Archive for September, 2017
Get out there and do it now!
I know you hate to prospect and you hate to make cold calls, so this is what we have to talk about today. Whether you like it or not. To help us, there is a great book by Mark Hunter called High-Profit Prospecting a trade paperback published by Amacom. This book is a first rate guide to making sure that you squeeze everything you can out of your prospecting. If you are in sales I am not going to ask you to read this book; I am not going to urge you to read this book. No I am going to order you to read this book. This is the best book on prospecting since well since I read Hunter’s buddy Jeb Blount’s book called Fanatical Prospecting. Yeah sorry but I order you to read that one as well.
Look, there are no two ways about it, prospecting is one of the key elements if not the key element of doing a great sales job. You have to find new customers and to do that you have to prospect. Now don’t bother to start listing the excuses and myths about prospecting and why you cannot do it and why it doesn’t work in today’s market, because I have heard them all as has Mark Hunter. Actually to save time he has listed them for us to kick off from his book and here they are, with a few of my own for good measure.
Myth 1: One and Done: A cold call is not leaving a voice mail. You have to keep at it until you actually talk to someone. And by the way a ton of e-mails won’t do it either, they are useful to warm up an upcoming cold call but they are not a real cold call. You have to actually talk to someone to start the sales process.
Myth 2: I’ll prospect when I’m done taking care of my customers: I you believe this you will never call on new customers. No, let the shop take care of your customers and you go find some new ones.
Myth 3: It’s impossible to have dedicated time to prospect: Yeah right. Make the time to prospect, it is after all the most important thing you’ll do all day.
Myth 4: We’ve made it this long without prospecting: As Mark Hunter says in his book, “This myth will sink your company.” This myth has already sunk many other companies in the past. Look you need new customers even if your company is doing a great job and you have many long term customers…stuff happens, companies are bought, companies go out of business or decide to go in a different direction. If you are not always out there getting new customers, you will run out of business and it will be sooner than you think.
Myth 5: If we provide great customer service to our existing customers, we won’t have to prospect: Of course customer service especially great customer service is essential to be successful but you still need to always be prospecting for new customers. Check myth 4 for the reason.
Myth 6: Only “born salespeople” can prospect: No, with a set of skills and a lot of heart, courage and hard work, not to mention patience anyone can be a successful prospector and that’s a fact.
Now I am going to add a few myths of my own.
Myth 7: Ah, my personal favorite, if we build a great product they will come: No, they will not, unless your product is a baseball field in an Iowa cornfield they will not come. You have to tell someone about your products and services for them to know enough to want to talk to you and as a sales person this is your number one responsibility.
Myth 8: No one wants to see me anymore: They are all too busy to see me so it’s much too hard to make appointments. Actually, this is more of an excuse than a myth. Yes, it is true that it is much harder to see people than it has ever been but that’s just too bad. Your job as a sales person is to find a way to make it happen. Look if it’s hard for you to see a buyer it is as hard for your competitor as well so you’re on a level playing field. You have to figure out how to see people and how to get your point across on a phone call or even through the voice mail you leave to intrigue the potential customer enough to make her want to see you.
I think by now you’re getting the point. We as sales people have to prospect, we have to get out there and get in front of new customers. We have to get more involved in lead generation, prospecting, cold calling, first sales calls and getting that first quote and winning that first order. This is want we do. For the next couple of week, I am going to dedicate this column working with you on successful prospecting techniques and I am going to use Mark Hunter’s excellent book as a guide so I’d recommend that you’d do something to help yourself and get out there and get a copy of your own and follow along because there is no way that in 900 words a week I am going to cover everything that is in this important book. Next time we’ll talk about successful factors in lead generation you are not going to want to miss it. Meanwhile stop coming up with your own set of myths of why prospecting doesn’t work and get to work on some prospecting…try it you’ll like it. It’s only common sense.
There is no doubt there is a shortage of young people in our business. As we all get older, the challenge of finding young people to replace us is getting more severe. Last week in this column, we talked about finding young people in our own organizations and then nurturing them to become an integral part of our companies. So, I thought it only appropriate that this week we would talk about that nurturing process, training them to become not only viable, but outstanding members of our organizations.
The PCB is not a commodity and it has been a vital and important participant in the global innovation of electronics.
We must show them future. By that I mean show them the viability of our product; the past, the present and most importantly the future. Show them the value of the printed circuit board in the grand scheme of things. Point out that PCBs have taken us to the moon, they have made the computer age possible, they have made medical advancement possible, and yes, they have provided the very defense and safety of our country and the world. Show them some of the products that your specific customers are building. I still think back with great pride in knowing that I touched the PCBs the guided the Space shuttle and the PCBs that went to Mars on the Motorola Viking program. We have all been in a doctor’s or dentist’s office or in a hospital and seen our customers’ names all over the equipment that surrounds us, only to realize that our board are in the equipment. Even though so many of our customers try to commoditize our products, we all know better.
Teach them the entire process
For these young people to completely and understand our, it is important they know how they are built. This means more than just taking them on a plant tour to see the entire process. It also means having them spend some time in the shop. If they have been working in the shop already, chances are they only know their job, their part of the process. So, it’s important thy learn the entire process. The best way to do this is to have them spend time building a board themselves. Following it through the process and performing each step of that process. This will go a long way towards giving them an understanding of what it takes to build a printed circuit board. This gets even more important if the young person you’ve hired has never worked in our industry before, it will be time well spent.
Train them completely for their new position.
Whether they are going into sales or starting out in the drill room or being promoted from the drill room to a supervisory position, prepare and implement a complete and comprehensive training program. This program should not end too after a few weeks. A complete training program will have evolutionary stages of development along the way. Lay out an entire year’s development program. This will not only serve as a checkpoint to see how the person is doing but will also give you the opportunity to mentor the person along the way. Training is one area that has always been lacking in our industry and I believe it is the number one reason we are in the state are in today when it comes to the aging of our industry.
Show them the places they’ll go
Show them their future. Lay out a career path setting expectations for where they will be in one year, in three years, in five years. A young person has his entire future ahead of him, they only way you are going to keep him engaged is to show them that future, explaining to him in real detail the growth and earning possibilities he faces by investing his time and effort in our industry. Tell her about the earning power of a good mature engineer, or a passionate sales person. We should keep in mind, that our schools are not exactly lauding the advantages of working in manufacturing and the exciting possibilities that entails. Our kids are taught to be lawyers and doctors and accountants and teachers, they are never taught the possibilities of being involved in manufacturing, which is why when they do come to us it us, most of the time it’s just to have a job and a paycheck to put food on the table. They have no concept of the career that is possible and the earning potential that a career in manufacturing offers them. I can safely state that no young lady in high school ever said “when I grow up. I’m going to sell circuit boards!”
But to many of us, being in this business has provided opportunities far beyond our expectations. We have made a good and rewarding lives from this industry. But I can safely say that none of us at the age of sixteen ever said “When I grow up, I’m going to sell circuit boards” and heck, we turned out okay. Its only common sense.
When are PCB shops going to get it?
I send a lot of my time helping board shops with their rep issues. I spend a lot of time trying to convince these shops that they are going to have to change the way they handle their rep relationships and start treating them as partners rather than second hand citizens if they want this whole thing to work.
I am constantly amazed when the board fabricators I talk to tell me without batting an eye that they have the “best shop in the industry; that they have the best service in the industry and reps should be beating a path to their door for the ‘privilege’ of selling for them.”
I really get a kick out of the shop owners who tell me that “they are no worse than anyone else” and “that any rep should be delighted to sell for them.”
And then they go on to tell me that the reps they have not are all a bunch of “lazy bums” and if I could only find them the “right” reps to sell their terrific products everything would be okay.
When I ask them if they have a marketing plan or are doing any advertising? All I get is a loud snort and an impatient, “who needs that stuff? We don’t need any of that we just need the right reps.”
When I ask them if they have a program for managing the reps; pointing out that one of my partners offers a very successfully proven plan that will guarantee that their rep program will succeed they scoff and say, “we talk to our reps all the time and don’t need any of that.”
When I ask them if they are willing to give reps house accounts they refuse even before the words have time to pass my lips. “No way will we ever do that, they have to earn their accounts, they have to bring in new business and not even go near our current accounts.”
When I point out that it is better to serve an account locally than from three thousand miles away so they should give the reps these accounts, I still can’t budge them.
When I ask them if they would be willing to pay a small retainer or even a draw to get the reps started since it is a very expensive and long process to find new accounts, get the surveyed and qualified and get that first order and then wait another 60 days to get paid, they just about come through the phone roaring, “No way will we ever do that! We did that once and the reps screwed us!”
And here is the clincher…when I tell them I might have a pretty good rep in an area let’s say New England that I might be able to introduce to them if they want, they tell me, “Well we can’t really put in a rep in that territory because we already have a rep there but he isn’t doing anything for us right now.”
And when I ask why he isn’t doing anything and why don’t they try talking to him to get him going again, they tell me and get this, listen to this one; “well, we owe him a bunch of money and have not been able to pay it for a six months…. but he should still be trying to sell for us right?”
Okay, if you are a board shop owner and any of this scenarios sound familiar to you then good! Maybe you’ll get it one of these days. So I am going to make it easy and plain to understand:
If you see yourself in any of the above examples you need to know that reps are tired of working with your company and companies like yours.
They are sick and tired of being screwed by you. Your product is not always great and frankly neither is your service. It is not a great privilege to sell your products. And as the market gets tougher and tougher it is that much more difficult to represent you and near impossible to make any real money representing you.
Besides all of these pitfalls of representing a board shop there is always this other dilemma, the danger of being too successful and bringing in so much business that when your accounting department sees how much you owe them and are going to owe them when the next orders come in you think nothing of terminating them. Never mind the fact that reps are always at the bottom of the stack of things you have to pay and if you go out of business they are always at the top of the list of creditors who will never get paid!
Now do you get it! Those of you who continue to disrespect your reps and not want cooperate with them are not going to be able to sign them for much longer so you are going to have to find another way to sell your products.
For those of you who are willing to enter the 21st century of rep/principal relationship listen up”
You are going to have to treat your reps with the trust and courtesy that a true partner deserves. You are going to make sure that the relationship will be win/win and yes you are going to have to pay the piper and pay retainers or at least give them some accounts if you want to have them work for you.
That’s all there is to it…it’s not that hard. Its only common sense.
The hottest topic on the PCB circuit these days is the lack of young people in our industry. As the rest of us get older, it is finally occurring to us that there is no one following in our footsteps, there is no one there to fill our shoes, when we decide enough is enough.
Thinking about this the other day, I remember what it was like when I started in this so industry so many years ago. It was with a company called Maine Electronics, a wholly owned subsidiary of Rockwell International. Originally, I was supposed to be an English teacher, but after about an hour of student teaching, I decided that honorable career that it was, teaching was not for me. So, then I had to decide what it was I was going to do to make a living if teaching was out.
Through a series of circumstances and coincidences and a long story best left form another day, I found myself hired at Maine Electronics as what was then called, a Program Coordinator, a fancy name for an expeditor. My job was to track and report the status of every single PCB in the programs I was handling. In those pre-computer days, taking status and tracking boards was all done annually by myself and seven other Program Coordinators. It was an interesting group. All of us were young, all of us were men of course, it was only much later that management realized that women could track and expedite boards as well as men could, better actually. We were all under twenty-four. And we all had some college, some of us had degrees but most did not yet. All of us with the same demographics politically and socially, which meant long hair and liberal politics which was ironic when you think that we were working on Minuteman missiles and F-11 bombers.
You can just image the fun we had chasing our boards all over the shop, and competing with one another to see who could get supervisors to work on their boards first. It was a time when our technology was respected enough that our customers were used to late dates and catch-back schedules. We lived under a great deal of pressure but as always when looking back at hard times, today when we get together, we consider those the good old days.
I was fortunate to begin my career in a company what was one of the leading PCB producers in the world. A shop was run by very experienced PCB experts from either Rockwell Autonetics in Anaheim or left-overs from the previous company Maine Research which had been designed and built as the most advanced PCB facility in the world. Just to give you an example we were building controlled impedance boards before people even knew there was such a thing.
But the point I want to make, is that we young people were trained every day of the week. Everything we did was a lesson for our future. Once we had been there a year or so they started grooming us for the next step in our career development. Some of us were destined to become process engineers, others were to become supervisors or Quality managers and a few of us where trained as sales people. In other words, from the very first day we were hired we were considered long-time members of the Rockwell family, and training us was considered an investment in the future of the company. Ur managers were tasked with starting all of us on the career path of our choice…within the company.
They were always working on the future of the company, with great intention. There was nothing haphazard about it.
And now, as we look back on the past twenty years how many of us have done that same thing? Not many of us, which is why we are in the dilemma we are in today. I daresay part of it is due to the arrogance of the boomer generation. We’ve always thought that we were the coolest generation with no regard or much respect, for that matter, for the generations that followed us. We thought we would live forever, so why bother looking back? We could not imagine a world without is and so we concentrated on the present with little interest in the future, especially a future we would not be part of.
Thus, here we are, a bunch of old gray men and a few better-looking women wondering how we are going to sustain our industry going forward, wondering who is going to carry the torch into the future.
But here is a reality check for you; it’s not really that we have had a shortage of young people in our shops because our companies actually do have some young people working in them. Take a walk around your shop, look around. Notice anything? Yes, that’s right there are young people there. They have been there all along, working in the plating department or the drill room or in shipping. Yes, they are there but we have not taken the time to notice them. We have not taken the time to talk to them, to get to know them, to find out what they are like, what they like to do when they’re not working. We need to sit down and talk to them and find out what their career aspirations are? We need to work with them, develop them just like those professionals at Rockwell did with me and my fellow Program Coordinators so many years ago. And then we must sit by their side and start working out their career path. Showing them that a career in the PCB business can be a good career. Demonstrating to them just how important our work is. Explaining to them what these little green cards go into and how they are changing the world.
We should make them believe that this is a good industry, an industry to be proud of and an industry that can provide a bright future for the person who is willing to work and to learn. And we should be willing to teach that person and help him or her to become a viable contributing member of our PCB community both today and in the future. It’s only common sense.
Times may have changed, but some things never do. The old adage that the customer is always right still stands. No matter how hard it is to accept, you have to live with that law if you want to stay in business.
We all know that it is harder to respect the customer now than it has ever been. Customers are much more demanding and insistent that we do things their way. And the irony is that they want less direct communication with us than ever before. The want to do everything online, and they won’t pick up the phone if you call them. And heaven forbid if you try to visit them in person…they want no part of that.
So you are supposed to figure out what it is they want, and in many instances with absolutely no help from them. Many times they will even get angry if you ask too many questions, even if those questions are designed to help give them what they want.
Difficult as it is, this is the world we live in, so we have to do whatever we can do make it work. Here are five things you can do to communicate with your customers and educate them, so they can help you help them to build a better product.
- Show them how valuable your knowledge can be to them. Instead of trying to “one up” your customers by showing them how much smarter you are about PCBs, try to educate them in a friendly and helpful way. Offer them seminars and webinars on how a board is built. Send them presentations and books about how boards are fabricated. Do whatever it takes to make your customers “board smart” because the smarter your customers are about building your product, the better their tools will be and the more respect they will have for your technology and what it takes to build their boards.
- Invite them to your facility. Look, captive board shops are a thing of the past. Many of the people we used to interact with, the ones who were buying boards or supporting those who bought boards, had come out of their companies’ captive board shops. For the most part these people are long gone and the people who have replaced them have never been in a board shop, so invite them to yours. Ask them over for the day, feed them, lecture them, tour them and educate them. Bond with them and create a partnership. This will go a long way toward making you their trusted advisor and expert on printed circuit boards.
- Learn everything you can about them. Visit their company. Find out how their boards are being used. Learn about their marketplace and who their customers are and what they have to do to succeed with their customers. Go to their receiving department and learn what they do with your boards when they arrive. Try to find ways to make it easier for them to use your boards. Could you package the boards in a way that would be more compatible with the way they receive the boards? Teach them how to handle your boards, how to pre-treat and bake them if need be. Show them how boards fabricated from different laminates should he handled differently and why. Be their expert, their partner, and their friend.
- Help them design the boards so that you will build them the best boards for the best price. I know this is not always easy and often they don’t want to hear what you have to say, but keep trying. If you have been working at doing items 1, 2 and 3, they should have enough trust and respect in you by now to listen to your advice about designing boards and calling out the right laminates in a way that will make your job easier while giving them the best product at the most economical price.
- Go back to what we said in the beginning of this column: the customer is always right. There’s another old saw that is relevant here: “He who has the gold makes the rules.” Live by that; it’s the only way to go. And finally, one more (there is always one more in my “underpromise and overdeliver” world):
- Lead the way when respecting your customers. Show your staff by your example that you’re in business to serve your customers and that without customers you would not have a business. Never allow your folks to speak disrespectfully about your customers. Make sure you never speak disrespectfully about your customers, because if you do, you are giving everyone in your company permission to do the same.
The customer is always right and it is your job as a company leader to understand that and make sure everyone in your company understands it as well.
It’s only common sense.
———————————————————————————————————Dan Beaulieu is a 30-year PCB industry veteran, sales and marketing expert, and writer. He has contributed to numerous industry publications on topics ranging from sales and marketing, to board shop performance.
Okay, I give up, you don’t have the funds to properly market your company. You don’t have the less than one percent of your revenue that it would take to get your name out there like it should be. Or maybe you don’t want to. Remember the motto of PCB shop owners, “when your sales are low fire your sales people and buy a drill.” So maybe you’re just one of those guys who doesn’t get it. You never had to market your company before so why should you start now. Every time things got hard you just muddled through, cutting corners, and laying off people and holding costs until the business came back…because it always did, sooner or later. You’re not sure why, but it always did. So now even if business is down you see no reason to do anything but the same thing you have always done and that is…do nothing.
Well let me ask you, how’s that going for you? Or maybe I should ask, how did it go for the over one thousand or more North American board shops that have gone out of business in the past twenty-five years? They didn’t do anything either. Some of them just kept buying equipment, equipment that in the end earned their creditors some of their money back. Or they just kept cutting costs to the point where one day, poof! They just disappeared into thin air.
Get this guys, times are not what they used to be. I know that in the seventies and maybe early eighties you could just sit tight and the business would come to you. You didn’t need to market, you didn’t need sales people. Back then all you needed was to build boards and they would come. But back then North America had over eighty percent of the PCB business world-wide and back then there was no Asia factor and back then, well how much are we going to cling to this “back then” stuff. The world has changed get over it, move on and do something about it.
And if finally, you get the point and at last realize that you are going to have to do something, here are three easy things you can do right now to market your company and get your name out there.
- Send out value-added newsletters about your company. They don’t have to be long and they don’t have to be fancy they just should have information that your customers’ can use. The newsletter should be made up of technical information that will help your customers with their PCB needs. They key is to build a data base of customers and potential customers and get your newsletter out on a regular basis, say about every six weeks. This means that with very little effort on your part your customers will be hearing from you on a regular basis. And once you have their attention you can stick in an offer that will serve as a call to action for them to start buying from you.
- Write and publish a regular column. There is something about appearing in print that somehow makes you an expert, whether or not you are one and believe me I know. You can write about a specific technology, or service that your company is good at. Writing a column will go a long way towards branding your company. And once columns are published you can use them for your own marketing efforts as well
- Issue press releases: This is the easiest one of all. Put together and send out press releases about your company when you buy a new piece of equipment or hire a new sales person or a new director of operations, or you are heading to a trade show to exhibit. This will keep your name out in the market and the best part it cost nothing. Done right, a well-written press release is as good as a paid ad.
And speaking of ads, there is one more, always under promise and over deliver. And my apologies, this is a bit of a commercial, but an important one. Spend a little money on some advertising. It cost much less than you think, and a publication such as Iconnect 007 offers special packages for all budgets. And the neat thing is once you are advertising with a trade-zine such as ours there are all sorts of bonus services that you will get; from free interviews to press release publications to even advice on how to send out the right message.
None of these ideas are difficult and except for the last one, none of them will cost you a penny. And by the way doing these things will help you to focus and define your company’s direction which is always a good thing. It’s only common sense.