Archive for May, 2018

Finding & Hiring The Right Sales Rep

dan-5Just think how much time and money you can save by choosing the right sales person for your sales force. If you take the time to do it right, if you develop and implement a hiring process that fully vets the candidate before you hire her, it will pay off exponentially. Hiring too fast is almost always disastrous. One of the poorer characteristics of being a sales person is shooting from the hip. We all believe in our gut instinct so much that the faster we can come to a decision, the better we feel about ourselves. This is not a good… actually, it is a pretty bad thing because we often make the wrong decision when it comes to choosing sales people. Sales people are good at selling themselves because, well because they are sales people. Combine that with our pride in making fast decisions and it’s no wonder that we consider finding and keeping the right sales people is one of our biggest challenges as sales managers.

There are many aspects to proper vetting and hiring of the right sales people and one of these is identifying and evaluating the right characteristics of a Peak Performer. From the soon to be published book called The Sales Manager’s Guide to Greatness: 10 Essential Strategies for Leading your team to the Top by Kevin Davis, here are some key skills of Peak Performers that you should look for in your Peak Performing sales person:

  • Good Communicator
  • Organized
  • Negotiates well
  • Great selling skills
  • Develops killer proposals
  • Great work ethic
  • Self-motivated
  • Positive attitude
  • Team player
  • Competitive
  • Honest
  • Creative
  • Problem solver
  • Notice the ones that are about attitude. These are the most important ones.

As Davis mentions, these are skills and as important as they are for a sales person to have even more important than these skills are characteristics the exemplify “Wills” or positive attitude and these are:

  • Prospects consistently
  • Enthusiasm for resolving customer problems/complaints
  • String work ethic (hardworking and diligent)
  • Strong initiative (can work efficiently without being told what to do)
  • Competitive drive
  • Results-oriented
  • A positive influence on co-workers
  • Learns quick and is coachable
  • Tenacious (keeps focused until an outcome is achieved)
  • Constantly looks for opportunities to learn and improve

And finally, again from the book, are three observable behaviors that you as the person hiring the candidate should be looking for in that candidate:

Competitive: Hates to lose. Constantly working on getting better

Good work ethic: High activity level. Determined to complete tasks. Hates to miss quotes

Problem solver: Accepts responsibility for solving problems. Can define the problem’s causes and solutions. Understands that their solutions can’t create more problems for co-workers.

Creating a success profile using these characteristics and then applying it to the hiring process will go a long way to assuring your selection of the best candidate for the job. But it is not the only thing you should be doing. There should be team synergy, the candidate must fit in well with the rest of the team. She has to comply with the company’s culture and most importantly, the candidate must be ready and willing to sell what the company produces. This last comment might seem obvious but it is not.

If you are a quick-turn prototype fabricator specializing in producing high-mix low-volume orders for your customers, then be careful if your sales candidate comes from a high-volume production background. Be especially on the lookout for the candidate who keeps talking about how much better it is to sell what he was selling before than what your company sells.

Make it clear to that candidate that you sell what you sell, that’s your product, your sweet spot and you are not going to change. Let the candidate know that he must make a decision, and then a commitment to sell your products when he comes on board. And, if he persists in talking about the benefits of what he sold at his former company then take the hint and invite him to return to his former company.

You, as a sales manager do not need to waste you time convincing your sales people to be selling what you produce.

Hiring the right sales people is like everything else you do in life. It starts with knowing exactly what you want and then going out and getting it. During the hiring process is the right time to make sure that the person in front of you is the right person, that she has all the characteristics and skill that you want in a member of your sales team. Vet that person carefully to make absolutely certain she is the right person for your team. And once you are convinced that she is, hire her. It’s only common sense.


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Facing Those Staffing Challenges

Dan - another pathOf all the challenges we face in the PCB industry today, the most challenging by far, is staffing. It is getting near impossible to find good people. This is especially true for engineers and Quality people as well as management.  Most of the good ones have either retired, changed careers, or gone to work for our suppliers. Some have even gone to work for our customers. And, the few who are left are in such high demand that they are being lured from one company to another by higher (read crazy) wages making them so expensive that they are barely affordable.

This situation leaves us but two options. Either hire from the shop floor and train, or hire from college and train.

Let’s address the former first. Although hiring young people for floor jobs is still a challenge, it is not as much of a challenge as hiring experienced professionals. There are still people coming through our doors looking for manufacturing jobs. So, the first step is to check out who you are hiring for these positions. What I recommend is a careful screening of these incoming people during the hiring process. Not necessarily for the entry level position they are applying for but rather for the potential of what they could eventually become. Look for applicants who have ambition, who talk about not wanting a job, but a career. Ask them what interests them? Ask them what they like to do in their spare time? If they have some college, ask them why they did not finish; and if they plan to complete their degree one day. Find out everything you can about them. Train your HR people and your hiring supervisors and leads to look for these same things. Hire based on potential for the future.

I’d also recommend you evaluate the people who are already working for you. If you’re in upper management, set up informal talks with these people. Get to know them. Often you were not the one to hire them or manage them, so you don’t really know them. Get to know them. Meet with them and ask them the same kind of questions you would ask new hires. These people are already on your team. They have already been exposed to the company, and the industry. By now they should have a good idea as to whether they like working in this industry, in your company. Thy might even have already decided what career path they would like to pursue, making your job that much easier.

Develop formal career paths for these individuals. By doing this you are in fact growing your own staff of the future, developing your own team of experienced professionals. Setting off on this path will also make your company a much more desirable place to work attracting more of the right people to your team.

Now let’s get to hiring young people right out of college. First you must get to know some. And the best way to do this is to offer summer paid internships. Obviously, someone has already had this idea, so you will have to compete for these paid interns. Once again, the company that has the best career plan will attract the best candidates. The good thing is that the current generation of college students has a larger percentage of people interested in making things. The Makers’ Movement has created renewed interest in manufacturing, so that many of these potential candidates are looking for manufacturing jobs, they want to work in a PCB plant!

Offering these potential candidates, the opportunity to learn about your business while learning how to make something with their hands can be very appealing. Showing them a complete career development plan, which should include a step by step timeline outlining what they can expect their end game to be is the best plan.

In all cases from new non-college hires, to hiring form the shop floor to college graduates, the most important thing is to show them the future with all its potentials. Teach them about the industry, including its rich history of being an integral part of everything from the space shuttle to computer development to SpaceX and Blue Origin to automotive. Create a sense of excitement about our industry.

And finally, show then the earning potential they can count on. Certainly, they are not going to earn Wall Street money, but then who does? But, they will have the opportunity to make very good money, by building something that is an integral part of every new electronics product invented. Yes, show them the money! And the future, and the possibilities. It will not only solve your staffing problems, it will make you a better company as well. It’s only Common Sense.

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The Future of The North American PCB Industry Is Up To You

dan21No matter what happens in the world, success is up to you

There are about 230 boards shops left in North America and out of those about 175 of them are at $10 Million or less and out of those about a 100 are at $5 Million or less and out of those 25 are at $1 Million or less. For those who want to do the math, that leaves only about 55 that are doing $25 Million and over.

So, most of the board shops left in North America today are $10 million and under and the majority of those smaller, much smaller than that.

Now, the Global PCB market is just shy of $60 Billion dollars. Considering that the North American market is about $12 Billion dollars with about $4 Billion of that being built here in North American, there is still plenty of business to go around especially for those shops that are under $10 million.

Our North American market still has about $4Billion being built domestically. Which means that those smaller board shops have very little of their success and failure relying on what the rest of the world is doing. Oh, sure there is the trickle-down effect, that cannot be denied but on the same token if you are the sales manager of a $6 Million dollar a year American board shop, stop complaining about China your success is in your hands

If you run a $6 million dollar a year board shop and you are doing defense and aerospace work you are in even better shape because your business cannot be imported thus you are in even better shape than your commercial board shop counterparts who have no protected business.

So, what is my point? Where am, I going with this? It’s simply that the success or failure of most board shops in this country is completely in their own control. The real factors they should be concerned with are simple business factors.

If you find yourself in this space here is what you should to be concerned about:

1. Quality: Is your Quality in the upper 90th percentile? Like 98 or 99%? Are you customer returns minimal somewhere between next and nothing? Because if your Quality is less than that you are throwing your money away faster than you can make it. I can also safely assume that you are burning through customers as well. In this high-performance age, if your company is not performing at peak then your customers are not going to stick around. As Ford likes to say Quality is number one.

2. Delivery: Yes, delivery. Companies, you customers, need their boards on time…all the time and if you can’t do that consistently then you are going to lose customers at an alarming rate.

3. Price: Sorry but we need to talk about price. I know that is tough to hear but the price of something is based on what the market is willing to pay for it. It is not based on anything else. Our job as business owners is to provide a price that is competitive and most importantly marketable. By the way if your Quality and delivery are not where they should be neither will your price. To compete in the world today you have to be as efficient as you can possibly be, that means there is no room for poor performance.

4. Service: Customers are going with vendors who are easy to work with. So much can be overcome by great customer service including the competition. Ours is an industry whose customer service is down around the service level of the department of motor vehicles so it would not take much effort to out-service the competition!

5. And yes of course sales and marketing. You have to tell someone who you are and what you do and you have to have a clear and focused sales strategy.

Think about these five things. There is nothing difficult here. There is nothing extraordinary here. Everything mentioned above will only benefit your business as well as make sure that your company thrives in this economy,

And guess what? If everything mentioned above is working you will not have to worry about the Chinese or your competitors or your demanding customers, you will be ahead of the game and running your own race to success.

It has become too easy to blame outside elements for the difficulties we face but going back to the beginning of this column, if you have a board shop that is currently doing $ 6 Million and you want to get to $7 Million a year it is entirely up to you and based on how well you run your business. Putting things in perspective you are trying to get one more million a year in revenue and that translates to a little over $ 83,000 per month. In a global market place that is $60 Billion a year, in a North American marketplace that is about $4 Billion a year, your one-million-dollar growth is entirely in your hands. It doesn’t matter what the Chinese do, it doesn’t matter what your competition does and sure doesn’t matter what goes on Washington all that matters if what you do, how you perform and how you price and yes, how easy you are to deal with. It’s only common sense

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How Many Times Do I Have To Tell You? Stop Talking And Start Listening

Dan - books

I’ve been concentrating on listening lately. I mean really listening, not doing what I usually do, which is to wait for the person I’m talking with to finish talking so that I can tell him all the great thoughts I was formulating, while he was talking. It’s not easy to listen, we are all so in love with the sound of our own voices, that we barely take the time to really listen, and really hear, what the other person is saying.

Entrepreneur, Richard Branson, claims that he practices what he calls “aggressive listening” He says that most of us view the act of listening as a passive act, when, it should be an active action. He goes on to say that “listening is 100 percent about engaging; it is in fact the most emotionally intense of human activities.

Tom Peters says in his new book, The Excellence Dividend “I firmly believe that if, after a half-hour conversation, you are not exhausted, you were not seriously/fiercely/aggressively attentive.”

Once again from Peter’s book: The Good Listener’s Rules


  • A good listener exists totally for the given conversation. There is nothing else on earth of any importance to me for the time I am listening.
  • A good listener keeps his/her mouth shut
  • A good listener gives the other person time to stumble toward clarity without interruption. No matter how long the pause (keep quiet) when someone is thinking before talking is not an invitation to interrupt.
  • A good listener never finishes
  • A good listener becomes INVISIBLE; makes the respondent the centerpiece


And to quote the great humorist Will Rogers, “Never miss a chance to shut up.”

Okay, why am I going on about this listening thing? Why do I bring up this subject two or three times a year? Simple, because I am a sales consultant and I am a total failure when it comes to getting people to listen. Oh, I don’t mean listening to me. No not at all, I mean listening to their customers. Every sales person I have ever come in contact with is a terrible listener. You put a bunch of sales people in a room like say, at a sales meeting, and all you’ll hear is chattering, you will never see everyone listening as one person speaks. I dare say, it is the single most challenging problem facing sales people today. They just don’t get the fact that no one ever learned anything while talking.

And their worst fear, I mean what gives most sales people nightmares, is silence. Silence is the great enemy of listening. There has never been a sales person who could stand silence. They feel it is their duty to make sure there are never any silences, in any room they are in. And the fact that silence makes them uncomfortable, is the reason that so many sales people fail.

What about you? Can you handle the silence? Are you a good listener? Here are a few questions to ask yourself:

  1. When you prep for a sales call, do you focus on what you are going to tell the customer? Or, do you focus on what you are going to ask the customer?
  2. When the customer tells you that he is seriously considering giving you the order. Do you remain quiet, and wait for what she is going to say next? Or do you just keep talking, piling on the reasons why buying from you be the best choice?
  3. When your customer is angry and wants to tell you what he does not like about your performance, do you keep quiet, giving him plenty of time to get the complaints out…to vent? Or do you keep interrupting him, so you can give him the excuses for why you messed up?
  4. When a customer is telling you an interesting story, say about meeting a famous person, do you listen quietly and appreciate not only the story, but the enjoyment she is getting from telling it? Or, do you only half listen because you cannot wait for her to finish so you can tell her about an even more famous person you’ve met?

I think by now you get the point. In each of these examples there was a proper way to have a conversation, and a wrong way, which way did you go? If you were only thinking about what you were going to tell that customer; or kept piling on the reasons, he should buy from you; or if you kept making excuses while your customer was balling you out; or if you have a tendency  to play “can you top this” with the person who is telling you about the famous person she met, then you need to go to listening school, You need to take the art of listening seriously enough to read Richard Branson’s recent book, The Virgin Way: How to Listen, Learn, Laugh, and Lead. And start listening for a change. It’s only common sense


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Marketing: They Can’t Buy From You If They Don’t Know Who You Are

dan21One Ad is not Marketing

Marketing is important. If you want people to know who you are and what you do you have to market your company. Think about it, if people don’t know your name, if they don’t know what you do, if they don’t know how to reach you, how are you going to get any business?

Would you open a store on a busy street and not put up a sign?

Would you start selling sweaters on line without a web site?

Would you open up a new medical practice without an announcement in the local paper?

Would you start making PCB boards and not tell anyone? Oh, wait a minute that is exactly what you are doing if you don’t market your company.

And yes, unfortunately one ad is not a marketing campaign, in fact it is not marketing at all.

Marketing is telling your story and then communicating it to your marketplace, people who can use your product.

A good friend of mine Keith Robbins uses a perfect example of the difference between sales and marketing. Selling is putting your line in the water and hoping you will catch a fish; marketing is getting the fish to jump into the boat.

Marketing is telling and communicating your story in such a compelling way that people are going to want to do business with you.

Marketing is defining your business, your company and your product in a manner that not only explains who you are and what you do, but also why people should want to buy from you.

And most of all marketing is a mosaic. A good and effective marketing plan is made up of many parts all of them synergistically connected.

The message conveyed by your advertising is connected to the message on your web site which is connected to the message relayed by your newsletter which is connected to the message conveyed by your press releases, articles, white papers, interviews, trade show booth graphics, brochures and literature, signage and yes even your business cards.

All these things are ingredients of your overall corporate marketing plan, and it all boils down to the impression you want to deliver to your marketplace

So, you see one ad does not make a marketing plan. Anyone who puts one ad in a magazine and then expects to get business is fooling himself.

Here are five steps you must take to develop a good and effective marketing plan:

  1. Tell that story. This is the basis of all your marketing. Who started the company? Why did they start the company? What need does the company fill? Who needs the company? What makes the company outstanding? Why should people buy from the company and what company characteristics make the company distinctive? Use all of this information to draw up your company’s unique story. Make sure the story is compelling. Remember your goal is to get people to want to buy from you. As examples think of Tiffany’s, Nordstrom’s, L.L. Bean, Disney, and the best of them all Apple.
  2. Develop the ideal customers. This means you need to know who will benefit from your products and services? What kind of people and companies will like what you are selling? In short who will see value in what you are selling.
  3. Find out where these people go for thier information. What magazines do they read? What web sites do they visit? What trade shows do they attend? What other forms of media do they habituate to learn about products like yours. Once you establish this then use these venues for communicating your story.
  4. Develop a communication plan that will send your story out to all the right people using the information you learned in step 3. Make up a budget that will effectively and economical get your story out to the right people at the right time.
  5. Consistency is the key. Your message should be consistent and you should deliver it consistently. Marketing is a long-term ordeal. It is not something you do for a couple of months and then walk away. You should be constantly spreading the word about your company and your products and services. You should also study the results. Decide what media best suits you. What facet of your story gets the best results? Always be analyzing what works and what does not work and spend your time and money on what works.

And one more, in the spirit of under promise and over deliver. Establish a following, a tribe as Seth Godin calls it. Publish a value-added newsletter to your customers and your potential customers. Ask everyone you meet if they would be interested in receiving your newsletter and then make the newsletters compelling enough that these people, your tribe, will read every one of them. And, once you have their attention, one you get your readership up, you can start educating your readers first-hand on what you do and how it will benefit them. This is called “permission marketing” where your customers and potential customers are actually giving you permission to send them information about your company on a regular basis. Now that is marketing.

There is one simple rule of marketing and that is: people need to to know who you are if they are going to buy from you. It’s only common sense.

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Check Out The Restroom!

Dan 8There is a huge grocery store in Ohio called Jungle Jim’s International Market. From what I hear this is the best and most interesting grocery store in the world! Yes, you got that right… grocery store. And that store has the best restrooms in the world. They pride themselves on their restrooms and how well taken care of and clean they are.

So, let’s talk about restrooms. Reading about Jungle Jim’s in Tom Peters new book, The Excellence Dividend, this week got me thinking about what you can learn from a company’s rest rooms. Let’s face it whether your company is an OEM, or a CEM or a PCB shop the one thing you have in common is that you have public restrooms, another thing you have in common is that customers visit your company and of course the thing all visiting customers have in commons is that eventually they will need to visit the restroom.

Which leads me to your rest room. What does your public restroom look like? I challenge you to go check it out. Go ahead, whether your reading or listening to this, stop right now and go check out your restroom.

Okay, what is your restroom like? Are you proud of what you see…or are you disgusted and embarrassed? If it’s the latter you’d better do something about it now, right now. If you shudder every time a customer asks to use the restroom, it’s time to do something about it!

Here is what your restrooms say about you and your company:

And I’ll only use positive examples because the negative ones are just plain too, well, disgusting.

If your restroom is spotless: it means to the customers that you care. That you are a well-organized company and that you have pride in what you do. It could be the most impressive thing that your customer notices about your company. And not only customers, what does it say to your associates when your restroom s spotless? A beautifully maintained restroom is a great lesson in and of itself.

If all the right supplies are in the right place: it means to people that you pay attention to detail. That if you can keep track of the soap and TP and all the other restroom accoutrements, you most likely have a pretty good system to take care of your inventory in the shop as well.

If you have extra supplies: That is even better! It indicates a well-run company that most likely has a great MRP system. Think about that, if even the restroom’s essentials are well-stocked then the shop will certainly be as well.

If it smells good: Ah yes! No olfactory nightmares please! If you have taken the time and effort and money to add not only a great ventilation system, but also a wonderful spa-like aroma as well then, you will not only impress your customers, you will wow them! And as far as your associates? Well, you could have a hard time getting them to get back to work.

If your restroom looks spectacular when the visiting customer uses it, then you have probably already won over that customer. Seriously, for the most part many of your visitors are non-technical people from purchasing, or accounting or program management who don’t know much about your business. They can take the most intense tour you have to offer, but they will not be able to tell a twenty-year old outdated piece of equipment from a brand new one. They will not be able to tell one plating line from another…but what they will be able to tell is how clean your shop is, starting with how clean your restroom is…seriously.

If you care at all about your customers, if you care at all about your employees, if you care at all about your company, you will take care of the most important thing in the shop, the  one thing that everyone who comes in contact with has an opinion about, you’ll make sure your that you, not Jungle Jim’s have the best restrooms in the world. It’s only common sense.

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Questions To Ask Potential Sales Reps

dan-6The problem with finding and hiring the right sales person is that, well they are sales people, they know how to sell, they know how to talk a good game, in fact so good a game that it’s hard to figure out if they are in fact really good or just great talkers!

So you have to dig a little deeper when hiring sales than say, if you were hiring people for operations or engineering. Generally those folks know their stuff or they don’t and that doesn’t take long to figure out.

Sales people on the other hand, well…

So here are some interview questions that I like to ask when I am interviewing a sales person for one of my clients.

  1. How well do you know your customers? Give me a specific example.
  2. What would your customers say about you? Name a least three customers and tell me what you think they would say about you if I were to call them.
  3. Tell me about a time when you’re company really messed up and you had to go in and save the account. What did you do?
  4. It’s the third week of the month. A lot of product is due at the end of the month and your company’s plating line goes down and just about all of your boards are going to be delayed for at least five days. What’s your plan? What are you going to do?
  5. What process do you use to find a new customer? Take me through your entire process from lead generation to that first order.
  6. They say that you have sell a new customer twice. First you have to convince the customer and then you have to convince your own company. How do you do that?
  7. What is the biggest challenge you have ever faced as a sales person?
  8. What is the biggest success you have ever had as a sales person?
  9. We do not sell on price. How will you sell around the price issue? Please give me an example.
  10. How do you plan your day, your week, your month your year?
  11. How do you forecast? You do forecast right?
  12. We like our sales people to “own” their territories. What does that mean to you? How do you own your territory?

These are all very legitimate question designed to give you real insight into what kind of sales person you are hiring by the way she answers these questions.

For example if the candidate sales that she does not believe in forecasting and then gives you five reasons why forecasting does not work you’ve got a real problem and it’s a huge indicator that this person will not work out for you.

Here are some other possible answers that wills signal a red light to their hiring:

  • Listen carefully to the person’s answer to the question about selling on price. This is the ringer in all of these questions. A great sales person will answer this directly and clearly using all of your company’s assets to demonstrate how to make the sales (which means that he has completely checked out your company).
  • The answer to the question about lead generation and prospecting. There are a great many sales people today especially with the more “experienced” sales people who will claim that lead generation and prospecting is dead. This means that they hate cold calling always have and are not going to start doing it for your company. Sales is all about contacting someone you don’t know and convincing them to buy something from you. If your candidate is not willing to do that he is not a good candidate move on.
  • When you ask them about how they plan their day, week, month and year they’d better have a great answer. Sales is all about planning. It is all about the homework and this questions is designed to indicate whether or not the candidate is a professional.

Now here a few more bonus questions. This group is designed to really give you some insight into the true passion of the candidate for her profession:

  1. How to you keep up with your profession? What courses do you take? What seminars do you take part in?
  2. What is the last book you read about business? Tell what you thought of that book?
  3. Who is your favorite business writer?
  4. Do you watch any business shows on Television?

And finally the last group of questions; these are designed to discover how up to date and forward thinking your candidate is:

  1. Are you on LinkedIn? How many connections do you have?
  2. What are your thoughts on social media in general?

And that’s about it. Obviously these are recommended questions and certainly you can come up with some of your own that will be at least equally as good. But I would urge you to take these questions very seriously and then take the entire interview process even more seriously. Hiring a sales person is one of the most if not the most important decision you have to make as a sales manager so make sure you take all of the time it takes to find out everything you can about your candidate. An extra hour in the interview process could save you weeks if not months or even years later on…not to mention thousands if not hundreds of thousands or millions of dollars in lost sales in the future. It’s only common sense.

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