Let the Salesmen In
Think about how you find out about new things for your business. Obviously, since you are reading this, trade magazines are one source for information. Perhaps you attend trade shows or belong to an association of similar companies involved in manufacturing.
However, there may be an asset that you are overlooking; one that might be sitting in your lobby on any given day. Yes, that would be the manufacturing salesperson.
I think in many cases the career of the modern technological salesman is under appreciated. True—the stereotype of shiny shoes and a toothy grin coming after your wallet may in some cases be justified, but in most cases involving business to business interactions, it isn’t a valid depiction. These people understand that just selling you is not the game anymore.
The role of salesmen, which is really not even a correct term any more, has morphed into a consulting asset for many businesses that understand how to take advantage of what these people can bring to the party. Think about it—their job is to visit businesses like yours, and in doing so—they see how things are done by others.
Manufacturing has become a more complex, precise and intensive enterprise that taps into many and varied skill sets. Few, if any, can carry all that information individually.
That’s why successful shops rally different resources, which, in many cases, they may not be aware of. I had a boss many years ago who called trade magazines, like Production Machining and collateral material produced by OEMs, silent salesmen.
Back in the day, one would see something in a magazine and send for more information, which usually came in the form of a catalog. That would often be followed by a call from the salesman to make sure the material was received, and if there was anything additional he or she could help with.
Today, with the Internet and company websites, that investigation phase can be accomplished anonymously on the computer. In most cases, the company doesn’t know that an inquiry was made unless the inquirer identifies themselves.
However, in my travels to many shops, I have seen many occasions where management maintains a close relationship with its vendors. It’s symbiotic in that the salesperson is able to bring fresh ideas, methods, products and processes to the shop that it might not be aware of. It’s in the salesperson’s interest to make sure the thing works as promised.
In many cases, it may be something as simple as a newly developed grade of carbide or a slightly different insert geometry that can be the difference between making or losing money on a job. These people spend their days visiting other shops and seeing what works and what doesn’t, and they want your business to succeed because they succeed with it. They can be a very useful additional set of eyes and ears that can extend your business well beyond its four walls.
Most of the successful salespeople realize that one sale doesn’t make a career. These relationships are built over time and are the result of delivering on promises made. These promises, by their nature, must move the business forward. It’s often said nobody knows your business as well as you do, but it’s equally true that nobody can know a new thing coming down the pike that may be useful to a business.
That’s why information in the form of magazines, websites, trade associations, tradeshows and salespeople are all part and parcel of the information gathering tools that are available to help keep your business moving forward in productivity, efficiency and profitability. If your lobby has a no soliciting sign, you may want to reconsider and let the salesmen in.
After all, the good ones really are working in your best interest.