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To remain globally competitive, industry needs to have a manufacturing set-up, a strong sales & marketing team and competent distribution network in or around key market areas with efficient logistic support

Viewpoints Adopting the right sales approach

Feb 22, 2018

Owing to the robust Indian market, manufacturers need to implement sales strategies that address differing levels of economic development. A careful analysis of consumer preferences and existing marketing practices is required, all of which is continuously evolving. The viewpoint section explores the sales strategies that can be taken by manufacturing enterprises to cater to the Indian market, thereby, boasting their volume. Excerpts…

“Quick, efficient service & application support are the real differentiators” — Abhilash Tripathi, Managing Director, Heidenhain Optics & Electronics India

The uncertainty, which was rampant around the time of GST implementation, has more or less dissipated now and this has resulted in good order inflow for Heidenhain India since the last quarter of 2017. As Heidenhain products are part of the machine tools and allied industry, a general upswing in manufacturing activity since the last few months augurs well for us.

In a fast growing economy like India, business scenarios are always in a state of flux with changes happening on multiple fronts. Companies, which are flexible in their approach and are able to quickly respond to the customers’ requirements, will always be successful in India.

For B-to-B companies like us, quick and efficient service & application support, apart from world-class quality products, are the real differentiators against competition. We are now even closer to our customers with our dedicated engineers in the major manufacturing hubs of India. This has helped us to ramp up our sales.

“Constantly look for new customers and unexplored market avenues” — Prashant Sardeshmukh, Director, MMC Hardmetal India

Today's demand scenario across the world is volatile and it is posing stiff challenges for the industry. These challenges are multi-dimensional and some of them are erupting due to a policy shift by the government, economic reforms, labour issues, political uncertainties & international pressures, which lead to unprecedented upsurge or sudden lull in the market. For instance, Brexit has caused sudden turmoil in the market. Similarly, in India, we have experienced the market upheavals arising out of GST reforms and also due to demonetisation.

We need to have our long-term and short-term plans in place. Long-term plans will give us specific vision whereas short-term plans will allow us to have a flexible approach to meet unprecedented situations. Industry leadership should have a comprehensive understanding of the issues and the alacrity to overcome the challenges.

To remain globally competitive, industry needs to have a manufacturing set-up, a strong sales & marketing team and competent distribution network in or around key market areas with efficient logistic support. Many companies have adopted this effective multinational business structure to address these challenges. Another challenge is adapting to local rules and regulations, labour laws, tax implications, etc. that govern our target markets.

We should constantly look for new customers and unexplored market avenues. That is the most important part of the entire sales process. People buy benefits, not the products. They are interested in the results that our products will deliver. That underscores the importance of technology. We also need to define and develop our competitive advantage that will influence the customers to buy our products or services for the benefits they promise to their customers. We must focus on keeping our customer for life. ‘Once a customer, always a customer’ should be the strategy to be followed. This will create more trust and add value to our products.

“Creating a spirit of permanent improvement” — Andreas Zieger, Managing Director, EMAG India

In my field of business, which is the automotive sector, we see a big discussion about the future of mobility, which forces OEMs to spend their money on various fields and, thus, try to shift some of the investments to the next level of suppliers. On the other side, we see a more demanding customer asking for fast changing and more individualised products. Globalisation has led to a wider choice for the OEMs to select the most reliable supplier from any place in the world.

Given these conditions, the strategy to be successful is clear. It requires clean processes focusing on quality and customer benefit, not only during sales but also in the after-sales process when one needs to be recognised and appreciated. With having modern technologies available and focusing on innovation instead of only low-price products, one can add value to their customers’ needs. Additionally, a proactive entrepreneurial spirit can also help to be ahead of the crowd instead of waiting for the next step.

The approach should focus on the needs of the customer, which includes thinking what one can add to a fruitful partnership with the customer, developing a clean structure and a synchronised work process in the organisation, where everyone is a value-adding member and creating a spirit of permanent improvement. This approach demands for less hierarchy and is a type of management, which steps away from control and is driven towards empowerment of the team, trust and employee recognition.

With an honest and informative marketing strategy which focuses on the needs of the customer, one can start to create additional value. A well-trained sales force looking for the long-term benefit of the customer instead of a fast contract closing approach is also important, so that the customer is served even after the initial deal.

“Customers should look upon suppliers as solution providers” — Amul Shinde, Director—Channel Sales, Seco Tools India

India is a ‘Low Cost Country’ (LCC) destination due to many drivers and hence, companies worldwide want to produce in India. We now face the situation where this cost gap is getting reduced slowly. Hence, there is pressure on costs for everyone in the supply chain. This cost is to be looked into as a holistic cost and not in bits and pieces.

Lean approach is also adopted everywhere. Thus, ‘high mix and low volume’ is our reality today. However, even in this situation, companies need to show flexibility and maintain fair cost levels. Hence, the overall efficiency (productivity) of everyone contributing in the supply chain, including the man and machine, is important.

We also observe that the need for customised solutions is increasing day-by-day. Suppliers, who are capable of identifying this trend and responding in flexible ways with fair cost levels to this behaviour of customers, would be more successful. We must be able to identify the real issues bothering the customers and sell ‘solutions’ and not just push or sell products. Customers should look upon suppliers as partners and solution providers.

For any organisation to be successful, it is important that all arrows point in the same direction. Each and every one in the organisation must contribute in the strategy-making and its implementation. Everyone should receive a feeling that he is important and he can contribute. This is called as “Integral Management” which means vertical as well as horizontal integration. This will drive the push for flexibility in order to respond to changing dynamic demands of customers.

Apart from integral management, flexibility and identifying real customer issues is also at the heart of solutions to most problems. One must be able to define their sales process in a well-defined manner and identify the different components of this process. We must sharpen each and every such component and excel. Once the sales process is defined, it must be executed well. In order to execute it, one must identify the drivers that will drive the right behaviour for everyone to follow in this sales process.

There is often a tendency in organisations to concentrate only on the results. In this process, we always forget to pay proper attention to the drivers that will fetch those results. Thus, identifying such drivers is also important.

“Increasing value proposition for customers” — Sanjib Chakraborty, Country Head, Hurco India

The current demand scenario is volatile but not uncertain especially in India. Our company is in the capital goods market. Business opportunities for capital goods have expanded multifold in the last few years. The expectation of customers for the latest technology, application support and service support has increased drastically whereas the affordability has not improved proportionately. The reason for this is the reducing margin at every stage of the business, which has a chain effect down the verticals. The challenge for buyers and sellers is the same—having access to the right product at the right price.

The marketing strategy should revolve around the customer, who should see the value in the products. There must be a continuous effort in development of the products with a focus on innovation so as to increase the value proposition for the customers, who will, in turn, be more competitive. It should be a buying process and not just a sales process. This means that the sales and marketing team should also be part of the buying process with the customer. Only then, the deal will be concluded as a win-win situation for both the parties.

“Agility is the key” — Shreyansh B Hippargi, Managing Director, QVI India

Due to volatile market conditions, it’s very difficult to make long-term projections, which is crucial for manufacturing to get a heads-up. In this competitive market scenario, it’s always difficult to meet customers’ expectation in terms of price, product quality, and services, but we don’t have choices, we need to up-the-game. Moreover, customers today are not in a position to give any long-term commitments.

We are into imported machines segment, and much of our sales are based on foreign exchange rates & import duties. Thankfully, there has been consolidation in the duty structure due to GST, but there have been no duty cuts. Also, the rupee has not seen much appreciation of late.

Agility is the key. Organisations need to be flexible in the current environment. They should strive to give win-win solution to customers. We need to be proactive and give them total solution to their needs/ problems, rather than just pushing a product. Organisations need to develop products of globally acceptable standards, but at cost that is affordable to customer. Also, most importantly, as the marketing rule states, you should be there at the right place at the right time; and further if I may add with the right product/solution at a right value to customers.

There’s no strategy ‘A’ in general. Each market/geography is different. Different markets have different needs & different dynamics. The strategy ‘A’ for market A will not necessarily work for market B. Hence, it’s important to have different ‘Go-To-Market’ strategies for different markets. Apart from traditional sales strategies of having sales team and/or channel partners, organisations need to promote their brands. It’s good to have a great product, but it’s also necessary for people to know your brand. Earlier, word of mouth publicity would drive in loads of business, it’s still there, but today the buyer is different, he looks at the net for his search, talks to different groups of people and then make an informed decision. That’s why brand awareness is important. Due to digitalisation, more & more people are relying on their research online for their requirement. So, it’s imperative for organisations to have their presence in the digital space.

Image Gallery

  • Abhilash Tripathi, Managing Director, Heidenhain Optics & Electronics India

    Image: Heidenhain

  • Prashant Sardeshmukh, Director, MMC Hardmetal India

    Image: MMC Hardmetal

  • Andreas Zieger, Managing Director, EMAG India

    Image: EMAG India

  • Amul Shinde, Director—Channel Sales, Seco Tools India

    Image: Seco Tools

  • Sanjib Chakraborty, Country Head, Hurco India

    Image: Hurco India

  • Shreyansh B Hippargi, Managing Director, QVI India

    Image: QVI India

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