Technology is abound. In our daily lives, and in each and (nearly) every industry in these contemporary times. It’s a bolstering agent for many facets of life, and, as such, has been embraced by many. As it relates to the manufacturing industry, technology has pushed us in unprecedented ways – producing and delivering quality work (services and products) in record time all with a keen eye on myriad vantagepoints of industrial management. That said, what does this all mean to the sales process of industrial lead development? How has technology shifted the way we “chase” leads? Has it become more work in said chase? Or less due to the capabilities we have at qualifying potential business at the outset with the use of a website, forms, etc.?
We thought it might be fun to explore this with MuShield’s Vice President of Marketing and Sales to see how these exact talking points play out in the daily grind of an active participant in the manufacturing sales process….
Luke Grilli, Vice President
Let's take a look at how the initial part of the sales cycles has changed in the manufacturing industry in these contemporary times and how MuShield has embraced this change.
While personal interaction is still key in my mind, sadly, the days of going on road trips and taking customers out for fancy dinners is stuck in the days of “Mad Men”. Dealing with a lot of government contracts, this is frowned upon for obvious reasons. In the digital age, most of your customer interactions and initial sales inquiries are through the computer either written in email or over a Zoom call. Even over the last 10 years I have held my position, I’ve noticed the phone doesn’t ring as often as it once did, but more and more emails come in each day with RFQs or questions attached to them. We have seen this shift and invested our marketing dollars to ensure that we are easily found online and atop the Google searches.
From your perspective, how has the sales process in the manufacturing industry evolved over time? Obviously, the company was founded long before your tenure began, but you've certainly got some idea of how things happened when they happened (and how).
Everybody wants everything tomorrow. From quotes to finished goods. I’m not sure if it is our exemplary track record of getting quotes done in 24 hours or less (it probably is), but deadlines seem to approach sooner than they ever did in the past. Long before I was around, MuShield used to receive RFQ packages in the mail that may have taken 3-4 days to get here. It would take a day or two for us to quote and then send it back to the customer via snail mail. So all in all, a simple project may have taken upwards of two weeks to quote. That simply isn’t the case nowadays. We receive in your quote and immediately start taking a look. Again, our goal is to have final pricing, or at least confirmation that the quote is being worked on, within 24 hours of receiving the initial RFQ.
With regard to how MuShield generates new business - what's the breakdown of soliciting sales leads and what do the types of outreach look like (cold calls, website forms, in person meetings at things like tradeshows, etc.)?
We are in an industry where we feel inside sales takes precedent over outside sales. Simply put, you can’t just knock on Raytheon’s door and sell magnetic shielding. Generally, our customers run into an EMI issue and start to do their research. Eventually, they are led down the road to mumetal magnetic shielding and then they find us. At that point, we usually get involved with a design engineer and a solution is eventually born!
For our contract heat treating and sheet metal hydroforming new business, we have found that trade shows have been a great way to meet new people and discuss their specific needs. Of course in the day and age of COVID-19, there haven’t been any trade shows taking place, so we continue to strengthen our digital presence by funneling marketing dollars into our websites, in hopes that Google will show us the love and we are on top of the first page for key search results.
What's the importance of having a digital presence for a manufacturer such as yourself in 2020?
I think it’s huge. Almost everybody lives on their phones or their computers. So to be found easily and quickly online and to be able to tell your story through your website is paramount in 2020.
How have current trends helped fuel this change (the whole "social distancing" issue, etc.)?
COVID-19 certainly hasn’t helped, but I think we were headed this way even before social distancing was our new norm. I’ve spoken to others in manufacturing and they said their travel budget was shrinking from year to year and businesses were limiting how often people were on the road and using those dollars elsewhere (i/e to help build their web presence). Technology has improved so drastically, that it is simple and inexpensive to meet virtually. Seeing as most companies were forced to go this route thanks to COVID-19, I wouldn’t be shocked if virtual meetings become more of the norm in the future.
The industry has long been at the forefront of tried and true “face-to-face” type of engagements with regard to partnerships, but, is a digital shift eminent, or, at the very least, the new 'first step?'”
Absolutely. Paying $15/month for a Zoom account and having multiple meetings per day or spending $1,000+ for a plane ticket, hotel room, rental car, meals etc… Do the math. I do still believe we will still have to go on-site to help with a magnetic interference problem here and there, and I plan on keeping face to face meetings as a strategy to get to know customers and their specific needs, but technology has allowed us to do this in a far more efficient and cost effective manner.
Where do you see manufacturing sales processes going as we walk into the future? How will technology play a role?
I envision a way where manufacturing companies not only rely on technology to start the sales process, but to also keep customers updated on the manufacturing process once the job has been ordered and manufacturing has begun. ERP systems may eventually be able to share information (or as much information as you’d like to share) with customers who have a specific log in and they can see where their job is real time.