Thermal Spray Sales Growth

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The thermal spray coatings shop I was working in had sales that were pathetic. The workers were simply saying "Bring in more work !!" They were absolutely right. Firstly, the sales team needs to be well educated on the product they are selling. They cannot look at thermal spray as a service, because then the customer will kick you around like a soccer-ball. You cannot have sales people that walk into a customer's plant, meet with somebody, hand over a "line-card", exchange business cards and come back home. He needs to know the customer's application and go in as a thermal spray applications engineer that is going to solve a problem. Now, many times that may not be an engineering problem; the coating specification may already be in existance; it might simply be that his current supplier is too expensive, too slow, bad in quality, unreasonable in payment terms, have bad doumentation ( I had an instance where the problem was that my customer was simply tired of the constant calls he was receiving from his accounts payable department because his supplier's invoicing was convoluted and un-fathomable every single time !! ( ever heard of this problem existing in today's world? ). The thermal spray coatings salesman needs to be able to address any or all of the above with confidence first. If he doesn't bring in enough work, then fire him -- there is plenty of opportunites to get thermal spray business in today's market. So, the first step is that the salesman must be knowledgeable in thermal spray technology. I was at a thermal spray shop once, where they hired a man, put him in receiving, then in cleaning, then in masking, then in grit blasting, then in plasma spraying, then in de-burring, then in shipping, then in process-sheet writing and then they put him in sales -- wow ! what a great salesman he turned out to be ! Ever wonder why !
In my case, I couldn't find anybody like that in the pool of people we had, so I myself became the part-time salesman with the goal of bringing in full-time results. I gathered my workers and told them my decision and requested their help in my endeavour. They were thrilled because for the first time they knew an engineer was selling their stuff and they had confidence in me.I had no formal sales experience -- so I quickly learnt the ropes of that aspect. In the next part of this section, we will concentrate on that portion -- namely, what does a thermal spray salesman need besides knowledge of the business?

In this section, we will address the basic characteristics that a thermal spray salesman and for that matter any salesman must develop. First of all, you need to be positive and optimistic all the time -- a salesman that predicts loom and doom and is always pessimistic will bring in no work -- period. Next, sales is a numbers game -- you must be willing to make cold calls everyday -- the more new people you contact, the more are the chances of getting a sale. Next, take care of the customers you already have -- all existing customers must be contacted periodically with the critical ones being paid a personal visit also. Next, take all companies that have purchased from you in the past several years but have stopped buying from you and call them to find out why and what can be done to earn their business back. I have personally experienced this exercise and believe me it works. Many times, they may have switched suppliers for silly reasons. A salesman must have high levels of motivation. There are many wonderful sales motivation books, tapes, seminars and the like -- find out a good one and invest in it -- the returns could be severalfold. In my sales experience, I would wake up everyday at 4:00 am, and develop my sales administration till 7:00 am and then go to work with a full plan for that day. It paid off very well for me. This included writing follow-up letters, writing down contact info for new contacts and the like.
Next, get some standard 1" panel samples coated with various coatings -- that should be the only "free" samples that you hand out. I do not believe in coating customer parts for free as evaluation samples -- those end up in some engineer's desk collecting dust. All customer parts -- even those deemed as test parts -- must have an invoice value -- even if it is only nominal. In a future post, we will delve into developing coating designations for repeat business development.

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1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What is the market size of thermal spray equipment industry?