Digitization is a hot topic in the media, but many factories are just getting started with it. When talking about digitization, are your customers often providing reasons why not to start with it now? Do you often hear the same problems and objections? Then welcome to the club. Selling digital solutions ain’t easy and requires tactfulness and sure instinct. But it’s also not rocket science.

This guide should help you become more successful when discussing digitization with your customers. We have listed 5 common objections that we often hear when we talk about digitization with factories. You may encounter these objections in your first call, or in follow-up discussions. Read on to learn how to overcome them and become a sales superstar. 

Before we dive into objections and how to respond to them, we’d like to invite you to consider one thought. Objections and declined offers easily sound confrontational and it is easy to feel defensive about it. But it’s important to not give in to that feeling and keep empathy and a thoughtful tone in mind when responding. Understanding the point of view of the person you are talking to and controlling your emotions is the first step to handling objections and successfully selling digitization projects.

Now let’s take a look at some common objections.

1. “We don’t have time for new projects”

The “I don’t have time, let’s talk in a few months” objection is very common in the sales process. It’s critical for you to understand whether this is just a smokescreen or if resources are really a problem for your customers. In this case, you should follow-up with more questions, like:

  • What’s going to be different in a few months?
  • What are your company’s other priorities right now?
  • Is it the timing, or is something else concerning you?
  • What would be a good first topic to talk about in a few months?

In this way, you should be able to better understand what the real reason is. It might turn out that the value of digital solutions is not entirely clear to your customer, in which case you could talk about success stories of how other companies have benefited from digitization. You might also direct the conversation around operational pain-points your customer might have, and how digitization can help solve them. Our guide How to identify operational pain points of your factory customers might help you with this discussion.

If resources are really a problem as your customer is building up an entirely new production line or restructuring a large part of the factory, you might need to try it another time. 

2. “Our IT is completely swamped with work”

IT departments of factories are usually very busy and have more projects on their plate than they can handle. As in the previous objection you should, first of all, find out if this is really a problem with questions such as:

  • What other projects is your IT department working on?
  • When do you think your IT will have more resources for new projects?

If your customer is vague in his answers this might be just another smokescreen, and you should identify the real objection behind it. If there are comprehensible reasons why the IT is busy, you should rather focus the discussion on what the typical effort for IT projects is. 

Oftentimes the IT department needs to be involved a lot less than your customer might think, especially if you start with projects that don’t involve integration to one of their IT systems, such as the ERP. 

It’s usually rather the operational people who need to provide input. If you use decentralized edge-computing solutions, such as the Actyx platform, or a cloud platform then the only thing the local IT needs to do is to set up and configure the network infrastructure via WLAN/LAN, which takes only a few days. You don’t need to install anything in the local data center.

You may offer your customer to provide more input on this:

“From our experience, we are only talking about a few men-days your IT department might be involved. Would it help you if I’d show you one or two examples of solutions that we’ve done for other customers, and tell you more about the involvement of their IT department?”

One of the most important things is to provide as much transparency about how much work it really is. We often experience that after clarifying the actual work required, factories are surprised how fast you can get solutions running in the factory.

3. “Can you just send me some information”

The natural reaction to this objection is usually to conform with the request and send some information. The result is often that you never hear anything again from your customer. 

There is a high chance that whatever you send them might not be relevant for them, or you might talk to the wrong person. This is what you should find out. 

You may answer with “Yes, sure I am happy to send you some information, but you need to make sure to get more information. With questions such as:

  • With which person would you share this information?
  • Who apart from you would be interested in learning more about digitization? 

You can find out who the right person would be to talk to about digitization. You can also try to find out whether the customer is looking for information about a specific area such as machine connectivity, digital maintenance, setup assistance, order tracking, or intralogistics solutions. With this information, you can compile an information package that is more relevant for your client. 

Before finishing the conversation you should try to get a commitment for a follow-up call:

“Can we schedule a follow-up for next week Tuesday at 2 pm to discuss your feedback on what I’ve sent you?”

If your customer says no to a follow-up, he will probably not look at your information as he is not interested. 

4. “We don’t know how to start with digitization”

This is a common objection for factories that have not yet started with digitization at all. This is a great opportunity for you to jump in and position yourself as the consultative partner to help your customer transition to the digital age.

In our experience factories are thinking that digitization is something very complicated and that you need to have a lot of IT know-how to realize this. To counter that, you need to direct the conversation around operational challenges that you can help solve. In the end, digitization is about that: creating operational value. To kick the discussion off you might respond:

“This is exactly why we are here. We can help you identify areas where digitization can bring you immediate impact. We usually follow a very agile approach, in which we realize speed-boat projects that validate the potential of digitization within a few weeks. For this, we pick a specific operational problem, such as a high amount of unplanned downtime, that we then solve for you. What are operational challenges that you are currently experiencing?”

You can also use your experience from conversations that you had with other customers. 

“We are currently discussing with a customer with similar production processes on how to reduce the scrap rate of the printing machines. What challenges are you facing in maintaining high quality?”

Our guide How to identify operational pain points of your factory customers might help you identify more operational challenges.

5. “We already have another IT system that covers our needs”

This is a challenging objection, as you need to be careful not to offend your customer and talk down other systems. The stakeholder might have been involved with the selection of the competing system, and be offended if you criticize the other system. 

To get people talking in a negative way sometimes helps them to ask what is the thing they like most about something. You might respond:

“I understand that you already got what you need from your existing system. What is it that you like most about your current system?”

If you know what other system your customer has, you can talk about potential new areas that you could offer and that are not offered by their existing vendor. Mobile worker assistance, connectivity of production and intralogistics, inline quality control, or digital variant-production systems might be areas where existing systems such as an MES might struggle with. It’s important to not become confrontational or defensive. Try to understand whether you can provide your customer with added value. 

Of course, these are not all objections that you will encounter in your customer interactions. Sales are difficult and every discussion is slightly different. Whatever the objection might be, try to be empathetic. Instead of telling your prospect, they’re wrong, help them come to a different conclusion of their own accord. And if you can’t persuade them, that’s a good sign they’re a poor fit, and you can move on to the next one.

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