Your customers have changed. Have you?
Digitization and customer centricity are two hot topics for industrial manufactures that are mentioned in most annual reports of companies producing and selling machinery and equipment. Easy to digitize industries have already started to transform, while more complex industries such as manufacturing are starting to change now. Executives of industrial manufacturing companies expect that their digital transformations will help their companies overcome some of their top challenges, such as:
- Rising customer expectations
- Increasing global competition
- Intensifying market saturation
- Decreasing product and price differentiation
Sales, marketing and service executives often wonder where they should start their transformational digital journey in order to grow their business, stop shrinking margins, increase productivity, and provide differentiating customer experiences. They want to attract new customers, sell new products and services, and change pricing models across all relevant channels with both efficiency and agility. Here are the top six topics I typically hear from manufacturing companies when talking about their digital strategies for sales, marketing and service organizations:
- Establish a new customer engagement approach
- Leverage all relevant customer information and signals
- Improve collaboration
- Provide all relevant physical and digital channels
- Develop new business models
- Simplify and automate labor processes
In this first blog in a series where I will talk about customer centricity in a digitized world, I am focusing on customer engagement based on a user-centric mindset, which is a paradigm shift for many sales and marketing teams in industrial manufacturing companies.
A Harvard Business Manager study shows that procurement managers are not really happy with the sales professionals of their vendors: 45% have been unsatisfied with the performance of sales professionals in their B2B business (compared to 18% ten years ago). This must be very frustrating for all sales executives who have invested in training courses and tools to improve the performance of their sales organizations over the past decade. It seems that their improvements in sales and marketing processes could not keep pace with the rising expectations of the procurement managers – their customers.
According to a recent study, 65% of sales organizations consider rising customer expectations as their biggest challenge. However, with a professional and differentiating customer engagement approach, sales and marketing professionals can exceed customer expectations and outperform the competition. In order to be successful, sales professionals need to have a clear and deep understanding of their customers’ expectations and their buying behaviors. Just following a traditional funnel-based approach to engage with their customers is no longer a successful way for most sales teams in industrial manufacturing markets.
Sales professionals need to understand where their customers are in their buying journeys: does the customer already know my products and my competitors’ products. Does the customer know how products are priced? And even more important: what does the customer expect from the next engagement and which questions the customer might raise? Understanding the customer’s industry and challenges as well as articulating the value to the customers of the products the sales rep wants to sell are mandatory for winning the deal. Considering that each customer chooses its own journey – and one customer could even follow different journeys depending on what they want to buy: equipment, services, consumables, consulting, and other offerings.
In the second blog of the series, we will explore how leveraging customer information and demand signals while improving sales team collaboration can provide amazing insight into your customers’ needs, wants, and expectations. The third blog describes the value of digital channels for customer centricity, and the fourth blog covers new business models for manufacturing companies.
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Looking forward to your responses and new ideas on how manufacturing companies leverage digital transformation & customer centricity to grow their businesses and attract their customers.
Dietmar Bohn is a Vice President of Industry Solutions Management at SAP SE, focusing on customer centricity and digital transformation. He brings more than 15 years of CRM experience from both outside and inside SAP and more than 25 years of industry experience. Dietmar has held various executive roles spanning CRM strategy projects, CRM implementation projects, CRM development and CRM product management. Before joining SAP, Dietmar has held different management positions in R&D, IT and Global Sales & Marketing organizations at Heidelberger Druckmaschinen AG. Dietmar holds degrees in Electrical Engineering and in Telecommunications.