Growing Sales for Build-to-Order Manufacturers
By Robert Kosobucki
The Recession Has Changed Customer Buying Behavior
As we pulled out of the recession, build-to-order manufacturing companies have noticed that there’s been a shift in customer buying behavior. Familiar faces are no longer there, new sourcing policies have been implemented, and new buyers may not be sufficiently knowledgeable to differentiate differences between suppliers. The take-away is that practices that brought in orders in the past may no longer work.
Passive Selling Doesn’t Work Anymore
In the past, many smaller manufacturing companies came to rely on a handful of customers who found them and for whom they responded with good pricing, quality and delivery, with the expectation of repeat orders. But today, as your customers adapt to changing markets a supplier may be the last to know that a customer has moved on only after an anticipated order fails to arrive.
Tips for Winning New Customers
Engaging in consistent activity to identify and directly contact prospective new customers is necessary for growing profitable revenues. But this can be unfamiliar ground for some operations oriented people, so the following is suggested to initiate more active pursuit of new business:
A. Aim Before You Fire
- Identify the most fertile market opportunities by listing the top three or four applications and customer types that would be the most receptive to your products and services.
- Write three to five bullets that explain why those customers should buy from you. What’s your specialty that differentiates you? Keep in mind that all your competitors can get away with saying they have great quality and delivery. It’s like a restaurant trying to win more customers by saying they have great salt and pepper.
B. What’s the Plan?
- Make the website changes that highlight your capabilities in terms that resonate with your targeted customers.
- Make lists with priority on your targeted markets:
- Existing customers
- Past customers
- Past quotes
- Possible new customers
C. Start Phoning!
- Start with your existing customers: visit them to meet the engineers and buyers; make them aware of your capabilities; suggest where you can help. They never remember, and there will be lots of new faces.
- Next: phone or visit past customers and companies you have quoted.
- Finally: phone possible new customers and ask to be placed on their bid list.