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Twelve Ways to Increase Sales in Your Manufacturing Company Right Now

If your company supplies goods to other firms and your top line has flat lined, here are twelve ideas that might help revive revenues and profits urgently:

  1. Focus on the customers you already have. If you want to increase sales urgently, look to current customers. Understand customer profitability and the future potential. Get referrals from satisfied customers.
  2. Stop chasing rainbows. There may be pots of gold at the end of a technology or sales development rainbow but it takes time to get there. If you must grow your sales and profits right now, shift resources from possible potential to current opportunities.
  3. Apply Pareto's law to customers. Understand and upgrade your customer portfolio. Find new ways and reasons to interact with the highest potential customers. Put your people on their sites. Decide what to do with the bottom 80% of your customers.
  4. Stop applying Pareto's law to products and services. Before cutting products or services because they are unprofitable consider what the impact would be on your best customers. Understand customer profitability beyond the gross margin line. Allocate costs such as sales time, returns, service, inventory carrying costs and late payments.
  5. Research customers, not markets. Customers are different from one another, even in the same industry. Focus on their individual needs, departments and division, projects, buyers and purchase criteria. Measure relationships, not satisfaction, because satisfied customers sometimes defect anyway. Understand why some good customers leave, why some contracts were lost and others won.
  6. Build sales plans for each customer. Separate account management from new revenue development in each account. For account management, grid relationships by customer contact. Establish relationship objectives for your personnel. Ensure that outcomes are well defined and timelines established and managed. Manage account details. Consider re-allocating some outside sales activities to inside staff.
  7. Compensate your people and teams for attaining the plans' objectives. Focus on collaboration. Train your staff to listen and communicate. Use recognition to change behaviours - it is as important as rewards. Many companies have one or more high-performance sales people who stress people internally. Don't insist that they change if you want new sales quickly. Surround them with people who can multiply their efforts. Hire new staff to give them competition.
  8. Use technology to interact with customers wherever possible. Integrate communications so you have a single, real-time view of customer interactions and transactions. Give your customers access to information such as the stage of project completion, inventory levels, payment history, etc. Perhaps each should have their own Web-page.
  9. Re-examine your distribution channels. The Internet offers new opportunities for customer management and new potential for confusion if channel strategies have not been carefully considered. Now might be the time to reconsider channel strategy and confirm channel roles. Consider narrowing your channels to key intermediaries. For a quick sales lift, explore e-procurement opportunities from company and industry portals.
  10. Compete on scope, not scale. Supply customers with what they want, not necessarily what you make. You might offer services with products. You could buy products from other companies who will produce under your brand.
  11. Target the customers of weaker competitors. You need to know: which competitors to target, which customers and how to target. Where you have customers in common, the challenge is to increase customer share.
  12. Retain a third party for objective advice. If you have tried some of these ideas without results, consider using an external advisor to review sales and marketing plans, performance and people to diagnose and prioritize issues, frame options and recommend corrective actions.