Business to Business, or B2B, sales occur between companies that sell products or services to other companies. This could look like a technology company selling marketing software to other companies and wholesalers selling products to supermarkets.
While there are specific shared characteristics between all B2B sales, the industries they take place in require different levels of understanding and preparation on behalf of the salesperson.
Industrial Sales are a type of B2B sale marked by characteristics that aren’t always significant in traditional B2B deals. This piece will give an overview of industrial sales, outline its unique attributes, and give salespeople an understanding of the skills and tools they can use to successfully close this type of deal.
What is industrial selling?
Industrial selling is selling products and machinery that manufacturing companies and factories use to build and sell their merchandise. Industrial products are sold at high-value price points and in bulk. For instance, the selling of machinery and parts used to build airplanes would be categorized as an industrial sale.
Businesses that purchase industrial products are incredibly dependent on them, as they likely make up a significant aspect of their day-to-day processes. For example, a manufacturing company that creates their products using an assembly line can’t move on to the third step of its production process without having the necessary equipment to complete step one. Because of this, industrial sales are more high-stakes and complex than run-of-the-mill B2B sales.
The industrial sales industry is also a very specific market. The products that are sold can only be used by specific businesses since they’re usually parts and raw materials that are used in the large-scale production of goods. These goods are later distributed to other businesses that sell to consumers.
For example, office supply stores and paper mills both sell paper. The difference between the two is that paper mills purchase raw material, like timber, to produce the paper that is later sold to wholesalers who provide office supply stores with paper. An office supply store has no reason to purchase the raw material needed to create paper.
Characteristics of Industrial Sales
Since industrial sales occur within niche markets, there are various characteristics that differentiate them from other types of sales.
A significant differentiating factor of industrial sales is that the customer base is considerably smaller than other B2B markets. There aren’t as many companies in need of industrial machinery as businesses in need of social media management tools.
Since there is a smaller customer base, competition is higher. For example, there are over 100,000 restaurants in the United States, but there aren’t over 100,000 car manufacturers. In fact, there are only 15. Thus, selling machinery used in automobile manufacturing is more competitive, as there are only 15 possible companies that could make use of the product.
Considering that industrial customer bases are smaller and the competition is high, it’s essential to have a comprehensive understanding of who your customers are. Salespeople can’t afford to lose prospective customers from being uninformed, especially when there aren’t many to begin with.
Creating detailed buyer personas can help you identify and target the right businesses.
In brief, buyer personas are representations of your customer based on relevant data and research. The HubSpot Make My Persona tool can guide you through this process.
Complex Purchasing Decisions
Industrial sales are also higher stakes than traditional sales. The value of the products being sold is higher because these products are often critical factors in constructing a businesses final product. For example, an airplane manufacturer cannot create its final product without the necessary parts and machinery. Still, these products need to be of high-quality so that there is no risk involved in using them in their build.
Since the products sold in industrial markets bear significant importance in day-to-day processes, these deals require complex purchasing decisions as businesses need to conduct product assessments to ensure that they’re the best fit.
You may be in conversation with multiple stakeholders that will assess the quality of the goods they’ll purchase, like the business’ purchasing manager, the business owner, and sometimes an engineer. If the products require technical knowledge, you may need to work with a technical engineer to assist with those elements of the sale.
A Focus on Customer Retention
Industrial sales contracts are often long-term, as businesses don’t want to redo the complex process of buying and purchasing the parts and machinery to facilitate their day-to-day operations. If the product works for them, they’ll want to continue using it and renewing their contracts with you.
As a result, industrial sales require an increased focus on customer retention. Using a Customer Relationship Management (CRM) platform, like Sales Hub from HubSpot, can help industrial salespeople retain and delight their customers.
After-Sales Follow Up
Regardless of industry, salespeople know that following up with leads after deals are closed is extremely important, but it is a significant pillar of industrial sales. Since contracts are long-term, after-sales follow-up can look like establishing a consistent communication schedule, where you present yourself as a resource to the companies you work with.
As mentioned above, Sales Hub users have various tools to work with that can help with this process. For example, a sales automation tool can automate your follow-up schedule for emails, calls, and meetings to ensure that you never take too much time between reaching out to your clients. The image below depicts an automated sales email sequence.
When Sales Automation is combined with the Lead Management Software tool, you’ll get an overview of how many times you’ve reached out to your clients. This is especially valuable because long-term contracts may be difficult to keep up with if they occur over significant periods.
Industrial Selling Skills
The skills needed to succeed in your role as an industrial salesperson are similar to those required for typical sales processes, but there are key areas to focus on.
Since industrial markets are smaller, taking a consultative approach versus a sales-to-sell strategy is extremely important. You want these businesses to feel like you’re providing them with valuable solutions to their pain points, not just trying to close a deal. Understanding the issues they have will help you present products and services as comprehensive solutions to their problems, and you’ll need to know how to communicate this with them.
Be Specific With Target Markets
The emphasis throughout this post on how small the markets are should make it clear that it is a significant factor that affects industrial sales. Because of this, products are sector-specific. For example, while they’re both factories, you wouldn’t sell automobile machinery to an ice cream manufacturer.
Industrial salespeople need to narrow their focus and take the necessary time to understand who they’re selling to. The buyer personas you’ve created will help with this, as they’ll provide you with the information needed to understand your target markets, tailor your brand messaging, perfect your product pitch, and reach out appropriately.
Persistence and Patience
The two P’s of sales skills are just as important in industrial sales as they are in all others: persistence and patience. However, the complex purchasing decisions that create a longer sales cycle require industrial salespeople to be significantly more patient and equally persistent.
Your buyers want to make sure that the products they purchase from you will improve the quality of their day-to-day operations. They can’t afford to suffer setbacks from product malfunctions, and they want to take the time to make sure this won't happen. Giving these businesses the time and space that they need to conduct their sales test is extremely important.
Make sure you’re patient throughout this process but don’t disappear entirely. When they reach out with questions, be persistent in your ability to provide answers and necessary information.
Industrial sales end in long-term contracts and relationships between sellers and buyers. Continue to communicate with those you’ve closed deals with, but make sure this communication is personalized. Knowing how to cater to their specific needs is crucial, and buyer personas will help with this.
If you know that there are certain things that a business has trouble with, consider scheduling timelines in which you’ll follow up with them to check-up on how things are going. You can do this via call, email, or in-person meeting.
The Email Tracking tool from HubSpot notifies you when a customer has opened an email you’ve sent them, helping you follow up with them immediately, so they know you’re ready to help. You can use the same tool to personalize the conversations, so the company feels like you’re looking out for them and caring for their specific needs. Personalization also encourages customer retention, which is a pillar of industrial sales.
Perfect Your Strategy
All-in-all, industrial selling involves providing businesses with the materials they need to manufacture and create their products, from airplane parts to raw materials. The items you’re selling to them allow them to complete their day-to-day operations, like assembly line tools.
Salespeople involved in industrial sales will be successful in their role if they take the time to understand the business pain points, personalize their contact methods, and present themselves as a continuous resource.