Building a sales and marketing strategy: consulting for industrial manufacturers

Sometimes in sales and marketing we know something isn’t working quite right. Maybe it’s too many lost opportunities, diminished impact with prospects, or you’re spending too much time on prospects that don’t convert.

In order to fix what isn’t working you have to take a step back and look at how your sales and marketing teams interact and how your sales process is structured. Only then will you identify the root cause and the corrective steps required.

It’s critical but challenging to stay objective during this process, and that’s where working with a partner can help.


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Exploratory questions

Especially when you’re coming from an engineering mindset it’s instinctual to dive in trying to fix things right away. But it may be more productive to start with an objective assessment. We’ll spend time getting to know your process and your teams by asking questions. Some you may not have considered, some you may have been avoiding. Remember: there are no wrong answers, only insights into what you need.

  • What are your goals for sales and marketing?
  • What are the stages in your sales process?
  • How do prospects find you?
  • In what ways do you engage prospects at various points in the journey?
  • What is your procedure for nurturing and following up?
  • What role does marketing play in lead generation and management?
  • Do your sales and marketing teams communicate well or is there a contentious relationship?
  • Does your CRM help or hinder sales and marketing efforts?

Questions like these and others show the whole marketing and sales picture and how it’s working, or failing, to meet your goals.

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Review of your sales process

Many manufacturers outline their sales process with a flowchart or series of stages from prospect through to paying customer. It’s visually appealing and clearly shows the continuous forward progression. But it might also be oversimplified.

A high-level sales process document is often missing the details of how to deal with various potential breaking points and common scenarios that arise along the way. The decisions industrial buyers make aren’t as simple as ordering take-out for dinner or buying a new TV for their homes. Most don’t know what specific products suit their application. They may be one of a committee of decision makers that must agree on purchases. And they’re charged with making a long-term investment that will be profitable for as long as possible. This complex buying process includes considerable research and evaluation, changing minds, and tentative schedules based on corporate budget restrictions. Your sales process should accommodate this complexity.

If a prospect doesn’t follow the process or flowchart as it’s written, they’re often set aside or not tracked as carefully as one who fits the boxes from the start. But discounting them is leaving potential revenue on the table.

What happens inside each of the boxes? Depending where the prospect is in their research and decision-making, they need a different response from you. What’s more, the current procurement situation at their company factors into your nurturing schedule so you can stay connected. It’s important to review your sales process to see if it anticipates common scenarios and corresponding responses, and clearly establishes criteria to qualify or disqualify prospects.

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Detailed gap analysis

Not all prospects find you at the same place, and your sales and marketing team uses your documented process or flowchart to meet them where they are and guide them forward. for example:

  •  Some have only just discovered a need like a broken machine or persistent quality issues and are exploring options at a high level unsure of how to fix the issue.
  •  Some are looking for a specific piece of equipment are exploring options through webinars, white papers, and ebooks.
  •  Some are ready to compare vendors and want to see case studies, demos, and product specification sheets.
  •  Some know they want to buy from you but won’t have funding for 6 months.

 You probably encounter each of these situations regularly, but each calls for a different approach. That’s why it’s best to decide how you’ll respond in each case and integrate it into the workflow utilizing the systematic “if/then” logic on which engineers and programmers rely.

Following a detailed sales process like this is much easier than having to reinvent a solution each time a prospect deviates from the chart. Instead, you have time and energy to nurture more prospects and manage leads throughout pipeline

Gaps in your sales and marketing processes lead to lost opportunities and misplaced effort.

  • Examples include:
  • Vague goals
  • Unclear handoff points between sales and marketing
  • Duplication of effort and inefficient processes
  • Bottlenecks and delays
  • Missing decision points and “if/then” logic
  • Fuzzy definitions for SQL/lead, MQL, and other terms
  • Insufficient advancement/qualification criteria
  • Cluttered or inaccessible data
  • Untapped or overextended resources (i.e. people and technology)
  • Unclear roles and tasks for your client facing team (i.e. sales, marketing, customer service, tech support)
  • Undocumented procedures and over-reliance on institutional memory
man and woman look at statistics

Customized action plan and tools of the trade

Your detailed sales and marketing processes serve as the foundation for all of your next steps. Each business is different, but there are some common tools and techniques:

Goal setting. Specific goals drive concrete plans. Decide what you want to accomplish, from more leads to entering a new market to higher conversion rates. Then ask yourself if your processes and teams are aligned with and working toward them.
Process and procedure documentation/flowcharts. Include relevant decision points for various scenarios, and keep them updated and easy to reference for all team members.
CRM software. Customer relationship management (CRM) databases keep track of all the notes and data about your accounts, contacts, and opportunities in a single place. Some even help you track prospects’ email opens, web page visits, and downloads. It’s best to develop your sales process stages first and then configuring your CRM (and not the other way around) so your CRM reflects your actual operations.
Data management. Your CRM is only as useful as the data you put into it, from contact information to sales call notes to tagging records by status. Data that is up to date and organized is easy to access, which means it’s easier to keep track of the pipeline and nurture prospects.
Training and alignment. You’ve spent time developing clear roles and tasks for each member of the sales and marketing team, and providing training on software (including remote access options) and procedures is critical to their success. You can also encourage collegiality and communication with regular cross-department meetings.
Metrics and dashboards. Adding and updating data in your CRM consistently means metrics, sales forecasts, and lead scores are more accurate. Dashboard software makes it easy to visualize performance over a period of time, by campaign, or by rep.
Marketing strategy and automation. Using ideal customer personas to create targeted content and delivering that content strategically with email, social media, and your website.
Center of excellence. A special in-house team of your sales and marketing experts who implement best practices, continue gap analysis, and focus on optimizing processes and outcomes.
two men talking at a desk

Ongoing support

Manufacturing technology evolves, your business goals change, and B2B buyers seek to expand their knowledge. That means your strategy has to grow and adapt byrefining processes and addressing lingering problems, such as:

  • Are sales and marketing teams meeting regularly to share information and solve problems?
  • Do you still need all the software tools you’re using or can some be consolidated?
  • Are you using your CRM and marketing automation tools to their full capabilities?
  • Is everyone up to date on CRM and other training?
  • Does documentation reflect actual practices, and is it up to date? Are those practices still effective?
  • Has something about your market segments or staff changed that impacts the sales process?
  • Is your content supporting the sales team? Is the sales team engaged with your content?

The approach to strategic sales and marketing planning outlined here is what we’ve taken in our own business and with many other clients. We think it will work for you too – please schedule a consultation or contact us today!

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Sometimes in sales and marketing things go along great – until they don’t. Other times you know something’s not working quite right, but it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what it is.

Both are signs it’s time to take a step back and assess the situation. A closer look at your people, processes, and technology, and how they work together (or don’t) may reveal invaluable clues to problems and possible solutions.

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