EXPERT OPINION: YOUR SALES PIPELINE DURING COVID-19

During this Covid-19 period, we want to support our manufacturing community with useful insights on best practices on a range of topics. To do this, we’ve gathered help of industry experts to offer their opinions and guidance on how to come out of the pandemic in as strong a position as possible.

Our first post is a Q and A with commercial director of Zenith People, and AMF board member, Alan Metcalfe.

We asked Alan about business development during this time and how manufacturers, and all businesses, can best consider their sales pipelines and stay productive. Here, Alan provides some tips on what you can do now to support your business.

How can manufacturers survive this disruption?

Communication is key. This stands for all businesses, not just manufacturers, keeping contacts updated is important.

Manufacturers need to communicate to their supply chain, stakeholders and customers. Let them know about how they are adhering to Government guidelines, and how they are managing to keep customer continuity.

I believe there is a happy medium between following Government guidelines but continuing on as much as possible if you need to. Communication is key to keep everyone informed about what you’re still doing, the services you’re still offering, or how you as a manufacturer or business are supporting the country at this time. People need to know these things, and in knowing this, they know how they can support.

How can manufacturers work to increase their sales pipeline?

There is always opportunity. When there is a crisis, there is also opportunity.

Manufacturers need to think outside of the box. Manufacturers can ask themselves, ‘can we add value somewhere else with our skills or offering that doesn’t affect too much of our core offering?’. For example, if manufacturers have stockpiles of steel, because they may not be producing as much as others during these times, can they sell products on to those that are manufacturing ventilators. Are there ways to cross-sell?

If one manufacturer is busy and one isn’t, can companies job share? Manufacturing skills are transferable. Is there a skill that one manufacturer needs that another has? Can these workers work temporarily for companies who are making an in-demand product?

For example, a business support network in the North East heard of companies needing supervisory staff and rather than furlough some of their own staff, they sent them to other companies to supervise. This is thinking outside of the box. Manufacturers need to think, ‘do we have skills within the business that companies who are busier than us, need?’, ‘do they have resources that we need’. We can help each other.

Is there anything they can do now?

Good news stories are key. Any good news stories that companies can put out there, they should, and this goes for all businesses. It’s a tough time in the press while we’re being given a lot of health related information that we need, so uplifting good stories from companies doing good things will be what people need

Manufacturers need to get involved with the community, they need to start doing this to make connections now.

News stories. If companies have news stories of staff volunteers for the NHS while being furlough, news stories around these would benefit businesses. It’s about having a product that people want to buy, so promoting good work, keeping in people’s minds, raising your profile, all of this will increase sales later.

If manufacturers think, what am I doing to help communities? There’s a news story in that, share it.

What else can people do?

There’s a lot that people can do, even outside of their standard working. Especially for administration in the support of sales. If companies have a sales team, whether internal or external, it’s important to take the opportunity to keep CRM systems up to date, even during this time.

Companies are trying to reduce costs at the minute and prepare for when this lock-down ends, so making sure customer details are up to date is important for continuing after this period. It’s a good time to look at your administration internally. It’s also a good time to look at your manufacturing processes. Every manufacturer can improve their processes, there’s no doubt about that, so it’s about using any downtime wisely, so that when companies come out of the other end they’re prepared, ready to go, and with improved processes.

It’s important to take advantage of all Government help out there, find out about the help from banks, the no VAT for the next three months, statutory sick pay – claim this back! Get help with your business plans, find out where the gaps are. Use this time to prepare for business if you can’t actually be in the business at the moment.

Any jobs that have been pushed back because of busy times, now is the time to work on those. This is an opportunity to look internally at finances, sales, contact lists / CRMs and internal MRP.

How can the AMF network help each other?

The communication, this is important. Communicate via the AMF, utilise your membership and keep in contact with each other. As members you can share best practices and challenges. We will all have people and cash flow problems and we can help one another.

Communication via email, Microsoft Teams, Zoom, we need to be sharing with each other. Share with each other in sharing with the AMF. We can link members and share information through the network.

The AMF is providing webinars around useful topics to encourage support between members. We are going to be starting a discussion forum for members, it’s important to share knowledge between us. If we don’t know what support you need, we can’t help.

To close, what would like to say to members and the wider network?

Everybody’s feeling a bit lonely, business leaders are all thinking the same thing, we have the same concerns and worries, but we are all in this together. Be reassured that we will come out of the other end of this, there is no doubt about that, but it’s how we will come out of the other end.

What we do now will affect how we come out in 3 months’ time, so don’t put off contact to clients and support networks. Ask who you need to if you need help in a particular area.

Keep in touch with customers anyway you can, Microsoft Teams, this works well within companies, stay connected, stay in touch, with stakeholders, staff, and customers.

Everything that we do now impacts how businesses will come out at the other end, you can’t do enough at the moment to make sure you come out strongly. Make sure to get all of your ducks in a row.

Alan will be hosting an AMF webinar session on Tuesday 21 April where he will be providing further insight on business development during the Covid-19 pandemic period. For more information or to book your place on the webinar, click here.

We encourage you to use our AMF LinkedIn forum to communicate with fellow members. You can use this space for discussion, sharing best practice between each other, as well as notifying the group of any opportunities or needs you may have.

Contact the AMF anytime you need to, we can help you all stay connected.

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