Archive for category Sales

8 Ways To Prospect For New Accounts

dan-2We all know that companies must grow or they will die. The same thing applies to rep firms. You must keep growing your business, adding new customers, and increasing your sales, or you too will die. Too many times reps will find three or four major customers and then rely on them for their income going forward. Not only is this a very bad move, but it also drives their principals crazy. I can’t count the number of times my clients have told me that they can’t get their reps to find new business any more. They say something like, “sure they have brought us a couple of good accounts and we are all making money on those, but now I can’t get them to find me some new accounts. They have not brought in a new account in two years!” This is an extremely bad scenario but unfortunately one that is often true. If you are a rep and you find yourself in this example you’d better do something about it because this is the number one reason that rep firms are terminated from long-time contracts. The principals, growing increasingly impatient with the lack of activity on the part of their reps end up cutting them lose. Don’t let this happen to you.

Being a sales representative means that you are always out there selling. You’re a sales repafter all

To help you out a little, here are seven ways to prospect for new accounts;

  1. Who are you looking for: You have to know what you are looking for in a customer. This should not be that hard, examine who your principals are what they sell and that will tell you the kind of companies and technologies to target.
  2. Create an ideal customer profile: Once you have determined what type of companies you service and what their technology requirements are, develop an ideal customer profile. This profile will include be made up of customer characteristics such as: Technology, service, market, value for your services, ease of doing business with, and a number of others. (I can send you a complete ideal customer profile development form if you would like on, just email me at danbbeaulieu@aol.com).
  3. If you are a smart rep you’ll have a portfolio of a number of non-competing lines selling different technologies of the same basic product, this is a good thing because it allows you to get more bang for your prospecting buck. One potential customer could need more products from more than just one of your lines. A company that buys PCBs for example could have a need to everything from Military rigid PCBs to Flex and Rigid Flex boards to Heavy copper boards. Which means that you can sell them a complete PCB solution using two or three of your lines.
  4. The approach: One you have decided which type of customers you are going to target the next step is match those types with real companies. By going online, with surprisingly little effort you can find the companies you want to target by matching their needs with the ideal customer profile template you have developed. By doing this you will develop your list of target accounts
  5. Warming up a cold call: the next step is to approach these targets. You could call them directly but I recommend doing a little more prep work before you do that. Develop an e-mail newsletter specifically focused on those companies you have targeted. Send two or three of these over a month-long period. After a while you’ll pick up a trend of who is opening these e-mails and reading them and from that list you can send a very specific e-mail newsletter outlining how you can help them fill their specific PCB needs, this is what we call warming up the cold call.
  6. The cold call: or in your case the nicely warmed up call. By now they know your name, they know who your and have a good idea what you have to offer. This is the time to call and set up your live meeting. You will be pleasantly surprised how much easier this will be now that you did all your prep work.
  7. The big meeting: yes that first appointment. Once again preparation is key. Research the company and find out everything you can about them so that you are fully prepared when you make that first sales call. Make a call plan and write down what you want to get out of this sales call. In many cases all you’re going to do is establish rapport with the person you are meeting; and your goals should be to learn about his company and their needs. Try to ask more questions than you answer in other words shut up and listen. For that first meeting to be successful you have to get two things: first what are that target company’s PCB needs and second what do you have to do to win their business and oh yes there is one more, get a commitment for the next step. Once you leave the meeting make a summary of all that you covered including any commitments that the buyer made to you and send this to her in an email.
  8. Follow up in a way that goes beyond the normal follow up that the buyer is expecting. Send her a book or an article about something the she talked about and that pertains to her job or her company. That way you are completing that circle of engagement on two fronts, the first business as usual on a vendor/customer basis, while the second front establishes the engagement on a more equal partnership basis which is the way you want to go and grow all great customer relationships.

It’s only common sense.

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7 Ways To Make Your Principals Brag About You

dan-3If you’re a rep the best way to be successful is to have your principals love you. Sad as it may seem I almost never hear principals bragging about having a great rep. In fact, instead, I hear horror story after horror story about how reps aren’t doing anything, they are not bringing in the right stuff, they are hard to find when they are being signed and even harder to find after they are signed. Most of the calls I get from companies looking for reps are by people who are completely dissatisfied with their current reps. Of course, there is another side to this story and We all know that very well, but let’s agree to leave that for another day. For now, let’s focus on what you can do as a rep to become a great rep, a rep your principals love, one that they will be happy to brag about.

Actually, this is an opportunity where if you are ambitious and serious about being a great rep, an outstanding rep, you can really shine. These seven tips I am about to give you are quite straightforward and things you should be doing for yourself anyway. So if you’re doing these things already great, if not, get started today.

  1. Accountability: Always be accountable to your principals as well as to yourself. Plan and measure everything you do. Plan, create milestones and get things done. Do what you say and say what you do. If you promise someone something, then do it. In the end that’s all accountability is.
  2. Reporting: Yes, reporting. I know that some of you chose to be reps to get away from all of that “bureaucracy”, but good solid reporting is important when you are in a business partnership as you are with your principals. And good reporting is also important when you have your own business as well. Your principals have resigned themselves to the fact that reps don’t write reports; so just think how outstanding they’ll think you are if you do in fact write reports. These don’t have to be fancy just simple updates of what is going on with your customers and what you are doing about it. The principals just want to know that you’re out there doing something for them so why not prove it by giving them a written report every couple of weeks?
  3. Communications: It’s all about communication, staying in touch with both you customers and most importantly your principals. As stated above give them a written report. Set up a call with them at least twice and month and then invite them out to your territory to visit your customers and see what is going on for themselves. And don’t forget the Godfather’s number one rule when it comes to communications, “deliver good news quickly; deliver bad news even Immediatly”.
  4. Meetings: I know we all hate meetings but you should have them. If the principal doesn’t set up regular meetings, then you do it. Have at least one formally scheduled phone meeting with each of your principals a month, or even more frequently. Plan on having a face to face annual meeting with the companies you represent. And if they are smart enough to hold an annual sales meeting then make sure you are there.
  5. Ride alongs: Invite your principals into your territory at least twice a year if not more. They need to come in and talk to their customers directly. You need to have time to meet with them on a face to face basis as well. Make sure these territory visits are well planned and full of important meetings. Arrange meal meetings where the customer and his vendor (your principal) get to break bread and know one another better. Make the time you spend with your principals as productive as possible. Plan so there are no cancellations; and create a back-up plan in case there are. And for heaven’s sake don’t get lost on the way to visit a customer with your principal in the car that will do nothing but raise all kinds of doubts in her mind as to how often you actually visit your/their customers.
  6. Prospecting and lead generation. Yes, sorry you have to do that. It’s all part of the game if you want to be in sales you have to always be selling. One of the complaints I hear about reps is that they get one or two big accounts and they stop selling; the stop hunting and start farming. If you want to grow your business you should grow your account base and the only way to do that is through prospecting and lead generation. Develop a good lead generation plan. Use your marketing to “warm up” those cold calls. Make a list of viable target accounts and then develop a plan to go after them. Send them e-mails with follow up phone calls. Perfect your sales pitch. Fill your sales funnel and then work your way to that first quote and then to that first order and take it from there. The more active you are when it comes to lead generation the more delighted your principals will be. And by the way your business will grow exponentially as well.
  7. Forecasting: I know I can hear you groaning all the way from here but spry you do have to forecast it is part of the deal if you’re in sales and it is also part of the deal if you are in sales. It’s not that difficult. List your current customers, figure out what they did the past couple of years and what you think they are going to do next year. Do the same with your target accounts. Figure out how much of your type of business they do in a year and then predict how much you can win. Put this data into a time-lined month to month excel sheet and you have your forecast not only for the year but for each month at well. Personally, I don’t know how anyone can own a rep firm and be in sales and not have a forecast. By the way my, your principals will not only love you…they will adore you if you give them a forecast for the coming year.

And one more, always under promise and over deliver do some marketing for your principals. Apply your marketing ideas to their business as well. Help them to get their names out, their capabilities known in your territory as well. I promise you no matter who your principals are they have never had a rep do something like this for them and yes you’ll have them bragging about you. It’s only common sense

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What’s The Question?

Dan - another pathAsking the right questions will lead to sales

I have a question for you.  Or actually, more than one. Are you asking the right questions? When you are face to face with a customer, especially a new prospect, do you have a list of the right questions to ask? Are you like a good lawyer, asking penetrating questions that are not only designed to gather information but also to lead to a conclusion you want to reach? Are you asking the right questions? Questions so thoughtful, intelligent, and knowledgeable, questions that they will impress that customer? Do you have a line of questioning that is designed to go somewhere, that will move the relationship and the sale along?

No? well you should. All great sales people should have the ability to ask questions that matter. Questions that sell which is the title of new book by Paul Cherry that I’m I the middle of reading right now. The full title of the book is “Questions That Sell: The Powerful Process for Discovering What Your Customer Really Wants” and it’s a good one. In fact, I had to reluctantly, put it aside to write this column today. I would urge all of you who are serious about your craft of sales to get out there and pick up this book it will be well-worth the eighteen dollars or so, it will cost you.

The key to a successful sales call is to plan for it, lay it out in advance. Know what you are going to say, the questions you are going to ask, why you are going to ask these questions and what you goal is? What do you expect to gain from this particular sales call? Like the boy scouts, always be prepared and for heaven sake’s never wing it! I think I’ve said that before…maybe a few hundred times.

As an example, here is a line of questioning from Mr. Cherry’s book that I think you’ll find particularly useful when you are trying to help one of your customers solve a problem… a problem whose solution is based on buying your product or service, what a coincidence!

From the Book:

  1. Share with me your three biggest challenges. Of these three which one is the most pressing?
  2. What problems are you currently experiencing and why?
  3. What is causing these problems? Can you give me an example?
  4. What barriers are in your way?
  5. What’s working? What’s not? Why?
  6. What’s this problem costing you, in terms of time, money, resources, lost opportunities etc.?
  7. How long have you been experiencing this problem?
  8. Who else besides you is experiencing this problem?
  9. Think back to when you originally implemented this process. What were your expectations? What results are you currently getting? What kin of results would you like to get in the future?
  10. If you could win back the clock what would you change?
  11. Everyone has to deal with change. What changes are you encountering? What challenge is this change presenting?
  12. What are the biggest gripes you hear from your customers? From your internal customers?

Every one of these questions has a purpose and honestly, if you can get your potential customer to engage in this line of questioning you are just about there when it comes to getting her to become your customer.

As we have discussed many times, the more information we can find out about our customers the more effectively we can support them. Those of us who like to develop account plans and strategies are strong advocates of asking the right questions to our customers. The reason for this being in the end who better to advise you on how to be a valuable vendor to your customer than they customer himself?

Probably the most important block of information you can get from your customers is learning about their own customers. Discovering what they have to do to successfully market their own company. Here, again from the book a some of the questions you should be asking to learn more about your customers and what challenges they face when trying to successfully service their own customers.

  1. Who are your organization’s most valuable customers?
  2. Give me a profile of your typical client? An ideal client?
  3. How do your customers measure success as a result of doing business with you?
  4. Describe for me what an ideal customer looks like.
  5. What’s it going to take to get more of these types of customers?
  6. What do your customers expect from you as a vendor or supplier? What are their expectations?
  7. How have your customers’ expectations changed over the last years? What changes do you see moving forward?
  8. What steps will you need to take in order to adapt to those changed expectations?
  9. Customers have a lot of choices today. What would you say is the number one reason why they buy from you and not elsewhere?

Once again getting the answers to these questions will make you not only their most informed vendor they have, but their preferred vendor as well. It’s only common sense.

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How To Attract Great Reps

dan-7Look we all know that this is one of our industry’s greatest challenges. For a number of reasons not the least being that many board shops have screwed many reps over the years, it is getting more and more difficult to get good reps to represent us.

I know that of all the services I provide finding good reps is the most challenging. The problem is that many of them just don’t trust us anymore. Some of them have completely given up on the printed circuit board fabricator as a viable principal. They tell me that it is difficult to get and keep customers for a PCB shop when the performance is less than 85% on time; or if they are successful, they can become “too” successful to the point where the board shop cuts them off because their commissions get too large.

Now to be fair, this week I am going to talk about things from the reps’ point of view and next week I will approach the subject from the board shops’ perspective.

With this in mind here are seven secrets to finding and keeping some great reps:

  1. As always make sure that you are performing, this applies no matter how your sales force is made up. If you don’t perform you are not going to grow your business whether you have direct or independent sales reps. In this highly competitive environment performance is king and value is prince if you don’t provide these to your customers your are doomed.
  2. Make the rep an offer he can’t refuse. By this I mean tear up your traditional contract. Who said that we have to keep using the same old boiler plate contract over and over again? Man that thing is over fifty years old; the world has changed so should we. Who said that commissions had to be from three to five to seven to ten percent? Who said that commissions had to be paid only when you get paid? Who said that thirty day cancellation is cast in stone? Who said that? Think out of the box. If you are going after a rep who you feel is so good that she can really boost your company’s sales then figure out what will be a great deal for the both of you. Offer her a percentage of the profit on the part number, offer him a longer term arrangement do whatever it takes and of course what makes sense financially to get that rep signed up.
  3. Make that rep your partner, no I mean your real partner. Bring him into your business family; treat him just like one of your direct people in terms of regular communications. Listen carefully to what they he says. You are paying this person to be your hired expert with his customer base. You are hiring this person to bring you the customers that he knows. Be good enough for him to do that. Follow his instructions when it comes to how to win those customers’ business.
  4. Pay her on time. Nothing more just pay the rep when you are supposed to pay them rep and make sure that you include a comprehensive commission statement. If you don’t pay your reps they will not perform, get it? Don’t even think about not paying your reps if you want them to work for you. Not paying them on time breaks the contract and disqualifies you as a valid principal.
  5. Include the reps in your marketing, you have a comprehensive marketing plan right? You are marketing your company with advertising, social media, newsletters, trade shows etc. right? Well make sure that you include your rep in all of that marketing. Think of your rep as a franchisee of your company; the reason people invest in a Subway restaurant or a Midas Muffler shop is so they can take advantage of their huge marketing budgets; make sure you provide your reps with the same marketing and branding advantages. And oh yes don’t be afraid to provide them with the qualified leads that come out of your great marketing efforts.
  6. Welcome them to your facility. Bring them into your company, insist that they visit before you sign them and then make sure that you provide them with the opportunity to come out to your plant whenever possible. Have a sales meeting once a year and make sure that the reps are there to take part in your strategy meetings, that they have a say in the direction of the company including service, technology and Quality.
  7. And finally trust them. If you don’t trust a rep enough to share company information with him then you are wasting your time. The partnership will go nowhere. If you don’t feel that the rep is trustworthy they he is not the right rep. You have to be open and honest with your reps, you have to share as much information as possible to that they will be successful selling your company and hence your products.

And finally, yes there is one more, I always deliver more than I promised, Have regularly scheduled meetings with them where you discuss in detail their territory plans. This is critical. Please don’t tell me that you talk to them all the time, it’s not true; you are fooling yourself. Instead have a regular twice a month meeting with each of your reps to track the progress of their sales effort. Communication is the backbone of the rep/principal partnership and if you want to have a great relationship with your reps you have to talk to them…its only common sense

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A Few Thoughts On Selling High Tech PCBs

dan21Selling high technology is not always an easy thing for sales people. First, there is a credibility issue, when people see the word “sales” on your business card you can lose credibility. Listen, you could have been a director of engineering in your previous position before moving into sales; you could have been a full-blown technology guru but the minute you switch over to sales and people see that word “sales” on your card your credibility is immediately challenged. Tough and unfair as this may seem its true. The reason for this is simple. If you have the word sales on your card people assume you are trying to sell them something and will do anything to make that sale. They also assume that whatever advice you give them about technology is no longer fully valid because they harbor the suspicion that anything you tell them, any advice you give them will be skewed by wanted to make that sale. Engineers are much more trusted for telling the truth than sales engineers so no matter what your background be it technical or non it is always difficult to sell technology.

So, to help you out here are five guidelines for successfully selling high technology products to your customers.

  1. Make sure you have a complete understanding of what high technology means and exactly what your company can offer. You must have a good working knowledge of your company’s technology. You should know exactly what you company can do and yes how they do it. When you go out in the field you are going to have to explain your technology to your customers so you’d better know what you’re talking about.
  2. You also must know when to bring in the experts. You should be able to figure out when what the customer is asking for is beyond your basic knowledge and then bring in your company’s technology guru. This is serious, don’t let pride or ego get in your way to a successful sale. And whatever you do, don’t try to wing it and come up with technical scenarios on your own. If you don’t know something there is nothing wrong with going to your expert. That’s what she’s there for.
  3. Have a complete and thorough understanding of what your customer needs. He night be telling you that he needs high tech when he does not. She might be calling out a very expensive laminate that she doesn’t really need. If you know a better way to do something you have an obligation to tell your customer…even if it means selling them a lesser priced product. Your job in selling technology is to provide your customer with the very best and yes, most economical solution you can. Yours is a relationship type of partnership with your customer. It is not a one-time used car type buyer beware kind of deal. You want to stick around for a long time which means you have to build trust with your customers which means you have to provide them with the best technical solution possible.
  4. Make sure that you have a complete understanding of what your customer’s end product is. What are your boards going into. If you know that then you will know how your boards fit into this product and have a much more complete understanding of the environment your boards are going to see and also what kind of wear and tear they will be exposed to. Boards that are going into a Rocket for example need much more strenuous CTE management parameters than those going into a medical device. So, know what kind of products your boards are going to be used in.
  5. And finally learn what your customer’s future will look like. Where do they plan to be in a year? Or five years? What are their long-term goals and how can you help them to achieve those goals? This is a critical factor in a long-term relationship. You not only want to meet your customers’ needs today but also be ready to meet them in the future as well.

And one more always under-promise and over deliver.

6. Always take the high road. Always put the customer first and always do the right thing for you customers. You might lose out in the short term but you will always win in the long run and that’s only common sense.

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Tools For Managing Your Sales Team

dan-7

Nothing happens by accident anymore, especially when it comes to sales.

It used to be so much simpler; you’d buy a good directory, circle those companies that would make good prospects, call them, set up a meeting, go see them and if you did a pretty good job in that meeting you’d get a quote and if you were in the ball park with the quote, you’d get an order and off you go.

Those were the good old days of selling. When companies wanted circuit boards; appreciated they were tough to build and thus a good circuit board fabricator was hard to find and customers were always open to trying out a new one.

Do you remember those days? Do you remember when people actually picked up their phones? Do you remember when they would be willing to see you for a cup of coffee and a meeting and if you offered lunch or especially dinner people were more than happy to give you an hour of their time to listen to you pitch them about your company and their services? Those were the days my friend.

But alas they are gone forever in this new world of voice-mail, e-mail, Microsoft Outlook, Go To Meeting and all of the other tools that were designed to “make our lives easier” but for the most part have made it much more difficult for us to have a good old face to face talk.

All of these new improvements have made our job as a sales manager so much more difficult as well. It used to be that you were more of a task master and a coach. We were the guys who made sure that our guys were making the right amount of calls to get the right amount of meetings so that we gained the right amount of customers to give us the right amount of business.

And every so often we even got to go to one of those lunches or dinners if the deal was big enough and our sales person wanted us to sweep in with our gold pen and close that deal. Other than that our job was to keep our sales people motivated, make sure they were not spending too much time on the golf course and that they did not drink too much. But then again just the right amount of customer golf and the right amount of drinking and dining with the customer was just part of the job.

But now we have to do so much more than that. We as sales managers have to make sure that our guys are not only motivated but that they are intelligently equipped for business in the twenty first century as well. We have to make sure that they are up to date on LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and all of the other social media tools they are going to need if they are going to survive to sell another day.

We have to make sure our web site is cool, crisp, fascinating and engaging and that most of all it provides valuable information to those visitors that we send there with our vitally fascinating and informative blogs and tweets.

In short as sales managers we need to me much more of a “hands on” coach and leader than ever. We have to be completely focused on our sales people. We have to make sure that we keep them engaged at all times we have to be there for them.

Oh yes and of course we have to do this from afar, remotely. Back in the day many of us got to see our sales people every day. For many of us all we had to do is step out of our office and there they were sitting at their desks. But no more no we have national sales teams all over the country and for some of us all over the world. We manage sales people that if we’re lucky we’ll see only three or four times a year. So we have the added challenge of managing them on the phone, through e-mails, maybe SYPE and the once or twice a year ride along making our jobs that much more challenging.

This means that we have to work that much harder to stay in touch and to find ways to manage and measure and motivate that sales force. Here are a few tools that I use to make sure that you not only manage your remote sales people but effectively be in touch with them at all times.

  • Weekly Activity report: This is key to making sure that you know what your sales people are doing at all times. This report needs to include where they are year to date against forecast; where they are month to date on their forecast. Then a list and description of live sales calls, as all other customer contacts, these should also contain any challenges they are facing and then their plans for the next two weeks to come.
  • Weekly one on one phone meeting: This is your time to work exclusive with the sales person. Make sure this is at a set time and make sure you never miss this call. And never say “well I talk to them all the time”. I’m sure you do, but this is the only call where you are truly going over what the person is doing based on her report. It is also the only time you can get a true sense of how she is doing.
  • Weekly team phone calls: This gives the rest of the team a chance to see what is going on all over the country. You should also have key management people on this call as well. Make sure you have someone taking notes that will be published after the meeting. This is also the time to pass on company updates and information and a great time for Production Manager to talk about what he needs for business.
  • Daily score sheet: Your guys need to know how they are doing against forecast this month and this will tell them every single night. It is a very effective tool. You can’t win the game if you don’t keep score.
  • Regular ride alongs: Set these up long in advance ti give your sales guys plenty of time to set up great meetings while you’re with them. I would urge you to plan at least two of these a year with each sales person. You can plan it around a local trade show if that works for you. The important thing about these ride alongs is are not only to visit customers but to also be spending that all so valuable face time with your sales person. Don’t pass this up.

These are the basic tools that you are going to need to effectively manage that remote sales force. I’ll say it one more time. Do not wing this; do not feel that your random touch base phone calls are enough. Today more than ever you need to provide leadership and structure to your sales team in order to make them successful. It’s only common sense.

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The All Important Intensive Customer Survey

dan-6Whether you are in the business of board fabrication or board assembly, the fact is that you are not building your own products. You are building your customers’ products which means that you are in the business of helping your customers be successful. The better your services are, the better their products will be, and the better their products are, the more successful they are, and the more successful we are.

In order to build their products well we have to know everything we can about our customers. We have to understand their processes, their end products, the environment their products see, the market they are in, and what it takes for them to be successful in their market.

There are a number of ways to find out about your customers’ needs. The first, and most obvious of course, is through your sales people. It is their job to get in front of the customers and find out everything they can about them. A great sales person will be able to learn a great deal about her customers, and what they need from your company. The second way is through company to company meetings. When the customer comes to your company to do a survey, take a tour, or meet with their counterparts in your company, they want to learn everything they can about your company. We in turn. try to do the same in return, but not often enough.

But there’s another way, a better way, and that is the customer survey. Now, I’m not talking about those little five simple question surveys that we have to send out to meet our ISO requirements – not that there is anything wrong with those, they serve a purpose. But that is not the kind of survey I am talking about.

No, I am talking about a well-thought out, personally delivered, customer survey. A survey filled with pertinent questions, that properly asked and answered, will give you a complete picture of what your customer is like. What follows is an example of a good survey that I have used in the past. Check it out and use it on your customers.

One bit of key advice I will give you. Make sure this survey is done in real time on the phone. This is not something to send in and expect your customers to fill it in like a test…ain’t gonna happen. Actually, the very fact, that you are taking the time to make a date with your customer, to talk to him, so that you can figure out how to do a better job for them is part of the appeal of a survey like this one. Your customers will be impressed.

Here are some of the guidelines to follow to do it right:

  • Have your sales people chose the customers to survey
  • Have a non-sales person perform the survey. Make sure this person is friendly and easy to talk to. The more this person is able to get the customer to talk, the better it will be.
  • Make sure the person is polite and not invasive. This survey should be done on the customers’ time.
  • Choose only seven or eight customers and make sure they represent a cross-section of your customers

Here is the survey:

CUSTOMER SURVEY

Part One: In the first part of the survey we are attempting to find out how your company is doing in terms of servicing your customers.

1. How would you rate our company as a supplier?

2. Do you find our company an easy customer friendly board shop to do business with?

3. Do you feel that we adequately handle all of your needs? Technical?  Quick Turn? __ Quality? Price? Other?

4. Do you feel that you can rely on our sales force to act as your customer advocate?

5.  Are you happy with our products and services?

6. Do you like doing business with our company?

7. Do you plan to use us in the future?

8. What type of specific requirements do you use our company for?

9.  What is the single most important factor is in your decision to place your business with our company?

Part Two: Getting your customers’ perception of your company

We are trying to get a better understanding of how we are perceived in the marketplace.  With this in mind, I want to ask you these questions:

11. In terms of annual revenue, what size in dollars do you think our company is?

12. How do you categorize us when it comes to technology level?

13. Is it your perception that our company is a Prototype shop? Production shop? High Technology shop? Do you know that we do (what our company niche is)?

14. How long do you think we have been in business?

15. Is ISO important in your selection of a vendor?

16. Would you recommend us to other customers who use our products?

Part three of the survey has to do with how you can become a better supplier to the customer.

(Thank the customer for being so patient then tell him you only have a few of questions left)

We only have a few more questions. These basically have to do with making us a better supplier.

17. If there were one single thing you would like to see us improve upon, what would that be?

18. Is there a particular technology that our company is currently not doing that you would like to see us get into?

19. Please describe what you would consider a great supplier?

20. Do you like to order production quantities from the same company that built the prototypes and preproduction orders?

21. When ordering, is it important that your supplier be located relatively near your facility?

22.  Now it’s your turn, are there any questions or comments you would like to express?

Then complete the survey by saying:

Thank you again for your time and for the business you have given our company. Again my name is _____________, the next time you are visiting our facility please make sure to stop by and say hello.

SUMMARIZATION

They key is to summarize this information and use it as effectively as possible.  List all of the questions and their answers together. This should give you good insight into what your customers as whole think about your company.  From these answers you create your action plan. For example if you are in the prototype business and half of your customers do not know it, you can focus on getting that message out.  If all or most of your customers say they need an ISO vendor or  vendor that has a certain qualification like AS 9100, and you’re not, you’ve got a problem to fix.

The important thing is to use this information wisely. In one form or another, your customers should be surveyed at least once a year. Its only common sense.

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