sales challenges

4 Key Sales Challenges in Manufacturing

Sales in the manufacturing industry can feel like a page ripped straight from Dante’s Inferno – “abandon all hope, ye who enter here.” That might be a bit overdramatic, but you don’t have to spend much time in the manufacturing space to understand that the struggle is real.

Before you throw in the cards, let’s clear the air…not all hope is lost.

The fact is, the game has changed and sales teams across the world are being forced to acknowledge that customers are buying differently than they did a decade ago.

Every industry has its own unique challenges and obstacles that are constantly impacting how we approach sales and the buying process, but few industries have seen a massive transformation in the way that manufacturing experienced coming off the heels of COVID-19.

Layer after layer of complexities have impacted buyer receptivity making it harder than ever for reps to get a seat at the table and consistently win new business.

We’ve outlined the four key sales challenges facing sales reps in the manufacturing space, to help highlight the fact that traditional sales tactics and outdated strategies simply no longer work. 

Challenge 1: Long Sales Cycles

The quick sell is over. That might be frustrating to hear, but it is the cold hard truth. With the expansion of the global market, buyers have more choices at their disposal. Those choices mean more competitive pricing and extended sales cycles.

Most sales teams’ natural response is to shorten the sales cycle. For most reps, this means a pedal-to-the-metal approach that completely ignores the buying process and the needs of the customer.

Rather than shortening the sales cycle, the focus should be on improving the buying process. This requires a different mindset and a softer set of sales skills, which we refer to as being Other-Centered®.

An Other-Centered mindset is about service, not quick wins. As more attention is given to the customer, the process becomes more streamlined and long sales cycles start to shrink naturally. The key is that it cannot be forced. Motive is transparent, and if a rep tries to force it, customers will see right through it.

Challenge 2: Complex Decision-Making Processes

Have you heard the term digital disruption? While that phrase can mean many things, within the manufacturing industry, it has resulted in increased noise that muddles the buying process. That noise is ultimately what your sales reps are trying to cut through, and what is making the decision-making process more complex for buyers.

COVID-19 took existing decision-making processes and burned them to the ground. Getting key stakeholders together in a room has always been a challenge. Zoom meetings have made it even more difficult. Face-to-face meetings are becoming more rare, and reps need to be aware that the virtual meeting process creates added steps that make it harder for decision-makers to buy.

So how can reps cut through digital disruption?

There is no magic wand that can be waved as we can’t undo all of the changes that COVID-19 caused. The only course of action is to accept and adapt to a more complex buying process. Adapting can be simplified by seeking a deeper level of understanding of each prospect’s needs and challenges.

When reps seek to understand and choose to serve, they have a very clear view of each piece of the sales puzzle and can help buyers put everything together more easily.

Challenge 3: Intense Competition and Pricing

It probably isn’t a shocking statement that your competition is everywhere, and pricing wars are all too common. The cliche has been around for years, but what is often overlooked is just how expansive the market has become for manufacturing companies and how it has impacted buyer receptivity.

Twenty years ago, manufacturing sales reps might have had a few local, or national competitors, and making relationships was relatively easy. As manufacturing processes started being outsourced, it opened up additional options for buyers and changed the structure of the industry.

All of the options and constant contact from sales reps have overwhelmed buyers, making them less receptive, even if a particular solution can help them improve.

The only way to improve receptivity is to adopt a customer-centric approach and an Other-Centered mindset. This helps reps transform from a salesperson to a trusted advisor. Decision-makers no longer buy from salespeople, they buy from someone they trust can guide them through the process like a sales sherpa.

Advisors can easily combat outside competition and rate pricing by defending value and focusing on the relationship.

Challenge 4: Technical Complexity

Your reps might know your product like the back of their hand, but it is only a small piece of the equation in the manufacturing world. The technical complexity is an aspect that cannot be overlooked. Part of choosing to serve is dedicating time and resources to learn more about how your product fits into the bigger picture for each client.

The fact is that a decision maker may have other priorities such as sourcing raw materials or navigating the constantly shifting supply chain.

Admittedly, this is one aspect that cannot be learned overnight. It takes time. That being said, reps can accelerate the process of learning the various layers of the process by simply asking questions.

Whether it is tapping into the collective knowledge of your leadership team, other sales reps, or the clients themselves, the more genuinely curious reps are, the faster they will acclimate and be able to have deeper conversations.

Deeper conversations with prospects lead to better relationships, and those relationships directly impact sales success.

Overcome Sales Challenges With ASLAN Sales Training

Accessing decision-makers, streamlining the buying process, and driving sales results in the manufacturing space aren’t as complicated as it might seem on the surface. By adopting an Other-Centered mindset and putting the customer first, growth will come. We don’t sugarcoat the fact that change is hard, especially when your team has been taught to sell one way their entire career, but change is necessary.

The simple fact is that sales training has to be about more than improving capabilities. If reps don’t understand why it is in their best interest to put the customer first, nothing will change. At ASLAN, our goal is simple, to help your team be better at serving the customer. That has been our focus since day one, and the results speak for itself.

Learn more about ASLAN, the Other-Centered mindset, and see if your team can benefit from one of our training workshops. 


ASLAN teaches sellers an easier, better way to gain access & influence unreceptive customers, by eliminating the hard sell.

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