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A successful outcome for any manufacturing website redesign begins with what we call the Discovery phase: It’s the foundation that ensures a website has a strategic focus and direction that will deliver the long-term ROI.

During Discovery, we walk the factory floor and ask lots of questions: What makes your company different? Who is your target audience? Who are your competitors?

Most importantly, we talk to the sales team to learn about the sales process, which includes asking: What do you want prospective buyers to do once they get to your website?

We use this information to bake the sales process flow into the website – everything from navigation and calls-to-action to messaging and integration with third-party tools (e.g. connecting forms with a CRM).

It was these very questions that prompted us to audit the Huff Industrial Marketing sales process in the face of COVID-related business changes.

Auditing our own sales process was insightful in that we learned how we can be even more strategic with our clients during the web design project. Here’s what we learned.

Map out the inquiry process using a flowchart

Prospective buyers contact manufacturers – and us – in various ways: Filling out the RFQ or Contact form, calling, and emailing are the three main options (Figure 1).

Flowchart Fig 1

Figure 1: Flowchart showing how prospective buyers contact manufacturers

Whichever method people use, you need to map out this flow and the resulting actions that will take place once the inquiry takes place.

For example, if someone completes the RFQ form, what happens next? Does the process change if someone calls your company?

You don’t need fancy flowchart software or design skills for this step. All you need is Microsoft Word and How-to-Geek’s simple instructions.

Block out an hour or so for this step, then really think through your process. Questions to consider:

  • Which members of your team are involved and why?
  • Do you need collateral to reduce redundancy (resending the same information to frequently asked questions)?
  • What happens to the prospects you’ve determined don’t meet your criteria (yet)?

It may take a few iterations to think all this through, but it’s well worth your time.

Carefully review your proposal format

One thing we learned is that we had been relying on a very outdated proposal format; we had created it years before technology such as video calls or electronic signatures were commonly used.

We spent a great deal of time thinking through the message we wanted to convey through the copy, design, and format.

To make it easy to present the proposal via screen share, we made the PDF horizontal versus vertical. We broke our process down into six steps (Figure 2) and listed the deliverables for each step to make it easy for prospects to understand the benefit of working with us.

Discover Process

Figure 2: Discovery page from the Huff Industrial Marketing sales proposal

We also added an electronic signature feature to make it super easy to sign the contract. With the old format, the person had to print the signature page, sign it, scan it, and then email it back.

If you use one of the many ERP applications available, you may be limited to the changes you can make to your proposal format.

But at the very least, give it a good review. Print it out, read it over, and note anything that needs updating or freshening up.

Test all your sales steps

Technology provides so many wonderful benefits! But, it can also trip you up because each of us use tools in different ways. Therefore, we recommend you spend time testing and reviewing all of your sales steps and interactions multiple times.

For example, we use Calendly to manage our call bookings. We tested the link multiple times, as well as reviewed the emails the system sends out.

We reviewed the proposal PDF in our email application and learned you can’t see the electronic signature feature unless you have the PDF opened in Adobe (versus in your browser).

We even wrote out the process for how we’ll conduct sales calls using our new proposal format.

The point here is, you don’t want to leave anything to chance. Test everything! As with your manufacturing processes, even the smallest change can make a huge difference.

Bonus Tip: Practice your sales calls

Once we mapped our process, we staged a practice sales call with our assistant Charmaine Moberly, who acted the part of a prospect.

We learned a few things during this “dress rehearsal.” Our initial proposal format was inefficient. We weren’t sure who would talk and when. We also realized we needed to adjust our script based on answers prospects provided.

Once the call was complete, we made revisions and talked things through again.
Another tip: place a mirror on your desk to remind you to smile when talking to people on the phone.

Conclusion

We found this audit of our own sales process a very useful exercise and can’t wait to use what we’ve learned with upcoming website projects. Our goal always is to help customers grow their businesses long-term through the very best websites and follow-on marketing we can deliver.

If your website or marketing isn’t delivering the results you want, book a call with us to see how we can help you.

Contributing Author: Rachel Cunliffe


Dianna Huff is the founder and president of Huff Industrial Marketing, a full service agency that tackles a host of marketing and communications challenges for manufacturing companies.

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