7 Challenges Facing Technical Sales Teams at Specialty Chemical Companies

Jacqueline Wasem
Challenges facing specialty chemicals

Technical sales teams in the specialty chemicals industry face a never-ending game of whack-a-mole due to the ever-evolving challenges they must navigate.

As soon as one challenge is recognized and addressed, another one pops up. This constant cycle frustrates sales reps and leaves sales leaders scratching their heads. What’s the solution?

How can specialty chemical companies get ahead of the curve and stay competitive, while also maintaining excellent customer service?

The simple answer is to tap into the power of generative AI. 

Rather than sitting back and waiting for the next “mole” to taunt your team, AI can help predict emerging challenges. It can also quickly transfer knowledge throughout the entire team, keeping everyone across the value chain on the same page.

In this article, we map out the seven most common challenges in the specialty chemicals sector and share how AI can solve each.

Challenges in the Specialty Chemicals Market 

As the world becomes more connected, public pressure and customer demand compound. Specialty chemical sales reps must be aware of external influences that shape the sales cycle and buyer behavior.

Challenge #1: Green Initiatives

Every industry has been impacted by the push for greener, cleaner materials and processes, but it’s a formidable challenge for the chemical industry. 

Now more than ever, buyers are influenced by environmental, social, and governance (ESG) investing. Products and purchases are being put under the microscope, both literally and figuratively, to ensure ESG compliance and customer preferences. Product portfolios continue to expand to meet these changing consumer demands.

For sales reps, moving deals through the sales cycle with any expediency requires in-depth knowledge of products and processes. Teams that leverage generative AI are much better equipped to get new team members up to speed and share knowledge across the entire department.

Subject matter avatars are designed to collect and redistribute information at the click of a button, creating a more knowledgeable sales team equipped to navigate these rising ESG concerns. 

Challenge #2: Niche Use Cases

Niche markets can be difficult to serve, regardless of industry. In a heavily regulated sector like specialty chemicals, it can be an uphill battle. 

Within a given sales team, there may only be one or two people who understand the intricacies of the industry. If that team member were to leave, the company would lose a valuable asset, impacting the overall revenue stream. 

Achieving market penetration in niche use cases requires the entire team to have access to information. Technical sales reps need access to the information that enables them to quickly deliver before the prospect moves on to the next supplier. Again, this is where generative AI can assist.

Simple searches backed by AI can provide relevant information from company data archives, other reps, and outside sources to help move the sales conversation along.

Challenge #3: Higher Customer Expectations

Technical services are expected to perform — point blank. This is because service-heavy industries typically have fewer resources and more customers using their services.

Water treatment is a prime example. Delays or mistakes in chemical application can result in thousands, if not millions, of people being without water. Problem-solving requires precise information every time, whether gained through first-hand experience or from AI to keep customers informed and on track.

Sales teams leveraging GenAI for product knowledge discovery can streamline the process and meet customer needs before issues escalate.

Challenge #4: Pricing Pressure

Competitive pricing isn’t a new concept in chemical sales, but it has increased tenfold with the expansion of the global marketplace. 

Technical sales reps of specialty chemical companies must constantly answer their customers' main question: “Why should I pay a higher price for your product?”

One of the more creative ways to leverage generative AI in specialty chemicals is to use it as instant competitor analysis or competitive benchmarking. This can help reps be better prepared when going head-to-head with known competition. It can also unveil new competitors in the space and reveal their unique sales proposition.

When used in conjunction with your internal CRM, pricing from one deal can be highlighted for a different team member instantly, giving your team a competitive advantage.

Challenge #5: Global Supply Chain

Since COVID-19, the supply chain has been filled with disruption. For reps in technical sales positions, the uncertainty of product availability is overwhelming. Not only do their jobs hang on inventory accuracy, but so do their buyers’ satisfaction and trust. 

Scrambling to find alternative products to a customer's preferred product because of availability or time constraints has become all too common in the specialty chemical industry. In these instances, serving the customer requires the time-intensive process of manually scouring through order history, application specifications, and extensive product portfolios to find a suitable substitute. 

An AI platform removes this laborious step, cutting right to the chase and identifying alternatives without added manual legwork. Prompt the right generative AI sales solution with specific requirements, and voila — your rep has the information and suitable alternative products they need to keep the customer happy and buying from your operations

Team Challenges Impacting Specialty Chemical Sales

Technical sales teams in chemical manufacturing aren’t only limited by external factors. There are in-house hurdles to overcome as well.

Challenge #6: Changing Demographics

As with other industries, the guard in specialty chemical sales is changing. Subject matter experts are aging, retiring, or on the doorstep of walking away. 

While the next generation of sales reps may be enthusiastic, getting them up to speed and passing along all of that knowledge is essential. But it’s not easy.

We touched on subject matter avatars earlier, and expert knowledge capture is another great use case. All product, process, customer, and industry knowledge these teams have collected over the years can be captured from your SMEs before they retire, stored, and accessed through an AI platform. This technology is the new, lasting legacy to help current and future sales reps succeed.

Challenge #7: Sales Rep Churn

You didn’t think that we would pass up the biggest challenge currently facing sales leaders, did you? 

Churn is a real problem, showing little sign of slowing down. Hiring is enough of a challenge, but when you consider onboarding and ramp-up as well, the cost is high. Even more expense is generated due to the knowledge loss that walked out the door. 

Generative AI can’t solve employee churn, but it can help increase the speed at which you get new reps up to speed on products and processes. These systems revolve around knowledge transfer and discovery, making ramp times shorter. And we all know that successful sales reps are more likely to stick around.

Generative AI For Specialty Chemical Sales Teams

The world of sales is all about overcoming challenges. However, team members shouldn’t feel like they have to stand there waiting for the next “mole” to pop its head out. 

With generative AI in place, your team can stay ahead of the competition. 

Nesh’s generative AI solutions focus on domain knowledge for advanced industries like specialty chemicals. Leverage your complete product portfolio and services, benchmark against competitors, and troubleshoot customer product applications with Nesh Sales AI today.

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