By Steve Sonner, Hyspeco Inc.
When I first considered writing an article about a typical day in the in the life of a fluid power salesman, my first thought was, “It’s pretty boring!” But as I have dwelled on the idea, it is anything but boring. As I have dedicated over 40 years of my life to this field, I have had the absolute time of my life assisting my customers achieve the results they require in their manufacturing and service needs.
I am a list-maker. (There, I’ve said it!) I am at my desk every morning at 6 a.m., and immediately make a new list of the five to 10 things I want to accomplish that day. 6 a.m. works best for me, as I am probably able to get more productive work done in those two hours before the others arrive than the rest of the day. I plan out my day from my weekly itinerary, and I try to have two to four pre-set sales calls set up with firm appointments. This gets me started. I also use this early time as a quiet time for myself, reading a devotional and doing some introspection.
During that early alone-time, I send out Thank You notes to the people I saw the day before. (I have just recently migrated to e-mails instead of hand-written notes, because of the sensitivity of time!) I also send out information that was produced out of the calls I had made the day before. If a customer has a need for a quotation, I send that to our quote cell, so they can prepare a formal quotation. I work closely with my inside support team, and try to keep them well informed on the quotes and orders we are working on together.
I have a strict timeline for being out of the office, 9 a.m. sharp. Of course, it does not always work out that way, but I understand the importance of being in-front of the customer during those “Golden hours” of selling. I tend to be a bit old school, but I prefer to hand-deliver quotes back to the customer, so I can be assured he or she has personally received the proposal and I can make sure we are on the same page. Sometimes I will actually walk out with a PO#; I know I am probably the first salesperson to get back to them, and sometimes just following up with a customer will get you the order.
I started by saying my job was never boring, and that is so true. We have such a broad range of offerings from factory automation, maintenance and reliability products, as well as parts distribution. This week, I was involved in trouble-shooting a German-built Hydrostatic pump at an amusement park, assisting a customer with a specimen gathering assembly process, and making a special delivery trip out to one of our technicians, so he could finish a job I had sold earlier. A big part on our business is fluid connectors, so I am working with a local crane builder. I am trying to gain their hose and fittings business, so I am identifying metric threads, so we can cross over their European parts to our Parker brand.
As our customers systems and processes are getting more sophisticated, we have to keep up with the changing trends. The internet of things is providing us with huge opportunities. Our Parker SensoNode condition-monitoring devices are really finding a niche. Machine maintenance is being replaced by reliability (Predictive and Proactive) maintenance processes, and sometimes we have to help a customer understand that he has a real need for this approach. At this point, we are teachers instead of just salespeople.
Another part of my day is meeting with our factory representatives, as their expertise is required with some of our customers. If I have been successful in the past, it has been putting together the various people and teams (internal and external) to serve the customer. Our customers can probably buy everything we sell on the internet, but they cannot get ME! I therefore provide value to the parts I sell to the customer that he cannot get from buying from the catalog houses. The need for a local distributor is becoming greater, and the expertise we provide is becoming more in demand.
As I had said, I try to have a couple of firm professional sales calls set up and this allows for a couple of cold calls to be made in the area I am travelling. Being that I am local here in Kansas City, this gives me the opportunity to drop in on prospects—but in a big city, appointments are sometimes mandatory. I see more and more “Sales by Appointment Only” signs being posted, so just getting access to customer and past the gatekeeper presents a challenge. This is why I like to make occasional deliveries, as this gets me in the back door. I can see what’s really going on in a plant and can get better intel than from just looking them up on Google.
I live on the east side of our town, so I try to work my way back home, to avoid sitting in traffic. It is difficult to see most people after 3:30 p.m., but I still try to make one or two additional calls. If you kiss enough frogs, and one of them might become something. When I get home, I check my e-mails and texts messages, and respond as needed. I try to close my laptop at 6 p.m. No two days are alike, and this is what I love about my job—I get paid to help people!