I am a sales guy. My background is in selling industrial services, but I had approximately 4 years break while I worked as a management consultant. Now I have been back at ‘real work’ again for approximately a year, heading Indmeas’ sales.
During the past four years, a lot has happened, also in the industrial setting. New terms, such as IoT, Industry 4.0, machine learning, are today used in everyday discussions.
Additionally, I have noticed three crucial changes in our customer field from the industrial service sales point of view:
- Development activities vs. saving costs. 10-15 years ago the discussion focused on (partially) outsourcing the M&O-functions of an industrial player. After that, approx. 5 years ago, crucial thing was cutting operational costs, which led to massive maintenance debts that several companies still carry today.
During the last years the focus has clearly moved to developing and enhancing the operations. As the CFO of our current client said a few years ago: ”We cannot save ourselves to death.” Along this, the focus was moved to the future instead of cutting the costs. Purchase decisions are often based on fundamental key ratios (i.e. NPV, IRR, payback time etc.), which I will cover more deeply in my next blog.
- Increased amount of information and complexity of decision making. Nowadays, organizations and personnel have much more information available when buying: internet, LinkedIn, Twitter – you name it. According to a vast research, today’s customer has completed 60% of his purchase process before the first contact with the vendor – and this rate in increasing continuously. (Link: 1).
Additionally, the amount of persons taking part in the buying process has grown significantly. This perception can be verified by research data: today 7 persons participate decision-making, 5 years ago 5,4 persons, and year 2000 the amount of persons was 2,2 (Link: 2). A big group of buyers increases professionality and certainty, but at the same time it makes decision-making slower.
- Managing ”supplier tail” and buying value. The buying process has lately been increasingly seen as an entity, in light of total benefits and costs. The trend seems to be minimizing the number of vendors, and increasing the role of a single vendor and deepening the relationship with it. In the field it can be seen that people appreciate vendor’s willingness to serve, flexibility and professionalism – they want to do business with “good guys”.
At the same time, even if selling value has been some kind of buzz-word for several years (Link 3), I claim that buying value is still challenging for organizations. This is caused by the fact that it is often difficult to define the impact of a vendor in achieving the final results. Instead, different kind of risk sharing models raise their head nowadays – the chosen vendors are expected to deliver higher results than before. In my opinion, this goes hand in hand with the earlier mentioned deep relationships.
How do these three things effect on an organization selling industrial services?
In many ways. The most important factor is a customer oriented approach. We sales guys ”must” sit in a ready-made table, served by several persons. A sales guy has to understand everybody’s needs and priorities, and outline them wisely from the customer’s point of view. And convincingly.
Secondly, the selling organization must accomplish results in co-operation with customer, safely and smoothly – to be able to stay on continuously shortening vendor list. ”Zero-warranties” and ”Always be closings” are not funny anymore, but the work begins properly when the contract is signed. Customers more often expect the vendor to implement the change instead of doing it by themselves, and without implementation there are no results.
Lastly, sales people and customer must analyze the results together. What did we achieve and what is the value for the business? Saving money or boosting business? Payback time, NPV or IRR? And how should the results be evaluated to encourage both parties towards mutual goal? Which things are bottlenecks and how do we get rid of them? The real value generation requires seamless co-operation while both parties’ professionalism completes their contribution.
That’s what I was thinking this afternoon. You agree? Please challenge – and rather sooner than later. These things are nowadays the new direction of Indmeas’ sales.
Sales Director, Indmeas
Link 1: https://www.cebglobal.com/insights/challenger-sale/driving-growth.html?referrerTitle=Challenger%20Sale&referrerContentType=indexpage&referrerURL=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.cebglobal.com%2Finsights%2Fchallenger-sale.html&referrerComponentName=Free-Form%20Code&pageRequestId=bb1a4a50-6f01-4a71-84a0-547d1ba7837c
Link 3: www.indusperfgrp.com/nsltr29.htm