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Archive for November, 2011

How Good Are Your Best Practices?

Wednesday, November 30th, 2011

Now's as good a time as any to reflect on your business practices.

A recent article about traditional sales territories versus market segmentation has been garnering a good deal of discussion that has carried over into Twitter and LinkedIn as well. One commenter writes, “Your article has sparked discussion on whether or not segmentation would make sense in our world and, if so, if/how that could be accomplished to best suit all parties.”

On the surface, the article is about whether one sales model is better than another. And I can confidently say that no single model is best for every company. For some companies, market segmentation just doesn’t make sense, either due to territory size (more windshield time), small number of markets or other varying reasons.

Underneath this surface of the article is another question: do you follow business practices because they are the best practices for your company, or do you do things a certain way because that’s the way they’ve always been done? It’s great to see comments like the one above showing that GAWDA members are challenging themselves with this question.

Many GAWDA members have formal programs like Continuous Improvement, in which they identify and remove wasteful practices. Formal program or no program at all, it never hurts to take a look at your process and see if they are the most efficient, most productive and—most of all—if customers appreciate the effort, or even notice it at all.

What business practices have your reflected on and changed at your business? Share by leaving a comment.

Gases and Welding Distributors Association

Black Friday’s Not Just For Big Box Stores

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2011

Black Friday evokes images of swarming crowds, trampling each other for “doorbuster” deals, an experience typically reserved for the “big box” type stores moreso than, say, an independent gases and welding distributor. But there’s good news. Distributors that are more concerned about offering great service than slashing prices can take advantage of the Black Friday frenzy too.

I came across a great article on inc.com called “Your Last-Minute Black Friday Plan,” in which author Geoffrey James explains precisely how to deliver doorbuster style service on Black Friday. Distributors don’t expect—and may not even want—throngs of customers bursting through their doors at 4 a.m. this Friday. Instead, James says to host an invitation-only event, rife with top-notch service and amenities (free coffee, anyone?). Give customers the VIP treatment, and don’t focus on making a sale—instead, socialize and get to know your customers better.

The best part of James’ Black Friday plan is that it can be done in two days. So gather up your customer email list and let the preparations begin! If there’s one thing I know about GAWDA members, it’s that they pride themselves in their service. An invitation-only Black Friday event is the perfect way to showcase that service and see a little boost in sales while you’re at it.

What’s your experience running special events or promotions on Black Friday? Got an idea that works? Share it by leaving a comment.

How Nitrogen Saved A Snowboarder’s Life

Friday, November 18th, 2011

Winter starts early and ends late here in New York. Many people take advantage of long winters by snowboarding and skiing. Now nitrogen is making it possible for winter athletes to enjoy their outdoor activities more safely.

The latest innovation from The North Face uses nitrogen gas to potentially save lives. It’s a safety vest and backpack for skiers, snowboarders and other winter sports enthusiasts. The pack houses a canister of nitrogen that, when triggered, inflates two large airbags. In the case of an avalanche, the nitrogen-filled airbags will help bring the wearer to the surface. Professional snowboarder Xavier de Le Rue, who represented France in the 2010 Winter Olympics, says the airbag system saved his life a few years back when he was caught in an avalanche. The pack is still almost a year away for retail, but it’s a great use of gases (nitrogen in this case) to save lives. Check out the vest in action in the video below.

Of course, gases play an important role for mountain climbers. Earlier this year, Air Liquide’s Christopher Guest spoke about his journey to the top of Mt. Everest. He shared his story with Welding & Gases Today in “Outlasting Everest.” In the article, he explains how vital oxygen is to survival on Everest—and how he was almost without the life-saving gas on two occasions due to equipment and other climbers.

Mountains can be potentially dangerous for climbers, skiers and snowboarders. Thankfully there are gases to help keep them safe. Beyond safety, welding and gases played a significant role in the most recent winter olympics, from the olympic torch to making snow. Learn about the connection between the industry and the olympics in “Welding And Gases In The Games.”

Can you tell it snowed here yesterday? Click below to watch the video:

The Incredible Gas-Powered Pumpkins

Tuesday, November 15th, 2011

It’s that time of year again. Fall is in full blossom, and that means it’s time to witness pumpkins flying a mile through the air thanks to compressed nitrogen.

The annual World Championship Punkin Chunkin contest took place earlier this month in Delaware. While some of the competitors insist on using catapult-style trebuchets to launch their pumpkins, some of the more adventurous entrants compete in the air cannon contest, where pumpkin launches go more than 4,000 feet on the power of compressed air and gases. I heard about the contest last year from GAWDA President Bryan Keen, who says that nitrogen is one of the gases used.

The contest follows strict safety standards, with air vessels required to be inspected, hydrostatically tested, and built to ASME codes. In the video below, watch one of the teams weld their air cannon together. They use a custom butterfly valve to get the maximum distance.

Also, after you finish your pumpkin pie, tune into the Discovery Channel or the Science Channel on Thanksgiving at 8 p.m. to watch the Punkin Chunkin contest in action. I won’t spoil the results, but watch to see if anyone can top the current record distance of 4483.51 feet (That’s about .85 miles).

Welding Badge Offers Opportunities For Distributors, Too

Friday, November 11th, 2011

For years, the welding industry has struggled with the question of how to promote a positive image of the industry. It’s no secret that our perceptions of welding begin when we are young. The fact that I have an Iron Man comic book about welding on my desk is testament to the fact that the industry is actively working to engage young people.

In December, the Boy Scouts of America will be coming out with a new merit badge specifically for welding. Requirements to earn the badge will include setting up a welding process, welding safety, designing and completing a welding project, and awareness of career opportunities. This program could offer some great opportunities for gases and welding distributors to get involved with young people, whether it’s through offering expertise, facilities or equipment.

In the Fourth Quarter issue of Welding & Gases Today, we highlighted some of the ways distributors are currently engaging young people to promote the industry in “The Image Of Our Industry.” We compiled photos sent in by distributors depicting events and programs that promote welding and gases for the strong, opportunity-rich industry that it is. Take a look at what distributors are doing (there are lots of photos, so it’s light reading), then leave a comment to share how you’re promoting the industry. Feel free to share your photos as well—we’d love to share them with others.

The Science Of Sales Success

Tuesday, November 8th, 2011

The Science of Sales SuccessI came across an interesting sales statistic today that says people buy more from you when you act like them. In an experiment conducted by the Universite de Bretagne-Sud in France, when salespeople subtly mimicked customer behavior, 78.8 percent of those customers ended up making a purchase. In the same conditions without salesperson mimicry, buyers only made purchases 61.8 percent of the time. Along with increased likelihood of buying, mimicked customers were more complimentary of the salesperson and the business.

The study abstract states: “An experiment was carried out in a retail setting where four sales clerks were instructed to mimic, or not, some of the verbal expressions and nonverbal behavior of the customers. On their way out, these customers were asked to evaluate the sales clerks and the store. Results showed that mimicry was associated with a higher sales rate, greater compliance to the sales clerk’s suggestion during the selling process and more positive evaluations of both the sales clerks and the store.”

The article also refers to previous studies indicating that tactile contact—shaking hands or a pat on the back, for example—also have a similar effect. These “social psychology” techniques help create relationships, they say—and do so efficiently.

► Is sales a science that can be mastered? These findings seem to suggest so. What do you think?

Seventeen of GAWDA’s best salespeople gave their advice for sales success in “GAWDA Sales Hall Of Fame.”
► What’s the best sales tip you’ve received?

Dry Ice Recipe: Make Fog, Make The News

Friday, November 4th, 2011

In the Third Quarter issue of Welding & Gases Today, we wrote about how distributors are using YouTube videos and other social media to connect with customers. Admittedly, many companies don’t have the time, money or technology to produce their own videos. However, there are ways to populate your YouTube channel with videos without ever touching a camera.

Patrick Galphin, marketing & public relations at nexAir, had the great idea of getting local news stations to do the work for you. What do you need? An event, community project or seasonal tip usually does the trick. In May, nexAir appeared on a news station to talk about propane safety in anticipation of grilling season. As a result of the appearance, nexAir received phone calls from both grillers and industrial propane forklift users.

Well, nexAir’s done it again. For this Halloween, Galphin brought dry ice to the local morning news program, Good Morning Memphis, to show viewers how they could create special effects with CO2. As he explained in “Connecting With Customers,” it’s less about selling dry ice, and more about getting nexAir’s name out there and making the association with dry ice. “We want to be known as the gas experts,” he says.

Once a video has aired, many news stations now put their segments online. Galphin also recommends getting a copy of the video and posting it on YouTube. This allows a distributor to add contact information and links to the video.

Check out nexAir’s “Dry Ice Fog Tips for Halloween” in the video below:

How Much Are You Worth To Your Customers?

Tuesday, November 1st, 2011

Distributors can help customers with regulations, even something as simple as making sure they have fire extinguishers mounted and charged.

What if you could save a customer $59,400? Or, more precisely, shelter them from a fine of that amount. That’s how much OSHA recently fined Mollett Welding and Mine Service, a welding and machine shop in West Virginia, for exposing workers to safety and health hazards.

Among the violations were such things as failure to:

  • Provide clean, orderly places of employment;
  • Evaluate and identify respiratory hazards;
  • Conduct a personal protective equipment hazard assessment;
  • Ensure employees wore eye protection when exposed to metal shavings;
  • Post “no smoking” signs; and
  • Ensure fire extinguishers were mounted, readily accessible and fully charged.

These are only a few of the 25 violations that the company faced. I picked out these specific violations because they are things their gases and welding distributor salesperson—or even a delivery route driver, in some cases—might be able to identify and help the customer correct. You don’t need to conduct a full-scale audit to discover these violations—many can be observed visually.

This business is about relationships—and helping customers deal with regulations can certainly go a long way toward building those relationships (Think of it as a value-add!). When you can help customers lighten the burden of regulations, you can bet they will be more loyal.

And along with saving the customer some money, many of the solutions to these violations call for products that gases and welding distributors sell, like PPE and welding fume removal systems. With a glance around your customer’s workplace, you might actually make a sale in the process of saving your customer from OSHA.

Just think: if you can save your customer $59,000, how much more would they be willing to spend with you?