Automating the Sales Process

As building product manufacturers restart their businesses after lockdown, with the prospect of a record fall in construction spend, budgets are coming under close scrutiny. Automating the sales process is an option to consider.

As a sales trainer, I have been disappointed to see that far too many sales organisations are still using ‘traditional’ sales methods. For many, it’s still left to the sales team to select their target customers, obtain introductions, follow-up project leads when they are published and monitor an opportunity from initial identification until delivery to site and payment.

But this is a very inefficient use of an expensive resource when there are more effective alternatives available such as software which will identify and manage the opportunities and sales tools to help develop the relationship. And surely it is much better to undertake these tasks in the back office, allowing the sales person to spend more time in customer-facing situations converting opportunities to orders.

Now is the time for automating the sales process, combining CRM, marketing automation, social media and your website to engage with decision makers and educate them about your products. Then, only involve your sales team when a decision maker has a requirement and wants help in making a choice. Not only is this more effective, it is more rewarding for the sales person who can maximise their time in customer facing situations.

To achieve this requires a lot of preparatory analysis and planning, which is probably why it rarely happens. Here are my four steps to help you with the process. You will need a CRM system and someone to administer the process.

Segment the Market:  The construction market is large and you need to focus on the organisations which will offer your business the best opportunities; the Key Accounts.

A review of your past projects will show where you enjoy most success – types of project, forms of contract, clients. Analysis of one of the project databases will show which organisations deliver to these criteria; Architects, Engineers, Main Contractors and Specialist Sub-contractors. These will be your key accounts. In some cases they will already be working with your business, in others they are targets for development. Don’t ignore the rest of the market, but your chances of success are lower so the others only warrant minimal effort.

Understand your Key Accounts:  Your marketing and sales messages need to tell your key account decision makers how you can solve their problems. And before you can solve them you need to understand them. Personas are an ideal tool for doing this. They help you look at things from the customer’s perspective and achieve a common understanding across the organisation. With this understanding you can generate marketing collateral in the form of technical literature, blog articles, project stories, CPD seminars and other thought pieces which explain how your products or services will solve your customers’ problems.

The Decision Maker’s Journey:  Every item of marketing collateral is another step in the decision makers journey, from Awareness through Evaluation to Selection and finally Purchase. To be effective you need to map each step. When they read a blog article you point them to the next piece of information. And when they download product specifications or BIM content, or speak to a technical advisor (all of which can be buying signals), you must have a follow-up strategy ready to be implemented. This process needs to be subtle and not a bombardment of emails.

Decision Maker Meets Sales Person:  I’ve used the term ‘sales person’ for convenience of understanding, but unless there is an issue of availability or price it is unlikely that the Decision Maker will want to meet a sales person. They want to talk to a technical representative, or some similar title, reflecting the technical competence of someone who can give them reliable advice based on experience. Your representative must therefore be technically competent and trusted to make recommendations. But they must also have the sales skills needed to handle all of the competing pressures of the project decision making unit. An ideal person to help ensure your product is specified and subsequently installed and too valuable a resource to be miss-used.

I’ve simplified the process here, but having a few, highly competent sales people supported with a well planned programme of customer engagement will make your sales and marketing far more efficient. Competitive Advantage’s team have experience of implementing this process. We can help you tailor your sales automation, undertake some of the background research and assist with the development of sales tools such as product specifications or CPD seminars.