Sales are the lifeblood of any organization; and with hefty investments in people, machinery, facilities and technology, even modest size fabricators need a significant and steady influx of dollars to keep the lights burning. But it’s a competitive world out there; and bringing in new business doesn’t just happen. Let’s take a look at three key areas where you can increase your chances to generate more business.
Part 1. It Starts with the Right People (or Not)
According to Myers-Briggs the traits associated with those best suited for sales are: Extraversion, Sensing, Feeling, Judgment or what’s termed ESFJ. You know these people; they are outgoing, energetic, have a positive outlook and good at multi-tasking. They are likable and trustworthy. But here are a couple of things to consider before you hire the next ESJF that walks in the door.
Good sales people are hard to find. Moreover, they are expensive and take time to train before they begin producing. Consequently many shop owners choose to rely on relationships, referrals or on independent representatives rather than hiring a sales staff. Some advantages are that reps have feet on the street; and have established long-term relationships with a number of potential customers. They generally work strictly on commission and can match a prospect’s need to your metal processing strength. On the flip-side, these companies generally represent multiple clients with a wide array of services and products – probably even a competitor or two of yours. Because of this the higher-commission or easiest sale generally garners their attention.
If you choose to rely on independent reps, be sure to take a proactive approach. Keep them apprised of any new processing capabilities or incentives. Stay at the top of their mind. In other words, help them help you.
The fabrication industry is a relationship-based sales cycle. Potential customers want to work with someone they are comfortable with and can trust. Because of this, most estimators/sales in the fabrication world are industry veterans. They talk-the-talk, walk- the-walk and thoroughly understand the many processes and competitive advantages their shop may have. However, most of these people are Baby-Boomers preparing to leave the workforce and hard to find Generation X veterans; and let’s face it - millennials aren’t exactly knocking down the door to join the industry.
Attracting Young Talent
To combat this, you need to attract new, aggressive, young, sales and estimators. But first, one must understand the unique mindset of this new generation. Millennials are hard-working, but they want to have the proper tools. This generation has grown up with technology, understands it, and applies it every day. Unfortunately, while most fabricators have no trouble investing in cutting technology, they don’t give that same attention to a lot of other areas. They have outdated servers, desktops running operating systems from 10 years ago and they don’t have the latest software to design with. Because of this the best and the brightest shy away from our industry.
Attracting fresh talent starts with the tools you are willing to provide them. Focus on how difficult it is to ramp up a new estimator. If you are stuck in the world of spreadsheets it could take years before someone is capable of quoting/selling off your platform. This industry has amazing technology, but it is often hidden behind a single individual within your shop. The new generation wants to leverage all tools within the fabrication environment, just like the many apps on their phone. This means you must arm them and have them trained on 3D design tools and programming tools to quickly add to their knowledge of the industry.
Finally, when locating talent, focus on those who have an aggressive personality to grow. Some in our industry look at the younger aggressive individuals as “entitled,” or that they haven’t put in their time. The difference is just how independent and resourceful this generation is. Give them the tools, the training, and give them a goal to hit. They might surprise you by just how much they can accomplish in a short period of time.
Up Next: Part 2: Creating an Opportunity for... Opportunity.