SPEED TO MARKET KILLS
***GUEST AUTHOR MIKE FIL***
LESSON LEARNED FROM THIS TALE OF THE SALE: It was a lesson that I learned from a young age. I was given the gift of speed, and throughout my life, I always had an innate ability to be at least one step ahead and could outrun 99% of my competition. I won countless numbers of races, broke school records, and had success stealing bases and running deep for touchdown passes. My family and my coaches continued to drill it into me - “speed kills”. A lesson that I learned rings true in many facets of life, including sales.
We can all admit that we are living in an age of instant gratification, and when we are not immediately pleased – we become irritable. When we click a button, we expect that it immediately respond. If our YouTube video is buffering or the streaming of the Buffalo Bills game on DirecTV is not smooth – we become irate. No longer are the days of looking for a phone number in the phone book or waiting for the tone of the dial-up internet, and frankly, the thought of having to use a phone book or dial-up ever again makes me cringe just typing it.
Today’s customer market carries the same expectation that we all have with our products and services. We expect everything to work perfectly and expect to have knowledge at our fingertips. The reality, for those of us who are trying to grow our respective businesses by taking on valuable customers and maintain healthy profit margins, is that quoting business and meeting customer demands sometimes can take nurturing and a more methodical approach. However, the fact of the matter is – the faster it can be done, the more likely you are to close the piece of business and have a more successful customer due to their speed to market.
Tale of the Sale:
Ever since I had started with our company, we always wanted to be known as a customer-first manufacturing business. It was my job to respond to the leads and answer them quickly, regardless of how many were coming through the pipeline. We wanted to respond respectfully, accurately, but most of all quickly. Whether it was a good fit or not, we wanted the prospective customer to know that their inquiry was received and was handled immediately. From there, our expectation was to get fast responses from our other vendors and provide our customer a formal quote in less than 24 hours. Sometimes it’s possible, but sometimes it’s not.
2017 was a good year for business, but not a banner year. While we had a lot of organic growth from current customers and ended up with our highest sales year yet, we weren’t growing the top line enough to keep the business moving at the pace that we wanted it to. While I don’t have a sales background - my experience, knowledge in the industry, and innate ability to work with people was enough for the company to give me a chance at Business Development and Sales. The growth curve I was about to be on was intimidating. However, the one thing that I knew was that if I stuck with my gut and stayed the course, all would be okay.
Within the first few months, I focused on what I knew and responded quickly, and in a very short amount of time, the new business I was closing accounted for more than one-third of our annual sales by the halfway point of the year. One specific lead that sticks out in my mind is when we won a job bidding against one of our customer’s current supplier.
Our customer had been working with the same supplier for over two decades for custom products, and wanted to launch a new product. They decided to test the waters with other potential suppliers to see if someone could come back with a competitive bid. The lead came in and we immediately responded. Within the first 30 minutes, we responded to their initial request, setup a time for a conference call and had already signed the non-disclosure agreement. 36 hours later, the customer had a formal quote in their inbox and the following day – we had a purchase order to get started.
We closed a piece of business in an industry that we had not produced any parts for in the previous 16 years. We closed a piece of business by outcompeting a current supplier. We closed a piece of business with a very healthy profit margin and a steady need for product. We have closed a lot of pieces of business because of the speed and professionalism in which we respond.
It’s important to remember that quality and qualifying leads is also important, but if you are confident and capable – don’t wait. There is no time greater than the present, and in the age of instant gratification – speed kills.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Mike Fil is the Business Development Manager at Extreme Molding in the Albany, New York area. He is a dynamic guy with the a unique career path that took him from engineering and operations to sales and business development. The very few who can successfully make this transition usually do extremely well and Mike is living proof of that!