What Have We Done for You Lately

What Have We Done for You Lately

The procurement manager and the engineering supervisor were receptive but skeptical. They politely agreed to meet to talk about the fluid power products IBT offers but, they had indicated, they really weren’t looking to change suppliers.

The company to whom they were currently loyal had been working with them for years. The supplier’s range of products fit the factory’s requirements to a tee. They made delivery deadlines dependably, their pricing was fair.

The people representing IBT weren’t concerned with the prospect’s apparent lack of urgency or mobility. They had a strategy to employ on the sales call, one that had been successful in many similar cases. They intended to follow their strategy and see where it would take them.

They felt that while the strategy would not necessarily guarantee a sale, it would definitely do one of two things. One: uncover ways to improve the client’s operation. Two: confirm that the client was already implementing “Best Business” practices.

What was the strategy? A simple one: think; ask; listen; clarify; look for ways that complacency was interfering with the buyer’s best interests; create comfort; identify opportunities. Don’t overpromise, but don’t be shy, either.

The key components being used at the plant were hydraulic valves. As the original equipment installed when the factory was constructed had been imported, there was an occasional challenge involved with filling replacement orders.

“No problem,” the IBT people reported. “Let us get a complete list of all the valves you have been using – specifications, manufacturer’s number, etc. and we’ll determine whether the ones our suppliers can provide are comparable in performance and pricing.”

To a certain extent, this was a bit of an enlightening experience for the buyers. In the past, they had not paid much attention to the valve information until they needed a replacement. As a result, sometimes the spares were available on short order, sometimes they were not. The idea of looking forward to anticipate the need required a bit of a reorientation on their part.

Score one for IBT.

The discussion about valves led to other, more involved explorations of the related components.

Although valves are usually the expensive and complicated parts of fluid power systems, they are durable. They do not break down that often.

Fittings and tubing, on the other hand, require much more intervention from the maintenance departments.

And, to be fair, there was a problem situation at the customer’s factory, especially in tubing.

There was tubing galore being used on the factory floor. Some of it had nominal IDs of 4 mm. Other applications required 6, 8, 10 or 12 mm. It takes a good eye – a very, very good eye – to look at a piece of tubing and determine whether it is 8 mm, or whether it is 6 or 10 mm. Since all the tubing being used was the same black color, maintenance people were operating inefficiently.

They were either carrying extra tubing with them, or worse, making multiple trips to pick up supplies. To say the situation was frustrating grossly understates the case.

“How about color coding you tubing and fittings?”. It is not a big problem or expense to do. And, by the way, we can change the tubing material to make it more flexible and easier to install.”

Point two for IBT.

“The fittings we recommend,” IBT added, “can be installed easily with an Allen wrench. This will be especially helpful in the limited access situations that you frequently face.”

Another mark for IBT. Then, the coup de grace:

“What we are suggesting,” they admitted, “is neither radical nor brilliant. It is just logical. The difference between us and the majority of run-of-the-mill suppliers is our attitude. We ask lots of questions so that we can understand your situation. Not just your applications – as expressed in part numbers and specifications – but the reality in which you work.

“The point is that we take the time to figure out how to help you, not just how to sell you something. By working with you, to help recognize, explore and understand your circumstances, we can be of great assistance to you in doing what you do: running the plant with high productivity and efficiency.”

As you might imagine, the originally polite and skeptical audience became much more interested in the specifics of making a deal.

Behind the strategy – successfully applied in this case – is a philosophy of doing business. It is best summarized by the phrase: solve a buyer’s problems and you’ve made a new friend.

In the case history we explored above, the current supplier looks like they may have become complacent and lost sight of their true job: helping the customer – not just filling orders.

If a seller believes that the first response to a customer’s request is the question “why,” and if the dialogue explores additional lines of discussion until the “problem as given” evolves into the “problem as understood,” then the seller is trying to help the buyer.

And, in the case of a fully-committed and highly evolved seller, the question “why” is always in season.

At IBT Fluid Power, they not only understand the strategy, they live the philosophy. And, why not?

To find out more about how IBT Fluid Power can help, give us a chance to ask you “why?”


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