Sales people struggle with custom products

The average salesperson can only sell custom built-to-order and engineer-to-order manufacturing products without engineering or IT assistance 25 per cent of the time or less.

This is according to a research report released today by software maker Cincom Systems.

Sales managers surveyed for the report say that fewer than 10 per cent of their sales force can sell customised products without assistance more than 75 per cent of the time.

The research, entitled “Best Practices in Sales Effectiveness for Build-to-Order Products” discusses the findings of a report from a sales perspective on the state of mass-customisation and build-to-order practices.

Close to 15 per cent of the sales managers surveyed say it takes their sales cycle more than 18 days between qualifying a customer and validating an opportunity.

This compared to half the sales managers that said it took them less than two days, with the remaining 35 per cent somewhere in the middle.

“Companies that needed more than 18 days of elapsed time to complete [sales steps] are likely to find themselves at a competitive disadvantage,” says Jim Wilson, Cincom Program Director and author of the report.

“Companies that can complete any of these steps with a day or less of elapsed time can easily outperform their competition.”

To further compound this problem, 25 per cent of sales managers report that engineering team members with expertise in custom manufacturing products are nearing retirement.

This means that soon the experts that salespeople rely on will no longer be readily accessible.

In addition, IT driorities don’t address sales issues.

Many sales issues could be met with a knowledge-management system.

However in a separate IT survey conducted by Cincom, knowledge management ranks last in priority with only 34 per cent of IT managers blieving it as “important” or “very important.”

“The implication is that the knowledge required to sell customised products is not being effectively transferred to the field and customer,” says Jim Wilson.

“This is not surprising given the lack of strategic investment in front-office processes and systems.”

Cincom Systems targeted the survey at senior sales executives, mostly at the vice president level, at 900 manufacturers of complex industrial, electrical and transportation equipment and systems.

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