Have your Sales & Marketing strategies evolved this year?
2020 has been a difficult year and I think we can all agree that is an understatement! So, to get a better idea how it has affected the electrical industry, we polled VP & C level contacts to see how they have changed their sales and marketing strategies to compensate. Here are the results:
Are customers more interested in solution or price?
53% find a solution is what customers are looking for most
13% said price is the main focus
34% said is a combination of both
Solution: Respondents stated that end users, specifiers, system integrators and design build contractors are still focused on a solution. What is important to these customers across all verticals are value adds, shortened lead times, improved inventory availability, good service, going beyond the written warranty, good lighting design and products manufactured in the United States. Relationships with manufacturers and quality products can at times be more important than cost. Salespeople should focus on the problem or application and the ROI. Jim Alton, VP of Sales at Remke, stated, “Our customers are looking for a resource, someone that can get them what they need whether or not we offer it.”
Price: Distributors and electrical contractors are looking for the best price and quick turn around on quotes, especially as this year has brought on more budgetary pressures. One manufacturer noted the way salespeople are compensated contributes to a focus on price. “Too much emphasis is often placed on instantaneous margin and profitability metrics which doesn’t take into account costs which may be incurred at a later date, nor does it take into account client happiness and customer retention.”
Combination: Andy Zinner, GM at Leoni, said “about 40% are just looking for the best price/fastest delivery and about 60% are looking for product adjustments for their processes.” Many companies are looking for products that are easy to install and design conscious. If a manufacturer can easily retool and manufacture a custom product, they may win a project over a larger manufacturer that cannot accommodate those customizations regardless of price.
Are companies focusing on new sales channels?
57% are not making changes to their existing sales efforts and paths to market
42% are focusing on building direct relationships with specifiers, end users, design build contractors and national accounts to increase their specifications in the coming years
Some manufacturers are finding they can get into new markets, such as healthcare, government projects and horticulture/grow lights by using their existing sales channels. Others said they are focusing more on distributors now vs. specifiers. In the lighting industry, the showroom channel has been declining although that has been driven more by the internet than COVID has been a game changer for some, with large increases in sales since March.
Has there been a shift to hiring salespeople with a more technical background?
73% are looking for the best talent regardless of their technical skills when interviewing salespeople
27% prefer to have salespeople that are more technical
Most companies prefer someone that understands and can manage the dynamics of the marketplace. They are looking for problem solvers that can meet the needs of all the players involved and push back when necessary. They need to manage specifiers, installers, distributors, agents, end users and customer service. Having solid product knowledge and giving customers honest answers is more important than ever. On the other hand, Dan Emond, VP of Sales & Marketing with Northern Cables said, “I consider technical salespeople because anyone can sell on price. It is best to find a salesperson who can find the answers quickly for the customer through the various departments in a company whether that is engineering, customer service or quotations.”
What new marketing strategies are companies employing in 2020?
93% have increased their marketing budget including hiring senior or VP level marketing employees
Being creative and proactive is the best avenue to success. Companies are redesigning websites, investing in new software and engaging in more digital marketing strategies. Just about everyone has attended a Zoom meeting by now! More manufacturers are creating videos highlighting products, solutions and installation tips that are sent to their rep agencies and posted to Instagram, YouTube and LinkedIn. Some manufacturers mentioned that tradeshows can be a waste of time. One VP is setting up dinners or wine and cheese parties via Zoom while others are looking into Virtual Reality to engage customers. Manufacturers are focusing on releasing new products or listening to their customers’ requests to make improvements to their legacy products.
The overall consensus is that salespeople must evolve. They cannot just have lunch meetings, play golf or casually check in with customers during these unusual times. Pablo Leguina, SVP Sales at LSI industries, said it best, “COVID has allowed us to go back to basics. Accelerate our sense of urgency, strong outbound call efforts and follow up, doing sales the good old fashion way.”
Many thanks to the following people for speaking with Pati Kelly and contributing to the article:
Jim Alton Vice President of Sales/GM Remke
Kevin Saunders, Managing Director Woehner LLC, Hampton, NH USA
Andy Zinner, VP Sales Leoni
And a few other in the wire and cable industry.