Archive for March, 2016

Creating A Customer Purposed Company

Be honest now when was the last time you sat around with your team talking about how you can produce better products and services for your customers? I mean doing things better, making the customers experience extraordinary and putting the “wow” factor in your products.

I would guess never. We are all so busy just trying to meet our customers’ expectations that we spend very little or maybe no time thinking about exceeding those expectations. We are only focused on getting the job done…just getting the job done and over with that we are much more reactive than we are proactive.

Just think how much fun it would be to think up ways to blow your customers’ minds when it comes to your products. Think how great it would be if you thought up ways to make your customers, customers for life.

Think about your own life, think about the times that a company has surprised you to the point of delight; How about the flight attendant who came up to you on the plane to thank you for your loyalty to their airline. That felt pretty good didn’t it? Or how great it is when the host at your favorite restaurant calls you by name and asks if you want your favorite table? Or how about when your car dealer’s service department’s representative advises you on what’s best for your car even if the parts or tires they recommend for your car costs less than the ones you were going to buy? That feels great. That feels like the person is looking out for you right? It feels like that person knows you so well, understand so clearly8 what your needs are that they are taking responsibility for your welfare. They care so much about you that they are actually your experts when it comes to what you are buying from them.

Now think about how great it would be if actually spent time thinking about our customers, learning their needs and how our products can exceed those needs.

That is what a customer purposed company does. They make it their business to know everything about their customers, they put themselves in their customer’s shoes so deeply that they can sense not only what the customer needs today but what she is going to need tomorrow as well.

Being a customer purposed company means understanding how your products add value to your customers companies’ purposes and goals. As Steve Jobs once said, “It isn’t the consumer’s job to know want they want.” Now it is our job to figure out what they want. Think about it. Why Apple is so successful is that they made it their purpose to know what their customers wanted, what they wanted and what would capture their imaginations and create ultimate customer loyalty.

Look Apple has done it why can’t we? Why can’t we think up ways to delight our customers? Why can’t we come up with processes and technologies that would exceed our customers’ needs? Apple has done it in retail, they had to invent products from scratch, often products that people had never heard of, products that people wondering why do would need them as all…that is until they tried them for a while and then wondered how they could ever have even thought of living without them.

And it should be easier for us in the board industry. We don’t have to invent a product, we don’t have to deal with a retail market. The fact that we are actually building someone else product, that we are in the job shop business should actually make things easier. There is already a product on the print, we just have to figure out how to make it better. We just have to figure out just what it is the customer is going to use our board for and then come up with a more appropriate way of processing it. We just have to concentrate on developing the very best process anyone has ever developed aimed at making the best boards that anyone has ever seen. Oh I know it’s not as simple as all of that, but still…we can try can’t we? And how about the way we deal with our customers? Why are we all quoting the same way? Why are we packing the boards the same way? Why are we all fabricating them the same way? Why aren’t we thinking about better way to do everything?

Look try it, all I ask is that you just give it a try. Set up a team of your smart people, your creative people your best customer oriented people and sit around for one hours each week…just one hour thinking about how you could provide more value to your customers. How you could be a true customer purposed company. I promise you that it will be the most valuable thing you do this week. It’s only common sense

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Reflections on my 500th column

This is it Column 500! Representing 10 years and nearly half a million words opinions, comments, complaints and aggravations I have reached this milestone which to be honest I am not sure all of you are going to think is good thing. In fact some of you probably think it’s been a less than rewarding experience to have to put up with my two cents for so long. But for the rest of you let me say a heartfelt thanks for letting me try to entertain you all these Mondays. I would also like to thank the people at I-Connect for providing me with this platform and then allows me to say pretty much anything I like…except for that lone time with that Sanmina column…but that’s another story for another day. Special thanks to Barry who convinced me to write for his publication and Barb for her intro to the column and Holly who edited so many of them and thanks to Andy, my current editor who much to his chagrin once had to fire me from another magazine which was especially tough for both of us because like Cosmo Kramer I didn’t really work there. But thanks anyway Andy for all your support, I’m glad that you’re now on our team. And thanks to Bryson who makes sure my audio version works and to Patty who makes sure that we all do our job and on time to boot and to my friend Marty who sends the column out to my data base on Tuesdays and to Bruce who makes sure it hits my social media as well.

I started in this business in February of 1973 which means this is my 43rd year in the PCB industry so I guess it has worked out pretty well for someone who was supposed to be an English teacher, sure I can hear you laughing at that Andy! For the first 20 or so years had a real jobs with three companies Maine Electronics, General Circuits and Automated Systems all of which are now out of business as are over a 1000 other North American shops that once were the backbone of the global PCB industry. Exactly twenty years ago I started D.B. Management Group with my good friend Don Dawson who I have to thank for pushing me in this direction and yes to the late great Mike Pierce who truth be known funded our beginning. During these past twenty years I have worked with over 150 companies proving once again that I just can’t keep a job. We’ve won some and yes we’ve lost some but I always have done my best along the way. I heartfelt thanks to those companies who allowed me to work with them.

Yikes this is starting to sound like a swan song isn’t it? But lest you think that let me assure you that I’m not going anywhere. I am in for the long haul. And until there is only one board shop left in America I will be here.

Just to prove that I have not lost by bite here are some of the things we’ll be talking about starting Next week with column 501:

  • Why was the CPCA and APEX held during the same week? Whats up with that? Do you mean to tell me that IPC has lost its’ clout with the Chinese market? Do you mean to tell me that the government funds they used to translate their specs into Mandarin have been wasted?
  • How about the fact that there is only one seat on the IPC board held by a genuine PCB fabricator and that seat is being given to someone from TTM? Really? When is IPC going to stop catering to the giants and stand up for the normal board shops?
  • And oh yes why don’t the IPC reps take a tour of the APEX floor and thank those people and their companies who are spending thousands of dollars exhibiting at that money trap of an exhibition? I did not talk to one person who even saw and IPC person.

See what I mean? You’re not getting rid of me yet.

And finally to state my position let me take liberties with the words of the great American writer John Steinbeck

Wherever there’s a CM screwing a shop

Wherever an owner’s about to give up

Where there’s a fight against unfair specs

Look for me, cause I’ll be there

Wherever there’s a company trying to survive

Or just trying to find their way to make ends meet

Wherever a PCB shop is struggling against offshore

Look in their eyes and you’ll see me

So no, I’m not going anywhere. I am here to stay and say the things you can’t. I’ve got your back. I’ve got you covered.

And so for the 500th time I say it again its only common sense

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Book Recommendation: Conversations That Sell: Collaborate with Buyers and Make Every Conversation Count

A book recommendation from Dan Beaulieu:

Conversations That Sell: Collaborate with Buyer sand Make Every Conversation Count

By Nancy Bleeke

Copyright 2013Amacom

Price $17.95

Pages: 222 and Index

Changing the game of sales

Yes customers are people too. They are not merely targets, or prospects, or leads to be pitched to be poked and prodded at until they are convinced to buy something from you. No not at all we have to remember as author Nancy Beeke reminds us in her book Conversations That Sell that they are people, people who need to be treated as such. You have to talk to them in a way that is constructive, interesting, valuable to them and yes bi-lateral in short you have to engage them in the4 give and take of a conversation.

Lest you think this is too obvious take a minute and think about how you prepare for a sales call today. Think of all of the prep work you do

 

I was pleasantly surprised when I read this book. I thought it was going to be about business to business selling but instead quickly found out that it was of course about selling products to consumers thought networking as well as direct sales. But there was something about this book that was so engaging that I decided to keep flipping the pages; and I was glad I did.

This book is literally a primer for good sales methods, techniques and habits that are completely pertinent and useful to all of us in sales, heck to all of us in s professional business career.

The book is chock full of great advice on a number of subjects from networking to the disciplines needed for making and keeping your own schedule.

I have to say that just about all of the advice I found here can be applied to sales people both direct and reps who are out here in their own territories, on their own.

The chapter called Turn your shining stars into super stars is in itself worth the price of this book:

From that chapter here are the: Eight steps to keeping your leadership program focused and simple

  1. Start developing every new aspiring leader by conducting a one-on-one Moving Up interview that establishes goals.
  2. Schedule regular leadership training to drive momentum.
  3. Allocate the last week of each month to review the month and finalize planning from next month.
  4. Leadership training doesn’t have to be complicated.
  5. Training is worthless if it’s not followed by action.
  6. Commitment and accountability are the keys to leadership.
  7. Although you’ll make yourself as available and accessible as possible, the purpose of your leadership program is to develop independently functioning leaders.
  8. You may have to face situation in which someone in the program stalls before promoting the plan.

See what I mean? This is all good clear advice for any sales manager who is tasked with managing, measuring and motivating any sales force.

I know that a lot of this is plain common sense that we all have learned at one time or another but seldom have I seen it all in one place an so well laid out which makes sense because when you think about it people are people and sales is sales.

Whether you are selling Avon products or printed circuit boards the same basic principles still apply.

Don’t pass this one up just because you’re not exactly involved direct sales… this one is for all of us in sales, you’ll like this book I promise you.

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Bring On The Kids!

This new generation is not only interested but actually eager to join our ranks!

Yes the time is right. The kids finally are interested in being part of this old industry of ours. For the first time in years I am seeing some interest and curiosity from people under thirty about our industry. Now I have to admit that these youngsters have a much broader interest than just the circuit board industry but rather are interste3d in anything that has do with building things. They want to know how things work, they want to know how things are built, they are fascinated with the inner working of things and that’s a good thing, no that’s a great thing.

Just look around and you’ll start to get the picture. The Maker’s movement is growing like wildfire with conventions and expos showing up all over the country. People especially young people are waking up to the fact that anything is possible and that if a person puts his or her mind to it they can build about anything…and build it quickly. Wed sites like Kickstarter are simplifying the funding process to the point where is you have a great idea you can get a crowd of people to back you.

The interned has provided us with a global village so small tight and connected that a person if North Dakota can come up with a great idea, post it on Kickstarter and get funding from people all over the world from Tokyo to Shanghai from New York City to York, Maine and build a ready and willing clientele in the process.

Gone are the barriers. A book can be published and distributors without bowing to the New York gods of publishing. Companies can be started without the trek up Sand Hill road to beg VCs for a few million dollars. Products can be develop and brought to market by individuals working out of basements and garages and garden sheds in a matter of days not years.

People have the freedom and the ability to go from an idea to a reality all in the wink of an eye and with the support of those open forum communities that the world provides and this has led us to where we are the today. The young people particularly, are seeing the opportunities viable to them and they want to take advantage of them. They want to do things for themselves; they want to find out how things work. They don’t look at a job in a board shop or any other manufacturing facility as a dead end but rather as a beginning and as a means to an end; an opportunity to learn. The this new generation of makers working on a plating line or a drill room or a solder mask department is a chance to learn more about an industry, to learn more about who to do something. To them this is an opportunity to be actually paid for an education.

More and more young people are coming to me asking about opportunities in our industry. They not only want to know about the products we build but they also want to know about our history. They are curious and ready to learn and I love that.

So let’s start promoting this. Let’ head to the graduate schools and start talking to classes about our industry. I promise that if you go to a grad school in your area and offer to teach grad students about printed circuit boards you will be welcomed. In fact a friend of mine a professor at the British Columbia Institute of Technology is teaching a course on printed circuits this semester. He is focusing not only on how to build PCBs but also how to interact with the industry today. I am pleased to announce that he is also working with our publishing company writing a Graduate School edition of our PCB 101 Handbook which will come out later this year.

Companies like Bay Area Circuits in Fremont California Are already offering courses and training to students from local universities educating their future customers

Good things are happening right now. For the first time in twenty years we are about to have some young people enter our industry. Young people with new ideas, new perspectives, new approaches and new ways of doing things all of which bodes well for our industry both today and into the future. So please join me in welcoming them in; please join be and companies like Bay Area Circuits in doing whatever we can to promote our industry getting even more young people to enter our ranks it’s not only a good thing but it’s also only common sense.

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That Customer Again!

Sorry but I always have customer service on my mind. I read everything about customer service I can get my hands on. To me customer service is what business is all about. Customer service is what the customer wants from us. It is what keeps those customers coming back time after time even after we screw up and yes we all screw up from time to time.

Think about your own life. Do you like to complain to a company? Do you enjoy it when something goes wrong? Don’t your hate it when that new washing machine you bought last week is not working and you are going to have to call the store up? Do you dread it when you are going to have to talk to the guy plowing your driveway because he is doing a bad job? Or when you have a misunderstanding about a warranty and you are going to have to call someone up about.

Look we all do right. There are very few individuals who look forward to conflict of any kind. And yes conflict is what we expect when we have to call someone up with a complaint. We hate the idea of what they are going to say to us. Even the calmest and nicest of us worries about being disrespected or pushed enough to have to say something or worse yet getting to the point of losing control of losing our temper. Do you get it? Do you understand that tenseness I’m talking about here?

And if you don’t get it how about his scenario; You’re on your way to you’re on your way to an important sales meeting, in fact you are running the sales meeting so you have to get there tonight in order to be prepared for the meeting which starts tomorrow morning in a city two thousand miles away. You gave yourself plenty of time, left the house at four this morning to catch your plane. You made sure you had over two and a half hours of layover time in Detroit before your connecting flight to your final destination where you expect to land at four this afternoon giving you plenty of time to get to your hotel, settle in for the evening, do your prep work, have a nice quiet dinner, relax and get a good night’s sleep. But for some reason which you cannot figure out are get an answer for the connecting flight is delayed and delayed and delayed and then finally cancelled! And there is mot weather in Detroit and no weather at your destination. And when you join the long lime at the service counter down the hall you wait and watch as first one service person and then another and then another leaves for break and the line gets longer and longer and you wait for an hour only to be told by a bored could not care less service person that the best they can do is get you on a flight at six o’clock …tomorrow evening! And oh by the way she doesn’t know why your flight was cancelled.

Do I have your attention now? Do you understand the tenseness I’m talking about now?

Well transfer that to your customers. Is this the way they feel about you when something goes wrong? Do they fell like they are going to get the old run around? Do you try to solve their problems with empathy or do you just shrug your shoulders and say “stuff happens”? Do you walk in their shoes and go the extra mile to get them what they need or do you just give them answers based on your “company policies”?

Okay not back to dreading calling to complain about something not going the way it should. What if the person on the other end of the phone is pleasant, accommodating and helpful? What if that person not only solves your problem with a smile but goes the extra distance to compensate you somehow for your inconvenience? How does that make you feel? Relieved right? Happy right? In fact because you were expecting the worst…hell looking for the worst based on past experience that now you feel great! You want to reach through the phone and hug that person. You want to jump for joy and tell everyone you know about this great customer service you got from this great customer service person at this great customer service company.

Now back to your own company. What do you do to give your customers that feeling? Do you deliver such great customer service that your customers want to jump for joy and tell everyone they know about you and your company? If not why not…if not you are not doing things right and you’d better rethink your whole customer service approach right now. It’s only common sense.

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This Week’s Book Review: Amp Up Your Sales

Amp Up Your Sales: Powerful Strategies The Move Customers to Make Fast, Favorable, Decisions

By Andy Pail

Copyright 2014 Amacom

Price $17.95

Pages: 226 with Index

The right book for the right times

This guy has it right. Things are different now and if you don’t modify and I mean drastically modify your approach to sales you are going to lose out.

The premise is that it’s not what you sell but how you sell it. It’s all about the how, it’s all about the process you use to sell your products.

In short with so many similar products out there the buyer has a hard time telling the difference and that creates a dangerous situation where she will either buy on price or just buy passively because in her brain she’s thinking, “what difference does it make they are all the same?”

So according to Andy Paul it is up to us the sales people to make that difference. It is up to us to develop a sales technique that will make the buyer differentiate because of us. The buyer will buy from the sales person and there you get to the “how” that person sells.

Mr. Paul spends the rest of the book telling the reader in very clear, concise and easy to understand ways how to do that. He teaches us how to:

  • Simplify our selling by pointing out that selling simple…not easy but simple.

  • Speeding up responsiveness…this making it as easy as possible for the buyer to buy from us.

  • Maximizing the value we bring to the buyer.

  • Growing through follow-up

  • Telling stories that sell

  • Great customer service brings in follow-on business.

Every so often a sales book comes along that just works. That just hits that proverbial nail right dead on the head. And for me at this this was that book.

So if you are looking for a way to “Amp Up” your sales this is the book for you.

Check it out.

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Being Valuable To Your Independent Reps

There is that old adage that goes: the more you put into your reps the more you will get out of them. Which I believe is absolutely true. True to the point that if you want to have a successful relationships with your reps you have to give them everything they need to be successful.

Let’s face it those of us in the board industry have not always treated our reps fairly. We have not supported them, not been honest with them, not trusted them and yes not paid them the biggest sin of all.

There seems to be some kind in instinctual adversarial relationship between board shops and their reps. I cannot count the number of calls I get every week from sales managers and presidents and even owners of companies who are not happy with their reps. What I find interesting is that they don’t call me for help on managing their reps, they don’t want to hear my plan for getting more out of their reps and heaven forbid that I try to show they how to treat their reps. No they are not interested in those things at all. What they want are more reps. Yes they seem to think that no matter how much they dislike their reps, the more they are unhappy with their reps everything will be solved if they get more reps. Does that make sense to you? No it doesn’t to me either. It kind of validates that other old adage that: goes the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

Okay back to the first adage I know most of your out there who are having problems with your reps don’t want to hear this but this is my column and I’m going to tell you anyway so listen up.

Here now for the first time is my adage: It’s all about value. The more you value your reps the more you will get out of them. And wait there’s more: The more you give your reps value the more they will value the relationship and the harder they will work for you.

Here are three valuable and unique ways you can provide value to your reps and hence your relationship with your reps:

  1. Treat them as equal partners. Welcome them to the company and the family. Treat them like family. The best rep/principal relationships I have ever seen are between people who respect one another. Be honest with your reps. Be open. Let them know what is going on at your company. Defend them when your own employees attack them. Treat your reps with respect and not only will the rest of your company treat them with respect but so in return the reps will treat you with respect as well.
  2. Hold regular meetings with your reps. One on one meetings to go over specific accounts with each of them individually and also all inclusive monthly team meetings as well. The team meetings should be done in a way that the reps consider them valuable. Make sure you bring them up to date on what is going on with the company. Let them know about any new equipment you have bought and what it will mean to your capabilities. Let them know of any key employees you have hired. Let them in on the marketing you are doing. In fact show them the ads you are about to use before they are published. Let them see any newsletters especially those containing special offers that you are publishing. Have your technical people talk to them your capabilities. Have special guests speakers come to your conferences to talk to them about new technologies or advice on how to sell to CM’s or technologies of the future. Make these meetings so valuable that they will want to invite other reps to attend them Educate your reps.
  3. Offer to help your reps with their own firms. Provide them with marketing for their regions. Provide them with local editions of your newsletters. Offer to come to their territory and put on lunch and learns. Exhibit at trade show sin their region.

And one more always under promise and over deliver.

  1. Help them to win business. Work with them to develop account strategies from lead generation to prospecting to sales tactics to forecasting to doing whatever it takes to win the accounts. Work side by side with them. Remember investing in your reps is also investing in your own company. If they are successful you are successful.

Of course there are many other things you can do if you think about it. But the single most important take away from this column is to value your reps helping them to become your most valuable asset. If you do this, if you do it with true sincerity and commitment you will only get the very best from your reps, its only common sense

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