A newly minted CEO of a large multi-national manufacturer recently posed the question, “How can manufacturers drive incremental growth and win right now with their commercial team?” He candidly admitted that he (like many other manufacturing executives) knows how the supply chain, operations team, finance and strategy functions work — but not where to focus with the commercial team. Specifically, he wanted to know, “What are the things I should look for immediately from my sales, marketing and products teams?”
As you move forward in 2020, there are five “Do No Harm” actions that every manufacturing leader should take to grow revenue.
1. Confirm Growth Strategy
First, visit your top 10 clients with the seller(s) and sales manager who own those accounts. Listen to the client to understand their business and what value you contribute to their success. It is important to understand how your company’s value links to what makes your most important customers tick. Second, listen to your first-line sales managers (FLSMs) and sales team on how they interpret your strategy. The link between your customers’ points of view and your sales teams’ interpretation will help you understand if your sales team has continuity in the message and delivers differentiated value.
2. Appraise Current Value Propositions
Scorecard the top 10 value propositions for your product and services, along with your marketing and product leaders. This will help you identify gaps in both product and delivery. Manufacturing leaders should consider the following:
- Do our value propositions offer differentiation to the competition?
- Is there a compelling message to persuade a buyer to act?
- Are our value propositions quantifiable, and can we show a measureable difference?
- Are our value propositions simple enough for sellers and marketers to deliver in one breath?
3. Inspect Both Pipelines
Manufacturing leaders need to effectively manage two, interconnected pipelines: (1) an opportunity pipeline and (2) a product development pipeline.
Leaders need to review their opportunity pipeline on a regular basis to ensure they have rigor in the measurability and believability of the true potential. After all, this is the source of their first few quarters of growth. It is important to be a part of these pipeline reviews to gauge the team’s perception of opportunity and their ability to deliver.
The second, often overlooked, pipeline is equally important. A robust product development pipeline ensures sufficient new ideas on the horizon that connect value to actual buyers.
Connecting both pipelines drives a message to the leadership team that they must focus on organic growth, while winning today.
4. Evaluate Talent of the First-Line Sales Managers
The first-line sales manager (FLSM) is the most important job in the entire manufacturing organization. Recognize that these individuals are the connection between the company’s strategies and execution in the field.
A manufacturing leader may be able to transform the organization with mediocre sales teams, but it is impossible to successfully set a new growth-oriented vision with mediocre FLSMs. After conducting a fair and thorough assessment of the FLSMs, it is appropriate to shake up the system and replace those who either cannot continuously improve nor have the capability to connect a new strategy to action.
5. Fix the Parts of the Sales Compensation Plan That Are Broken
Know that sales incentive compensation is one of the most powerful and dangerous alignment tools in your kit. Used properly, it ensures strategies and jobs align to seller behavior. If there are obvious broken elements (e.g., artificial pay caps or inappropriate metrics) in the current plans, use this tool to send a signal to the salesforce that sales compensation matters and that you are investigating the pieces that are broken.
However, use caution. Sales incentive design is complex and easy to over-engineer. Throughout the year, evaluate your compensation program so that you can best align future sales compensation structures to the behaviors you want to reward. Because plans likely change, remember the axiom when delivering any near-term adjustments: commit to the money, but plans will evolve.
Done correctly, these five key actions will drive incremental growth and define the role of the commercial team as a market differentiator in 2020.
Kyle Uebelhor is a principal and manufacturing practice lead at the Alexander Group. He is a leader in the firm’s Manufacturing and Distribution practices. Kyle’s clients include leading companies throughout manufacturing and wholesale/distribution.