemic from repeating again in the future.

As remote working becomes the new norm, it has also impacted its manufacturing arrangements with 81% of executives saying that remote work has positively impacted their attitude towards flexible manufacturing arrangements. Alongside the shift to remote is the shift towards digital as 95% agree that digital transformation in manufacturing is essential to their company’s future success.

With 94% expressing supply chain concerns, a solution to a more resilient supply chain is reshoring, the term used to describe bringing imported goods or materials back to domestic production. Where manufacturers had their production done in other countries around the world, manufacturers are now looking to bring it back home.

With the reliance on offshore factories and workforces, long-distance shipping and international trading partners, organisations, particularly in the US, are seeing the risks to offshoring and are having to focus on ways to continue production domestically.

The challenges of offshoring, namely being the sourcing and onboarding of new vendors, slow response to problems, quality control management, and lack of proper infrastructure abroad can all lead to supply chain disruptions, slower go-to-market time and lower quality products.

Despite these challenges, the main benefit of offshoring was a lower cost of production, however, this may no longer be the case. As the economy in many countries used for offshoring strengthens, the labour cost has also increased.

It is now that manufacturing companies are able to overcome these challenges by adopting new technologies like robotics and automation to continue the same production domestically by still keeping labour costs low and without the fear that countries abroad could close again.

All these changes have brought about major opportunities to break into the manufacturing industry and provide solutions to help these companies recover and at least get back to pre-pandemic levels. This post will guide you through the step-by-step process of how you can get manufacturing companies as customers.

Why you should use outbound sales to get manufacturing companies as customers

Out of all the possible ways to generate sales opportunities, outbound sales is the most direct method to do so.

While you can use inbound marketing techniques such as organically generating traffic by targeting keywords or through paid ads, you just don’t have the ability to control exactly who you want to target and persuade your prospects through your messaging as you can with outbound sales.

The process of sourcing the contacts of your target market and targeting your potential buyers across multiple channels such as email, phone and social media is a strong strategy enabling you to categorise your contacts for hyper-personalisation.

In addition to providing prospects with a personalised experience, there are a couple of other reasons why having an outbound sales strategy can help you.

Active control over the numbers

The biggest reason to invest in outbound sales is the dominion you have over the volume of sales you make and their scalability by managing the input and optimising each stage of the sales funnel.

The first variable you can control is the number of people you contact. If you’re currently reaching out to 50 decision makers per day and you bump that up to 100 with all else staying equal, you can predict a doubling in the number of sales opportunities you generate.

The second customisable aspect is the consequent steps:

  • Open rate: Can be raised by A/B testing different subject lines and personalising them
  • Positive reply rate: Expandable through the use of more personalisation
  • CTA: Increased concentration on the right problem/solution dynamic
  • Call schedule: Implementing a smoother transition between stages with intuitive software like Calendly

Expensive products need salespeople

The second reason to have an outbound sales strategy is because companies that are buying expensive products still need to talk to human beings (salespeople) to guide them in the decision-making process since big purchases require different decision-makers and a considerable amount of planning.

Defining the ideal manufacturing companies you want to work with

When deciding upon what manufacturing companies you want to partner with, there are some important criteria you should be clear on before targeting them, namely:

  • Company size: How many employees does the company have (e.g. 11-50, 200-500, 1,000+)
  • Company location: Where is the company physically located (e.g. North America, Germany, London)
  • Sector: What sectors is the company in (e.g. automotive, medical, energy, etc.) Depending on the solution(s) you are providing, the range of manufacturing companies you can provide for may stem from a single company criterion to a broad array of companies.

In the case you can provide a solution to a variety of different companies, you should create multiple segments which will enable you to create a more specific segment to personalise your outreach better. By splitting your target companies into segments you can make your messaging and offering more relevant to your prospect.

A few select data providers, like hubsell, allow you to further refine your criteria beyond company size, location and sector with any custom requirements you may have. At hubsell, we offer Data Processing as a Service (DPaaS) meaning we are able to provide this since we have a team of specialised researchers who process your data on-demand and according to the criteria you provide.

Identifying your key stakeholders within your target manufacturing companies

Having identified your target accounts, you will need to know who in those accounts you want to speak with. Here are the following criteria you need to have to find your prospects:

  • Contact seniority: The rank of an employee held within a company (e.g. ‘Manager’, ‘Director’ or ‘Owner’)
  • Contact department: Where the prospect operates in day-to-day business (e.g. ‘Sales’, ‘Legal’ or ‘Human Resources’)

With these two criteria, you are able to find every job title that is relevant to this combination.

Depending on the type of account you are selling into and the type of solution you are offering, the prospect you want to target will have to be relevant to the stage of the buying process they are in. For example, targeting the CEO of a global manufacturing company with over 500 employees with your initial touchpoint may be too hasty without first winning over prospective end-users or department Managers.

Where to get your B2B data and what to look for?

Before starting out any form of outbound sales initiative, you will need B2B data (i.e. contacts). There are many ways to get B2B data ranging from in-house methods such as manually searching on LinkedIn Sales Navigator to working with a specialised data provider who delivers the data you need straight to your CRM.

Generating data for manufacturing companies using in-house methods is something we do not recommend. Although there are benefits such as owning your data generation process and limiting data acquisition costs by doing the work in-house, these benefits are typically outweighed by the burden salespeople bear by spending time on non-revenue generating activities and learning non-sales related skills.

On the other hand, using a database vendor enables salespeople to filter contacts according to their criteria and acquire those contacts for outreach purposes. However, since these contacts are pre-generated, there may be deliverability issues or data inaccuracies as data becomes stale over time.

Our recommendation would be to acquire on-demand generated data. Having a data provider who processes data per your request guarantees B2B data that is qualitative and fresh. You can be sure that your sales and marketing initiatives will be delivered successfully and each contact is relevant to your business.

To highlight the importance of B2B data quality, this post goes in-depth on the topic and the cost of low-quality data on business, but here are the key points you need to know when getting started.

B2B Data relevancy

To ensure your data is relevant, you must decide who your relevant contacts and accounts are to target in your sales and marketing campaigns.

Without data relevancy, you will end up targeting contacts and accounts that are not relevant to your business. Focusing on the wrong data will waste your marketing budget and misuse the time of your sales and marketing team, especially when nurturing the wrong leads.

Relevant B2B data will make you confident in the success of your sales and marketing efforts. It enables you to accurately segment your data to create highly targeted campaigns. The content of your campaigns will speak to each of your prospects in a way that is meaningful and adds value to them.

B2B Data accuracy

Once you have decided upon who your relevant buyers are, the accuracy of the information for that data is the next step to obtaining high-quality B2B data.

One important step is to implement a human-vetted process to visually check the data. This is to check for wrong spelling, typos or duplicate data.

Inaccurate data can stem from a vast array of issues and its consequences can be very damaging to your business. It can wreak havoc on your marketing efforts such as incorrectly naming a prospect, mistargeting accounts, or unknowingly omitting prospects from campaigns.

B2B Data validity

Data validation ensures your data has consistent formatting, contains valid contact information, and is free from errors and anomalies.

Since so much of sales and marketing is done using automation these days, it can be very easy for things to go wrong. The following are a few problems that may occur if you don’t validate your data:

Unstandardised data
Incomplete data
Invalid contact data
Data validation is the preventative measure that ensures your data is used effectively and that you maintain the greatest chance of generating more sales opportunities.

B2B Data breadth

For your data to be high quality, you should have a rich profile of many data points that allows for personalisation and enables you to draw deep insights into your data.

Data breadth gives you an added dimension to improving the quality of your data. Without data breadth, you will lack the information needed to tailor your marketing activities as well as limiting the ability to view trustworthy and actionable insights of your data.

Actionable insights empower your sales and marketing teams to create personalised content that is relevant and valuable to the prospects being targeted. Being able to tailor your marketing activities and value proposition to each market segment increases your chance of connecting with your potential customers.

B2B Data freshness

As soon as you get hold of your B2B data, it already starts to decay. These data points are never static as information can very easily change. Working with outdated data could mean time wasted in reaching out to the wrong people since they can change company, email address, job title and even name.

The rate data decays will depend upon the source of your data. For instance, if a lead is generated through a webform, the rate of decay will be slower since the data has been captured in real-time. On the other hand, if data has been procured from a B2B database, the rate of decay should be faster since the data has existed for some time already.

Sending an email to a wrong or non-existing email address will result in a hard bounce. These types of delivery failures will impact the domain health and the spam rating of your subsequent emails.

How to generate sales opportunities and get manufacturing companies as customers

You should now have a good idea about how to acquire the contacts you want to target. Next, we will look at how to reach out to them to generate sales opportunities.

What channels should you use in your outbound sales campaign?

An outbound sales campaign is a sequence of touchpoints made over time and likely across a variety of communication channels. Each touchpoint serves the purpose of attempting to provide enough value and interest to prompt a reply.

There are many communication channels you can use to engage with your prospects. Rather than selecting only one or two channels, you should use a combination of all of them – which is called multichannel outreach.

Since your prospects will have different personal preferences on which channel they prefer to communicate on, a multichannel outreach approach ensures you cover all bases. Let’s see some of the different channels and the main reasons for using them.

Email

Sending emails should be your primary method to reach out to your prospects. It is one of the few ways you can have direct communication with the person you want to contact having just an email address.

Email lets salespeople send a carefully constructed message laying out their key value proposition relevant to the prospect they are sending it to. They also give the prospect space to reply back in their own time should they need to do some research of their own prior to responding. Emails can also copy other colleagues into the conversation as well as being able to forward entire email exchanges to other relevant parties.

The overall goal with email is to generate a sales call. You will not be able to close a deal with email alone, especially if you are selling a high-ticket item. To persuade a prospect to set up a meeting with you, the focus of your email should not be to show the features and benefits of your solution as many salespeople may try to do. Instead, showcase the benefits your prospect will gain and how they can be better with your solution.

You want to track two key metrics: 1) open rate and 2) reply rate.

Open rate

When a prospect receives a cold email, the only parts of the email they can see before opening is the subject line and the first line of the email. Depending on whether the email is seen on desktop or mobile will determine the number of characters that will be seen, with desktop showing more characters. Ensure you are making the most of this space.

The subject line tells the prospect what the email is about. It is important to not use clickbait as this may increase your open rate but it will negatively affect your reply rate. A simple one to use would be “quick question about {{companyId.shortName}}”. It tells the prospect you are reaching out to ask a question about their company, but vague enough to prompt them to open the email.

A portion of the first line is also seen in the email preview which affects the open rate. Starting the email strong with a highly relevant point or, even better, a personalised line about them, will make it clear to the prospect that your email was intended for them specifically.

Reply rate

You should aim for an average between 45-70% open rate, depending on the persona you are targeting. Once your email is opened, the length of the email should be a factor to whether the email is read through or not. Longer emails tend to be skimmed through so good practice would be to keep it as short as possible – around 100 characters.

After showing that you have actually researched about them and you can deliver an outcome that would interest them, you need to close out with a strong call-to-action (CTA). At this point, the prospect should want to take the next step with you, so the best CTA to use is to ask for a call. A CTA such as “would you have time for a quick call later this week?” should prompt a reply.

LinkedIn

Contacting your prospects on LinkedIn is a slightly less formal way of introducing yourself than email. However, since it is a professional networking platform where both parties can view each other’s profiles, it is perfectly acceptable to reach out with a business proposition.

There are two ways to engage with a prospect on LinkedIn: 1) sending a connection request with a note and 2) sending an InMail.

Sending a connection request is a free method all members on the platform can use. You are able to send a note with your connection request but limited to 300 characters. If your prospect accepts your request, they become a 1st-degree connection and opens the ability to freely send direct messages without limit.

Sending an InMail is similar to an email as it includes a subject line limited to 200 characters as well as the message body limited to 2000 characters. This is a premium method and incurs a cost to the sender due to it being a paid method and a limited number of InMails can be sent from an account. Prospects will recognise the value of an InMail and if they reply, it allows open communication between the two.
With the ability to view their profile, you should definitely take the time to research the prospect and mention something that you found interesting about them in your initial message. Without doing this, your chances of a response are slim since it shows little to no effort was made in your outreach.

There are 3 main ways you can show you researched them:

  • Self-authored content: If the prospect has written a piece of content or even has a podcast, take some time to go through it and point out something they wrote or said that struck a chord with you – this way you also give them a compliment on their work.
  • Personal accomplishments: A fact on their profile that suggests they have achieved something. It can be work-related or personal, either way, if it’s on their profile it means it is important to them and highlighting that in your message will mean a lot to them.
  • Company information: Likely to be the least impactful of the three, writing something you saw about their company like whether they are hiring a lot of salespeople or a new product was released can show you are not sending messages in bulk but being selective in who you are reaching out to.

Phone

A very powerful channel when used right. The phone is the most direct method of communication as you will have the opportunity to engage with the prospect almost face-to-face.

There are many aspects to learn with the cold call, a few being to get past the gatekeeper, objection handling, building rapport and persuading them to have a follow-up call. When cold calling you will be interrupting