Catalog selling happens to the best of us. I frequently see this syndrome in industrial sales.
Catalog selling is how many talented technical sales folks impact their employer’s top lines when they sell into today’s smart plants. It’s the way they learned to sell when they were sales newbies.
Their sales brains are firing on two cylinders instead of four.
When the conversation is confined to the limits of what is listed in your cataloged offerings, it is difficult to listen to and collaborate with each other, buyers and decision makers.
The industrial Internet of Things manufacturing ecosystem has changed the rules of engagement for selling and retaining customers. Equipment lifecycles no longer assure cross selling, upselling or customer retention strategy. Customers expect equipment, products, services, you name it, to become better and better throughout their relationship with your company.
You have this nagging feeling that how you learned to sell to yesterday’s manufacturing plant doesn’t quite align with what that plant needs from you Today and in the Future.
Does this scenario sound familiar to you? Here is what happens.
Your company’s website and sales collateral still prominently leverage, yup you guessed it, a cataloging of all the equipment and spare parts for that equipment that a buyer would ever want to purchase. Today.
To your sales team, that catalog section screams: “We have our customers’ backs. We have you covered no matter what you need.” Put yourselves in the shoes of your Buyers. When sales team spiel sounds like a catalog, the conversation becomes all about price, not value.
Also, stay in the shoes of your Buyer for a few more minutes. Lists of cataloged offerings are visually overwhelming to Buyers. They usually are looking for one choice or a set of choices. They are focused on achieving one outcome at a time, no matter how many parts and products are involved.
In addition, consider that Buyers are busy. They do not have time to pour over every offering and ponder whether it fills a smart manufacturing plant long-term strategic need. They may not even know that they have a future need yet.
Buyers will not ever know they might possibly have a future need unless your team guides them towards that insight.
Catalog selling is a great way to get your equipment, product and service offerings lumped together with the competition’s.
Sales teams who rely on selling a catalog of offerings become order-takers.They end up short-selling themselves. Literally. Alternatively, sales teams that take a longer-term strategic approach with decision makers and buyers, are regarded as innovators.
How do Buyers currently regard your team?
Catalog selling also is an easy way to get your company stuck in a one-hit-wonder category with Buyers. It is a customer retention strategy, of sorts. Buyers will renew and reorder that particular piece of equipment and spare parts which you initially sold to them. They will order that piece of (very expensive) equipment for each of their manufacturing locations.
And. That. Is. All. Folks.
Your company becomes synonymous with one decision, one piece of equipment, a group of spare parts and a purchase order number. And chances are you had to discount that equipment as well. Your company becomes repeat business order-takers for the one and only product with which you are associated.
Because your products and services represent a transaction to the Buyer.
Become better than a transaction when selling into the smart manufacturing plant.
You don’t regard yourself as a transaction to be completed, dismissed and eliminated from a Buyer’s To-Do List, do you? I don’t either. You have worked too hard and for too long to be commoditized.
Consider this. What is the total value of all of your company’s equipment, products and spare parts to Buyers purchasing for today’s connected, smart manufacturing plant? That catalog represents the breadth and depth of more than transactional purchase decisions. Your company’s offerings represent the breadth and depth of your organization’s technical and engineering expertise, industry expertise, domain area expertise.
Leverage expertise instead of catalog selling. Expand your influence throughout that smart manufacturing plant.
Rely less on catalog selling to clinch the deal. Rely more on understanding the translational value which your products and services represent to total plant sustainability. Focus less on a single piece of equipment. Focus more on every other piece of equipment surrounding or connected to yours in that smart plant.
Translational value is created by taking a holistic perspective about the future of your equipment within that smart manufacturing plant.
Catalog selling never quite tells the entire story about how your company’s expertise creates value for your clients. Predictive maintenance and overall equipment efficiency conversations must be translated into line of business value as well as total cost of ownership.
That smart manufacturing plant you sell to changes every day. Today’s Buyers will retire tomorrow. Today’s operators will be replaced continuously. Your equipment will be constantly impacted by changes in line configuration, total plant ecosystem conditions and upgrades as well as new machine-to-machine software interfaces.
Catalog selling views your equipment as a static structure within the manufacturing plant. Nothing could be further from the reality of the smart manufacturing ecosystem.
Your equipment collaborates with how many other pieces of equipment in that smart plant? Why shouldn’t your sales team collaborate in the same manner with not only Buyers but all of the folks who will interact with what you sell throughout its lifecycle?
Start firing your sales brain on all four cylinders. How many combinations of your equipment might be put into dynamic play within that smart plant if you stop catalog selling?
How would you articulate this game plan to decision makers, buyers, engineers and operators? Would you like some assistance?
Babette Ten Haken is a management consultant, strategist, speaker and coach focused on customer success for customer retention. She traverses the interface between human capital strategy for hiring and developing collaborative technical and non-technical employees. She serves manufacturing- and engineering- intensive companies, focusing teams on creating enduring business outcomes. Babette’s playbook of technical / non-technical collaboration hacks, Do YOU Mean Business? is available on Amazon. Visit the Free Resources section of her website for more tools.
Leave a Reply