Selling Complex, Configured Products

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You plan your production year; you tool up and staff up to turn out your product, and what happens? Your Sales guys start sending in orders for complex, configured products with weird product-configuration modifications that require engineering changes.

It’s a lot easier to plan configurability into a new product than it is to engineer changes into an existing product.

What’s wrong with those guys? Why can’t they sell what you make?

The answer is simple. Customers don’t buy what you make; they buy what they need. It doesn’t matter how much you discount, how many special add-ons you throw in or how much free training you include. Businesses don’t spend money on stuff that does not do what they need it to do.

Sales and Strategic Planning

Customers do buy from people who take the time to listen to them and provide solutions that actually address their needs. So, who in your organization, spends time listening to your customers and prospects explain their needs?

The answer is most likely Sales. Sales is the portion of your organization that’s responsible for turning customer conversations into sales cycles.

So with that in mind, ask yourself this: Who, in your organization, is involved in planning, budgeting and market strategy? If your answer doesn’t include Sales, it should.

In too many organizations, Sales is only tacitly involved in the annual planning process. Frequently this involves answering questions like, “Can you guys sell $60 million worth of blue widgets next year?”

Sales needs to be involved in the strategic planning process in terms of annual goals but also in the larger sense of product design and target market. Sales weighs in on product development planning by contributing a voice of customer input.

Selling Highly Configurable Products

Advanced manufacturers design configurations into products to maximize their range of usefulness. However, Advanced Manufacturing also can accommodate the engineered order with nearly the same facility and agility that it does with orders for stock product.

Frequently what sounds good to an engineer, product manager or marketing person may not play out in the real world in which Sales participates.

Sales must be equipped to handle highly configurable or even customized engineer-to-order product variations, and, at the same time, remain true to the overall business and selling plan.

It’s a lot easier to plan configurability into a new product than it is to engineer changes into an existing product. Ultimately, both are needed. Fortunately, configurability and engineering change estimating are both aided by technological solutions available from Cincom Systems.

Engineering and Change Estimating Solutions

How can you tell if this is an issue with your company?

  • You have trouble scheduling special project runs within your shop.
  • You leave money on the table when you price special project configurations or modifications.
  • You frequently lose money on special products.
  • Customers return product because it does not fulfill their needs.
  • Specials take so long to estimate that customers end up going elsewhere.

If specials are tripping you up, if you are having trouble scheduling specials or if your project pricing is leaving money on the table or not covering your costs, you need to check out Advanced Manufacturing.


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