Blog Category: Sales

Survey Results: The State of Digital Manufacturing 2021

In our latest survey, The State of Digital Manufacturing, we asked large and mid-sized manufacturers worldwide, how they are taking on the challenges of digitalization, the pandemic and more.

A digital revolution is well underway in manufacturing and has been accelerated by the COVID-19 Pandemic. This revolution is changing the way companies produce and sell products and services. From internal operations to customer experience, manufacturers across industries are gearing up for change. Customization, from the customer buying experience to the factory floor, is essential for gaining a competitive advantage and long-term customer loyalty. To help manufacturers keep up-to-date with these developments, we’ve released this report, focusing on how manufacturers are responding to smart manufacturing initiatives. The state of digital manufacturing is quickly changing are you ready?

We’re giving a sneak preview of some of the most telling results here, if you’d like the full results download the eBook here!

In short, 2020 disrupted the state of manufacturing across the globe

The impact of recent economic times didn’t slow digital transformation efforts, in fact, the majority of respondents said they have continued or accelerated their efforts. Supply chain optimization is the most critical digital transformation investment initiative among manufacturers during the current economic uncertainty, here’s what we found:

The direct impact of the pandemic

COVID-19 has given credence to many of the trends manufacturers we’re heading towards before the pandemic. An online buying journey for customers, improved quote efficiency, and automation Now that these challenges are clear, less face-to-face customer interaction, slow inefficient process, and lack of data it’s time to change how you work internally and interact with customers before it’s too late.

Many of our respondents noted the next generation of manufacturing buyers, ones who will be accustom to a fully online buying journey, with little or no interaction with sales reps or engineers. “It is all about customer experience in our industry, we need to make it easy for the next generation of entrepreneurs. We need to create value together with our customers and partners.”

Strategic Areas and Investment Initiatives

With the pandemic disrupting all areas of manufacturing many companies are trying to optimize and automate processes from sales to supply chain. Many also believe increasing product quality and driving sales through specific initiatives can help bolster growth now, while building up to future success post-pandemic.

As one respondent noted, “To avoid being obsolete as an incumbent firm, the digital transformation is multidimensional with internal, external and customer changes.”

The importance of a multidimensional approach to digital transformation is critical. Focusing on internal processes can lead to a better customer experience. Without reworks, and order errors customers are more likely to get their products faster and accurately. Manufacturers have also been looking for ways to enable customer-self service, this is nearly impossible without automating processes.

This is why many manufacturers are taking a holistic approach when looking for solution providers. Finding one solution that can bridge the gap between internal operations and customer experience can be a major driver of both revenue and product development.

Where to next?

COVID-19 has given credence to many of the trends manufacturers we’re heading towards before the pandemic. Faster operations, an enhanced customer experience, and of course cutting edge products. Now that these challenges are clear, less face-to-face customer interaction, slow inefficient process, and lack of data it’s time to change how you work internally and interact with customers.

With rapid changes in the market and a focus on customer satisfaction, manufacturers must leverage new solutions to enable the customer to do more while also improving internal operations. Today’s modern manufacturers need to transform their sales pitch to gain the attention and purchasing power of potential customers. That all begins with Tacton’s Configure, Price, Quote (CPQ) software. CPQ enables manufacturers to optimize every aspect of the buying and selling journey. From supply chain to reducing costs and providing customer self-service. CPQ can truly transform how companies do business.

Learn more by downloading the complete survey results for more info or schedule your personalized demo today!

Win More Channel Sales Deals Using Visual Configuration

Channel Sales is a well-understood strategy. When manufacturers lack the means to effectively commercialize and distribute their products and services they partner with specialized re-sellers. In doing so, the manufacturer gets to focus on the development of the product, while the channel partners focus on finding and signing new customers.

By helping your channel sales with a more simple, efficient, and effective sales process, you can win more deals. In other words, your job as a manufacturer is to make your products and solutions easy for your channel partner to sell.

If you are using channel sales you probably have dedicated teams ensuring that their channel partners are working from them. A couple of examples of companies working actively to make their channel sales successful are, Pelco – a Motorolla Company, and nVent talk about how they are working with channel sales to configure, price and quote their products.

Check out the videos below:

How can manufacturers ensure that their channel Sales delivers more sales?

Your responsibility towards your channel partner is to help them sell. If the channel partner is not only offering your products but also your competitors too,  you need to ensure that you are the go-to solution.

How can you ensure that channel sales offer your products above your competitor’s? Certainly not by being the cheapest, nor by offering higher commissions.

By competing on price, you might win the deal, but you will certainly end up losing the customer in the end. 

Instead, you should focus on making your offer easier to sell to the end customer. This way, both the seller and the buyer can perceive the value of the product more clearly, and thus paving the way to the signing table. One of the ways to do this effectively is using visual configuration.

Visual configuration is a feature of Configure, Price, Quote software (CPQ), that shows customers the product as it is being configured. It uses realistic 3D and AR technology that is not only visually impactful but also 100% accurate to the configured specs.

A closer look at Visual Configuration

Don’t Miss it! We are hosting 2 LIVE WEBINARS on visual configuration,

one for the US and one for Europe.

Tacton Visual Configuration webinar

For US & Canada – March 18, 2 pm EST/ 1 pm CT – Register HERE
For Europe – March 23, 15:00-15:30 CET – Register HERE

(back to the article)

The elevator industry is a great example for explaining the sales process using Visual Configuration. This industry typically relies on channel sales partners to sell their equipment worldwide. It is also a great example because elevators must not only meet stringent regulations to ensure safety, they must also be appealing in terms of design and finishing details.

Safety first: product configurator as a failsafe

How can we ensure that the designers, sales teams, and customers configuring the elevator do not neglect safety or operational feasibility? How can we avoid delays by having to review all details, ensuring that they are compliant with building codes and regulatory standards?

Visual Configuration without a robust CPQ behind the sales tool, manufacturers would require sales engineers to go through, in detail, the configurations that resulted from a customer meeting or a sales order. This was cost-ineffective and lead to delays in the sales process.

Visual configuration is based on the configurator (constraints-based, AI-powered algorithm) that ensures that each product selection is 100% compatible with technical requirements, and thus buildable. It also ensures that all regulatory, and design requirements are also accounted for.

Not all visualization tools are the same. Visualization must be supported by a powerful configurator working behind the scenes. 

The start of the Visual Configuration Process

Step 1: Capacity and Dimensions

First, you need to decide and define how big the room, or the elevator cabin should be. The elevator needs to fit in a pre-designed space or place and therefore defining and adjusting the width, height, and depth of the cabin and the resulting constraints like the possible load.

Different elevator cabin dimensions

(Images of different cabin dimensions)

Step 2: Materials and Finishings

After deciding on the dimensions, the next step is to design all surfaces in the room or in this case the cabin. From floor materials, over wall designs to ceiling colors. A wide range of materials and colors are available for different use cases that need to fit and work well together when combined.

On top of the design additional room or cabin accessories and products like bumper rails, hand roles, mirrors, different door types, entrance sides and glass walls are available to be placed at different positions and in different configurations.

Different elevator cabin designs and accessories

(Images of different cabin designs and accessories)

Step 3: Lighting

Lighting also plays an important role in the design of a room or an elevator interior. Different light types, forms, and alignments create different moods and illumination.

Different Elevator lighting configurations
(Images of different lighting configurations)

Step 4: Buttons Panels and Controls

One very important product and part of a cabin configuration is the operation panel to use the elevator. Configuring a complete operation panel is a complex task as well with a wide range of different buttons, displays, information plates, communication devices and other components that can be selected and that need to be placed and arranged on the panel surface.

Elevator operation panel configuration

(Images of operation panel configuration)

Spatial configuration is a complex task that is best solved by human interaction, reflecting individual preferences and needs. Dragging and dropping the individual elements on the panel, rearranging them in real-time and getting instant feedback about possible geometrical constraints and resulting conflicts is an essential function in any configuration process.

Elevator spatial placements and conflicts

(Images of spatial placements and conflicts)

Conclusion: Visual Configuration delivers more Channel Partner Sales

As we have discussed, visual configuration carries two primary advantages for Channel Partner Sales. First, it makes the sales process easy, and effective for the salesperson. A sales rep can trust the configuration is 100% correct, and therefore can assure the buyer every step of the way.

Second, accurate and real-time visualizations can transform an ordinary sales meeting. Customers can see renderings of their options in 3D as well as in Alternative Reality.  

If you are depending on Channel Partners to sell your configurable products, Visual Configuration is a safe bet to drive more sales.

Ready to learn more? Check out our visualization page, or download our ultimate guide to visualization

The 5 2021 Manufacturing Sales Trends You Can’t Afford to Miss

The 2021 Manufacturing Sales Trends  

The year 2020 has been a pivotal year for manufacturers. We have seen important shifts in manufacturing that have impacted many of our customers strategies for 2021 and beyond. We’ve curated these insights from our customers and analystscompiling the key trends expected from manufacturers in 2021. But first, let’s look at the year in review. 

 2020 a year like no other  

2020 was a tough year for everyone, manufacturers included. The COVID-19 pandemic has tested the digital-readiness of the industry as it was forced to shift to digital-first sales operations. As a result, there was an acceleration in digital transformation across the industry. 

The manufacturers that will thrive in 2021 are those that actively seek innovation and are willing to abandon old ways of doing things. This is what many experts refer to as “embracing the new normal.” 

Sales teams were one of the hardest hit by the pandemic amid travel bans with all on-site demos, negotiations, and crucial face-to-face meetings indefinitely ‘postponed’. Combined with economic uncertainly, sales teams were forced to interact in new, often uncomfortable ways as they transitioned to digital interactions. These challenges have shifted how and when we work, making it important to adapt to the current situation while also embracing the future with new ways to interact. Now as comfort with digital interactions grows, many of our customers have shared how they plan to embrace the new normal and take a digital-first approach to sell.  

Buyer Enablement is the key driver in manufacturing  

Traditionally the buying experience for manufacturing products is high-touch, very complicated, and often disjointed. Partner that with recent economic uncertainty, social distancing practices, and unease about travel– there’s a new sense of urgency to enable digital selling channels. 

New research from Gartner indicates an acceleration of B2B sales in digital channels. By 2025, the expectation is that 80% of interactions between suppliers and buyers will occur in digital channels. Partner that with current economic uncertainty, it’s clear there is a race to reinvent the buying experience across all B2B sales, specifically industrial manufacturing.  

With fewer deals to go around and a more competitive landscapeyou have to find new ways to differentiate yourself and provide a superior B2B buying experience that copes with the constraints of the times and that better suits the needs of the customer 

The leaders in your industries, and many of our customers, are already using or are well on their way to implementing disruptive technologies such as Configure, Price, Quote (CPQ), visualization, and even eCommerce, to meet customer expectations with a focus on buyer enablement. 

This trend is nothing new. Manufacturers have been slowly moving towards an online buying experience over the past years. However, the pace has now accelerated as B2B sales migrate online and critical buying decisions are made by teams working remotelyWe are certainly not the only ones seeing this trend towards online buyer enablement. In late 2020, Accenture published a report on the state of the B2B digital economy for manufacturers.  

According to Accenture’s research, the new normal has 74% of industrial buyers are researching at least half their purchases onlineThe trend from offline to online is bound the accelerate in the coming years. By 2025, the same study reports 20% of all customizable industrial purchases will take place online. This makes a shift to an online buyer-driven experience more important to the long-term success of your organization.  

Disrupting the traditional buying experience is the first step to success. So now, let’s take a look at the top trends we have gathered from our top customers and prospects. 

 1.) Building Self-service buying experience for highly configurable products 

With buyer enablement comes an increased focus on customer self-service. This has created a shift that enables customers to purchase manufacturing equipment using self-service without interacting with a sales team. While buyers are already accustomed to starting their process online and completing it with the help of a salesperson, they are expecting to do more and more on their own. The self-service experience is extending beyond the research phase and into the configuration, quoting, pricing, negotiating, and ultimately purchasing of your products—all online. 

Self-service empowers manufacturers to offer an experience that goes beyond traditional selling methods. Enabling self-service throughout the product lifecycle, from the first interaction to re-order, can help your company become more efficient and profitable. This is done by utilizing the wealth of unique product data from CPQ to make recommendations using Guided Selling1For example, you can cater to returning customers by offering specific product features to them, based on their past purchases or data gathered from past product configurations. Using analytics can take you one step further by showing which product features or addons are more likely to sell and which aren’t selling as quickly. These unique insights can drive your product development, inventory decisions, and protect your margins. 

Enabling self-service makes it easy for customers to engage remotely from their home office, the warehouse, or in the field for an expedited process. A great self-service experience for your customers will go beyond simply describing your product and features and into an experience that leads to them completing orders and making deals that are larger and with higher margins.  

Want bonus content? Check out our eBook on the top manufacturing trends!

2.Real-time 3D Visualization for configured products  

Everyone knows B2B customers have been starting their buying journey online for years. Buyers were limited by the product descriptions provided by the manufacturer, often listing the variable options and configurations possible, but without being able to explain if the product could be configured to their exact needs. 

This year has forced interactions between you and your customer to move online and this has made buyers expect more from their digital experience. Text and images are not enough to engage buyers when they engage digitally. This has put a lot of pressure on vendors to create digital-first disruptive experiences. This is where real-time 3D Visualization steps in and offers both an engaging and disruptive experience—all online. It’s clear no one will buy products sight unseen and that becomes increasingly evident as digital engagementnormalize. 

Visualization is the key to building self-service, digital-first experience on your website. CPQ paired with Visualization empowers anyone to configure highly customized products and see every change they make on their screen in real-time. This allows your customers to see the exact product as they configure and make changes to it. Additionally, features like Augmented Reality (AR) allow your customer to place a 3D image in a room and walk around it as if it was standing in front of them. Our customers are investing in delivering a best-in-class experience that ensures their customers get a personalized showroom-experience wherever they are working from. 

Manufacturers, especially those offering configurable industrial equipment, understand the challenges of visual configuration. Until just a few years ago, visual configuration, that is the ability to render real-time phot-realistic 3D images of a configured product, was deemed technically impossible. Prior to CPQ, product configuration was an error-prone process that was slow and costly. CPQ not only enables the configuration to be done in a matter of seconds, it also enables visualization to be done instantly with the assurance that errors eradicated, and prices are accurate. If implementedyou can put the power in the hands of your customers through your website.  

The benefits of Visualization do not end at customer experience. In fact, product visualization reduces reworks, increase deal margins, and accelerates the sales cycle. Leaders across all industries understand this and are making moves to put visualization into their 2021 strategy. 

3.) Support the complete customer buying journey with eCommerce 

Buying (and selling) goods online have become commonplace in B2C industries such as retail, services, and hospitality. eCommerce has normalized the online experience for the consumer and those same expectations are transferred when the individual consumer goes to work as a B2B buyerFor Manufacturing, however, the implementation of eCommerce has been slow and, until recently, technically impossible.  

Manufacturers’ sluggish adoption of eCommerce can be attributed to two primary factors. The first has to do with the technical difficulties in preparing a technically-sound, error-free, configured product quote. The task of configuring the product would require an entire team of sales engineers, working days, or even weeks to configure the product just right. Pricing the product was another hurdle for the sales teams to overcome. Before CPQ these tasks would be done manually (using numerous fragile and complex excel sheets).  

The second reason why manufacturers were slow at adopting eCommerce, was due to the size and complexity of the deals themselves. B2B manufacturers would rely on numerous face-to-face meetings, demonstrations, explanations from the salesperson in order to ensure the buyer that the product met spec and to demonstrate the value of the product before a final purchase decision was made.  

Today, CPQ has changed much of the way industrial equipment is bought and sold. With CPQ, salespeople can configure a product as they meet with the customer, and have the complete quote emailed to the customer before the end of the meeting. When CPQ powers your eCommerce platform, the customer can be assured at every step, that the options chosen are compatible with each other, and that the product parts are in stock. The buyers can also compare and contrast various alternatives and ensure that they are making the right decision.  

Providing fast accurate products will help customers get what they need when they need it, throughout the product lifecycle—all through your website.  

4.) Selling subscription services for Predicable Revenue 

Predictable revenue during times of economic uncertainty is the envy of all businesses. For the manufacturing industry, this could easily breimagining the way you commercialize your products and building new business modelsOur customers are thinking about servitization as a new financial model to enhance the way their customers experience their productsServitization refers to the phenomenon of offering the products and equipment as a service, where the customer pays a fee for the use of the product, reaping the value of the use of the productAirline jet engines is one of the most well-known use cases of servitization, where Rolls Royce or GE provides the power unit, maintenance, and upkeep of the engines, while the aircraft owner pays a fee for the usage 

By incorporating a service modelmanufacturers can provide more value to their customers while also building a predictable revenue stream. Additionally, customers can avoid big investments and unpredictable operational or maintenance costs by simply paying for usage. 

There are numerous ways to implement servitization. Two of the most common models follow the equipment-as-a-service model. This resembles more of a rental model where the equipment is maintained and serviced by the manufacturer. The other model is more closely linked to the actual output or value the equipment provides. Here, the manufacturer charges the customer based on the usage it delivers. Using the jet engine model explained earlier, the engine manufacturer would charge the owner of the airplane per mile flown. In the simplest instances, some are looking to utilize subscription management for aftersales service agreements. 

The benefits for both manufacturers and your customers are clear. As a manufacturer, you get to work closely with your customersbuilding relationshipswhile building predictable subscription revenue. The manufacturer provides a valuable service to the customer including maintenance and deploys field service that ensures the equipment continues performing at its best. All of this improves customer experience, builds brand loyalty, and bundles all service costs into a monthly fee. With subscription service contracts, your customers aren’t buying equipmentthey are acquiring value. 

Shifting or adding revenue models may seem daunting, but leaders in your industry are already seeking to build predictable revenue models that improve the experience of their customers. When implemented as part of a digital transformation strategy, you ensure your customers have a digital portal to manage their services and continue meaningful interactions. 

5.) Connect systems and processes with CPQ for data-driven decisions 

All these trends are insightful ways that manufacturers are re-designing the sales process to be buyer-drivenThese four trends rely on the ability for manufacturers to solve one of the most crucial challengesthe ability to manage product variance using data transportabilityManaging product variance is about going beyond the configuration of the product components and into interlinking the organization around a single source of truth for product data.  

By connecting all business functions, you give everyone in the organization one source of data to work fromensuring cohesion among the various parts of the organization. This means sales, marketing, and customers are configuring products that engineering can design, and engineering is designing a product the factory can build. The ability to cope with the complexities of all product data, pricing information to inventory, and production schedule can only be effectively managed by a central ecosystem with CPQ at its core. 

The benefits of a connected ecosystem don’t just end at data integrity or data transferability. In a post-Covid-19 study, Gartner claims that 60% of B2B sales decisions will be data-driven by merging sales processes and applications. In order for you to achieve this, data silos need to be dismantled. In doing this, commercial teams will be supported by systems that make product recommendations, suggest common configurations, prove services, and provides after-sales service quotes.   

The right CPQ software connects your CRM, ERP, CAD, PLM, PIM, pricing tools, eCommerce, and all other front, middle, and back-office software platforms. CPQ can collect and process data across departments, ensuring accuracy and consistency across all customer-centric and product-centric processes.  

Managing product variance and integrating data can also extend beyond your organization and empowering all sales channels, whether it be partners, dealers, online, or through self-service. Top manufacturers see the importance of empowering the buyer and using CPQ as the engine to drive that experience. 

 There’s no turning back now 

2020 has reminded us of the importance of valuing resilience over efficiency. The organizations that best dealt with last year’s challenges were not the fastest, smoothest, or productive. Rather they were the organization that best adapted to the new reality while still delivering value to their customers. 

We have seen how many global manufacturers were able to use the current economic situation to accelerate their digital transformation. Their aim was to best serve their customers and not lose out to competitors. Digital technologies, like CPQ, have eliminated the complexities that prevented B2B manufacturers from creating a truly digital-first, customer-centric buying, and selling experience.  

The many conversations and interviews we’ve conducted with manufacturing leaders all concluded that there is no going back to the way things were. The leaders in your industries across the world are all-embracing digitalization to reinvent the way they serve their customers. In order to successfully do that, they will continue to take a digital-first approach that removes technical barriers and empowers the customers 

At the beginning of 2020, before the pandemic, we advised that manufacturers needed to digitalize or risk becoming obsolete. Today, in 2021, it is even more dramatic: “Manufacturers need to digitalize or die”.  

Ready to take your next step? Schedule your personalized demo today!

Contributors:

Nick Thompson, VP of Product Marketing, Tacton 

Michael Brassea, Sr. Content Product Specialist, Tacton 

Mateo Bornico, CPQ Content Specialist, Tacton 

 The eCommerce Surge in Manufacturing 

 The eCommerce Surge in Manufacturing is here to stay 

I had the opportunity to read Benedict Evans “The eCommerce surge” article, and I was really taken aback by the impact that this period of uncertainty and global crisis is having on the e-commerce business even for manufacturers. 

 

Sure, it was logic that in a time where meeting people is not recommended, digital purchases would have increased, but the graph is very impressive: In the last few months, e-commerce has experienced the same growth as in the last few years combined. 

What is happening is a revolutionary change in the way customers interact with companies, and this change is here to stay well after the pandemic. 

Despite this, a surprising number of contacts I am having in these weeks tells me that they have paused or postponed their plans for digital commerce! 

Sure, companies need to tackle problems caused by the pandemic, because the increase in digital sales does not cover the loss in the offline channels. But as the history of brands like Apple or Tesla tells us, when there is a radical shift of equilibrium in the world, whoever or whatever can ride that wave is destined to remain in a leadership position for the future. 

“Duck and cover” strategy can surely guarantee survival in the very short term, but it is crucial to react and try to seize anything that can turn the situation into an advantage.  

Discuss the customer revolution in manufacturing together with representatives from Tacton, Intershop and our mutual customer Atlas Copco at the Tacton Smart Commerce Online Summit on November 17. 

The window of opportunity is already closing. 

But with budget issues, how is it possible to act in an efficient way and not put the business at further risk? 

One way is to act fast and create a quick Minimum Viable Product. Open or renew a digital channel for the most important and remunerative segment of your market: it does not have to be complete or exhaustive, but it is a way to hold on to your customer, increase their satisfaction and loyalty, and why not a possibility to increase your share despite your competitors while they are struggling? 

It is wise to choose a solution that comes with the most Out of the Box features, that lives in the Cloud to avoid burdening the IT department, and that requires the minimum up-front investments. 

It won’t be beneficial only to the customers, but it will also free up sales resources from mundane tasks and allow them to stay closer to customers and increase margin and quality. 

What happens when the wave is passed? It would be very bad to lose the gained momentum. This is why it is very important to choose a platform that not only can go live quickly but also that is sufficiently elastic and reliable to grow together with your business and be the foundation of a newly found prosperity. 

Ready to learn more? Join us on November 17th for our Smart Commerce Summit with Intershop, nVent, Atlas Copco, Pelco, and more!  

Note: This article was first published by Mauro BoffardiCustomer Success Leader at Intershop 

How to Collaborate with your Remote Sales Prospects

remote collaboration agreement

In remote sales, submitting a complete quote to a customer is vital. Here’s how you can collaborate remotely with your customer to co-create a successful deal.

This is the 3rd installment of our “Remote Selling for Manufacturers” series. Past posts included “5 Tips to host a video sells meeting” and “How to demo products remotely”.

Over the past couple of months, many commercial teams, including those working for global manufacturers, have gotten used to working remotely. While you may have found ways of keeping your customers and prospects engaged, chances are that many on-going sales process were stopped from one week to the next. Today, many organizations are embracing the latest technologies to carry on with their sales processes remotely. Until recently, manufacturers selling complex products lacked the sales tools to enable remote sales.

The most critical moment of a Sale

Submitting a complete quote to a customer is one of the most important moments of a sale. This moment captures all the previous engagements, meetings and discussions you had with the customer and is a testament of how you plan to meet your customer’s needs.

Given the complexity of B2B deals, it is common for an initial proposal to be submitted only to be returned with corrections and suggestions form the customer. While no side wants delays, all parties understand the need to ensure every last detail is correct before an agreement is finalized. The fewer these backs and forth, the faster both parties can get what they want.

In the past, the process of getting the quote just right would be carried out over days or weeks, by means of a back and forth (typically in writing). While e-mail, and document sharing services have managed to speed things up from the days of the fax, the process remained slow and cumbersome.

Don’t just communicate, COLLABORATE!

The process of “coming to an agreement” used to involve the back-and-forth “dialogue” between two sides, each trying to get their needs met. Today, any B2B salesperson understands that it’s never a good idea to see the other party as an adversary (win-lose), rather as a partner with a common goal (win-win). In other words, if you want to be effective today, you need to actively collaborate with your customers and help them achieve their goals.

While many may agree to this win-win approach, in theory, many organizations struggle to put it into practice. Fortunately, today there are new sales tools and software solutions that make it easier to embrace collaboration with your customers while working remotely. Here’s how.

2 Ways of collaborating with customers during the sales process

1)      Crafting a quote together, step by step, during the same sales call

Imagine if it was possible to be on a video call with your customer. As you are listening to the needs of the customer, you are able to create the quote so by the time you hang up, the quote is already sitting in their inbox. This is exactly what happens in this video.

The video was created by one of our product managers working from home, who enlisted the help of his neighbor to play the role of a buyer. This is yet another example of how we are adapting to this situation.

Here you see how within a call, the salesperson is able to make adjustments to the quote in real-time. If you watched to the end, you can see that the quote will be ready “in a few minutes”.

This is an ideal example of what collaboration with your customer looks like. The customer feels understood and feedback if acted upon right away.

2)      Asynchronously: Handing the keys to the customer

While configuring the quote at the same time might be ideal. There are cases when your customer is working half-way around the world and having a clear video call at the same time is just not feasible. To remain collaborative in these situations, you need to give the customer part-ownership of the process. There are many benefits to allowing your customers to co-create the quote with you, including tapping into what’s known as the IKEA effect.

In this 2-minute video, we can see how a prospect received a detailed quote and, like in the above video, he is able to visualize the product using AR.

Here, you can see how the customer was not satisfied with the original quote. Rather than “sending it back” to you, the customer is empowered to log in directly to a limited quoting environment and reconfigure the order to match their needs.

All that is left to do, is for you to observe the changes made and proceed with the quote.

(BONUS) The Hidden Benefits of Collaboration

We’ve just highlighted some of the practical benefits of collaborating with your customer, especially when it comes to working remotely. There are, also some additional benefits to working in a collaborative way.

1) Shorter sales cycle: The easier it is to make alterations and adjustments, the quicker both sides can come to an agreement.

2) Reduce quoting errors: With its AI-powered configurator, every quote is technically 100% error-free. This reduces the need for sales engineers to correct any order errors.

3) CPQ quotes and proposals are directly linked to Salesforce (or other CRMs) and with your ERP

4) Configured product orders from CPQ are seamlessly transferred to the PLM or other production software.

remote collaboration agreement

 Image credit: Idea vector created by stories – www.freepik.com

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Check out our Resource page where you can read customer success stories, and experience live customer demos.

HOW TO DEMO MANUFACTURING PRODUCTS REMOTELY

How to Demo Manufacturing products remotely

How to DEMO Manufacturing products remotely using 3D and AR (Augmented reality).

The coronavirus is transforming how we “get to work” – in all senses of the word. With many people being asked to work from home (#WFH), it’s hard to go online and not read tips on designing your home workspace, or even the top 5 tips to host a remote sales meeting.

Few professionals,however, seem to understand the challenges of B2B sales. Particularly, the challenges of selling complex manufacturing products. It’s not as if their sales process wasn’t already complicated enough, now with everyone working from home, it’s next to impossible to make progress on their sales process. Or maybe… you just don’t have the right tools.

Just because you can’t meet your customers in person, does not mean that you can’t demo your products. Here’s how.

Imagine sending your prospects a customized product quote, along with a bar code.
For this example, let’s pretend you sell elevators (watch the video below):

It’s important to note that this was not just a 3D/AR visualization of a STANDARD product. Rather, this is a virtual demo of a CONFIGURED product – customized to the exact specifications of the client.

AR demos are becoming more commonplace and they are being used in a wider range of products. On average, 65% of people are visual learners, and they can retain 4 times more information if it’s accompanied by visual aids.   

It looks simple, doesn’t it? Well, for our customers that have implemented Tacton Visual Configuration, the process is as easy as it looks. Let’s take a closer look.

It all starts with CPQ (Configure Price Quote). This is the underlying technology that guides the user through the configuration process with ease, ensuring that all components selected are compatible and viable. For configurable products (especially those with many variables that are highly complex), a CPQ is vital for ensuring the product meets the customer’s needs and that the configuration itself is error-free.

In this slightly longer version of the video, you can see what would happen if the customer is not satisfied with the product quoted. CPQ simplifies the configuration process to such an extent that even a customer can do it.

 

 

Tacton uses an AI-powered configuration engine, allowing configuration (including accurate price and realistic visualizations) to be carried out in real-time. This makes it possible for you to put together a complete quote during a sales meeting, or right after speaking to the customer. Once configured, you can send images and augmented reality (AR) demos of that exact product. This gives the customer an accurate preview of the product they are looking to buy.

The very same configuration quoted can be seamlessly transferred to the ERP systems or the PLM systems so that it is manufactured exactly as quoted. CPQ eliminated the back and forth between sales, production, and engineering.

So far, all this can be done remotely, without the need to travel or meet in person.

Do you think your organization can benefit from such solutions?

If you are interested in seeing a complete demo on how this quoting process would go, we recently hosted a 20min webinar that walks you through the entire visual configuration process in greater detail.

Would you like to try it for yourself?

We’ve created 2 fictional companies: Tructon, a Truck manufacturer; and Parker Lifts and elevator company. These are free for anyone to try out. It’s important to remember that these are “demos” and tacton provides the underlying technology. The looks and feel (UX) can be completely customized by the customer.

How to start using our AR app:

 1) Download the app here: AR app available only on IOS, if you have Android, you can still test the demos on the desktop and view the 3D versions, check out steps 2 and 3).

2) Go into one of our 2 demo environments at tructon.com or www.parkerlifts.com

3) Configure your product and imagine how the products your company makes could be configured this way.

You can also see how some of our customers are using Visual Configurations here: https://www.tacton.com/resources/?resource_type=m207-live-examples

5 ACTIONABLE TIPS FOR HOSTING A VIDEO SALES MEETING

5 actionable tips for hosting a video sales meeting

Since the WHO declared Covid-19 as a pandemic, many organizations have asked us: How are we supposed to sell our manufacturing products remotely? Consider this the first installment of a series opportunistically named “How to sell your manufacturing products remotely”

Recently, Tacton CPQ was named a Visionary in Gartner’s Magic Quadrant for CPQ Application Suites, and as such, we wanted to give you some practical tips that any team selling complex-configurable products can implement today to get the most out of their remote sales meeting.

1) It’s an opportunity to build Stronger Customer Relationships

Misconception to avoid: Video calls are “distant”, and therefore also creates distance in your customer’s relationships.

Anyone working in B2B sales understands that building strong customer relationships is the key to success. For the past couple of years, we’ve been hearing how “vulnerability” and “empathy” have empowered business leaders to make better decisions and strengthen their business relationships. The current global crisis, halting business-as-usual, offers us a chance to put business aside and take a moment to listen to our customers’ issues, empathize with their situation and offer guidance.

For this, it is important to remain authentic and not ask if you are not willing to truly listen. This is an opportunity to set aside the frantic pace of sales, and use the time for other less urgent matters. The whole world is slowing down, so turn this to an advantage.

2) Don’t downplay video calls – Embrace them

Misconception to avoid: Everyone sees video calls as a poor substitute. No one is “happy” about meeting on a video call.

We know how face-to-face meetings are (almost) always preferred, and there is just no substitute for speaking with someone who is right in front of you. Video conference call is the next best thing. Not a phone call, but a video call with a camera pointed at you.

Depending on your personality, you may feel the need to start by politely apologizing for “meeting this way”. By beginning your conversation with an apology, you are already setting a negative undertone to the meeting.

Instead, seek to fully embrace the medium and play on its advantages. Video calls can help you communicate clearly and asking direct questions that require a bit of time to respond. In a video call, you can easily take a few more seconds to respond without making it awkward. Your answers might become better structured and complete than ever before.

3) Enlist behind-the-scenes help

Misconception to avoid: You must host the conversation alone, and you should be able to handle it on your own.

Maintaining the focus on the meeting and making sure that you communicate effectively requires large amounts of your limited attentional bandwidth. According to studies cited in the book “Hyperfocus” by Chris Bailey, on average we possess just enough attention to hold a conversation and carry out 1 other routine task (like walking, running, or listening to music).

However, when one of these items is new to us (like meeting a customer for the first time or having to use video calls while searching for files on the computer), our brains maximizes the attention span to the new task at the expense of everything else (i.e. at the expense of the attention you give your customer).

The way to help you cope with this lack of attentional focus is to outsource some of that mental bandwidth. You can enlist the help of a fellow colleague during the call, that can help you with presenting the visuals, and having other relevant information at hand while you focus on the call. This person does not have to be formally introduced and can operate in the background as a helping hand. This will allow you to be more present and therefore ensure that you accomplish your goals for the call.

If you think that you cannot ask for help, think again. Team members are usually most likely to help if you ask. If no one volunteers, offer to return the favor to one of your fellow sales team members.

4) Use Visuals and Additional Materials

Misconception to avoid: You don’t have any quality images or visuals to show. These are just a distraction.

Studies show that on average, your customers will retain only 10% of the information presented in a sales meeting. However, when presenters use visuals (such as images or video), audiences are able to retain an average of 43% of the information. The fact that 65% of people are visual learners might have something to do with it.  Here is a visual that drives the point home:

Visual presentations are more effective

If you don’t have any images or visuals, think again. Nowadays you can ask your marketing team, your product designers, etc, to share some relevant images.

If images for the actual products are not available, how about similar products? Have you reached out to your happy customers for images of your products?

Perhaps you may already have some images you took with your phone. Those are as good as any, and by showing them from your phone, it shows that you are dedicated and resourceful.

5) Don’t go at it alone, Invite others to join you

Misconception to avoid: Remote sales meetings are no place for anyone else other than the sales rep. Having more people on the call can deter the quality of the call.

Normally it’s not possible to bring your sales engineers or product manufacturers with you to sales meetings. However, since you will all be joining remotely, you can easily ask a product manager or sales engineer to tag-along on your sales call.

What would have been strange to invite someone to join by conference call, does no longer seem out of place. This can signal to your customer that you are willing to invest time and resources on them, given them the chance to get technical if they so wish. It also enables your customers to get some technical answers in real-time, which can drive them down the sales funnel.

 

We hope these practical tips can help you and your sales teams to make use of their limited time with your customers.

We wouldn’t be named Visionary without offering you a realistic vision of what remote selling looks like for our happy customers.  To get a preview of what this looks like, check out this short video below.