Knowing the Technology Will Sell your Product
We recently conducted end-user and distributor interviews as part of a marketing strategy project. In asking our customers how we can better serve them, we have been listening carefully to their responses. One recurring theme we’re hearing in many interviews is that these interviewees prefer to do business with sales engineers that are about “more engineering, less sales.”
As we take a look at the state of our industry, and of many industries, the people with the most customer trust are the people with the most demonstrated expertise and experience, not those throwing a catalog of options at them or twisting their arm with slick tactics or verbose sales pitches. No one wants to be sold, but people will gladly buy a technical solution from those they feel can actually help them.
This is important to our industry because our customers are not buying commodity products; they are seeking help with manufacturing challenges. More so, they need solutions with proven track records. They want to feel they have an ally in the trenches with them to solve their machining challenges. Some of these challenges are how to machine new metals while advances in metallurgy allow for new alloys. There is the general trend to tighten tolerances. This challenge has played to our advantage, however, as we specialize in achieving those tolerances efficiently. Built-in layers of efficiency are a strong consideration in all of our products, whether that means finding ways to improve tool design, cutting geometries, materials or coatings or having reconditioning programs in place that lower tool costs and lengthen tool life. We’ve pursued all of these options for our customers.
Customers look to suppliers to help them shorten the learning curve and achieve this competitive advantage faster with a mixture of advanced products and experienced staff.
Staying competitive is a daunting task for anyone building and maintaining a sales organization. Finding these ultra-qualified candidates that are the right fit for the job is no small feat. People who excel in their field because they are experienced in the nuances of machining through years on a shop floor, having seen what works and what doesn’t, are difficult to find. We are holding to this gold standard.
Here are actions to take to develop those employees who are already a part of your team:
Pay for your office staff to cross-train by attending local community college machining courses to gain firsthand, hands-on experience.
Attend regular, in-house product trainings, lunch and learns, and so on.
Cross-train sales and customer service staff as well as production and assembly.
Keep your team current with what is happening in the industry by attending trade shows, reading industry publications, and doing non-sales customer visits.
The rule of 10,000 hours of practice to achieve mastery as researched by Malcolm Gladwell in his book “Outliers” has vast implications for our business and industry. Customers are coming to us with problems, and they are seeking solutions rather than a host of options to choose from. Being able to fully understand how your products perform in their unique applications is far more valuable to prospective customers than a thick catalog of products that are not accompanied by the understanding of their performance under similar conditions. Sales engineers who seem knowledgeable, but have no depth, are not likely to be viewed as “go to” resources for addressing challenging machining dilemmas. And they are unlikely to earn their customers’ trust, and perhaps not their business.
Understanding what our company does better than anyone else, what our individual staff members do better than anyone else and providing staff with an environment that gives everyone the opportunity to learn and practice are all key to our success as a company moving forward.
Going down this path as a company has driven home the importance of asking your customers for their input, instead of assuming what their desires are from your vantage point. Their perspective could be drastically different than yours, and depending on what that is, it could really impact how effective your business is with them. Talk to them, interview them, listen carefully, ask questions and take notes.