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Dale Carnegie For The Digital Age

Monday, January 16th, 2012

Do traditional selling methods hold up in today’s technological world? I happened to catch yesterday’s episode of Sunday Morning, which revisited the teachings of one of the icons of selling, Dale Carnegie. Carnegie is famous for his “good guy” approach to sales—influencing people through kindness. One of the interesting questions raised by Sunday Morning is how Carnegie’s teachings translate to a technological age, where selling can be done through email.

How do you take one of Carnegie’s principles such as “Smile.” and use it in an email? Peter Handal, CEO of Dale Carnegie & Associates, answers, “You can choose words that communicate. It takes longer.” You might write in your email, for example, “I’m having a great day, I hope you are, too.”

Last week, I received a business email that said “Tx” instead of “Thanks” or “Thank you.” It’s such a simple thing—and on the surface, the meaning is the same—but I winced at the sight of “Tx.” I immediately felt as though I was an interruption. It can be hard—we are all busy. But Handal is right. It takes more time to write out a personal message, but it pays off. Consider it an investment.

When all is said and done, Carnegie’s message comes down to relationships. If you build a personal relationship and become genuinely interested in your customers, be it through email, over the phone or face to face, they will want to buy from you.

So do Carnegie’s principles hold up with today’s methods of communication? If anything, I’d say Carnegie’s ideas are more relevant today than they were in the 1930s. With email, texting and everything else, it’s easy to forget about developing personal relationships. (Interestingly, Carnegie’s book was recently re-released as How To Win Friends And Influence People In The Digital Age to address new technology—and was met with scathing reviews, so you may want to stick with the original.)

Sunday Morning also asks, why do so many people (8 million so far) pay so much (almost $2,000) for Carnegie’s popular course, only to learn such a simple lesson as the Golden Rule? Handal says, “It’s common sense. The difference is it’s not common practice.”

My question for you is this: In your experience, how can you create a personal connection online?

You can watch the Sunday Morning broadcast below or read the transcript here.

Automating The Sales Process

Wednesday, December 7th, 2011

Vending machines: showroom in a box

Automation is an increasingly important part of the gases and welding industry. While much of the focus is on robotic welding and automating manufacturing processes—and all of that is great, because it means customers are buying equipment—automation is also growing in importance within on the distributor level. More and more distributors are turning to automated filling processes—enabling them to not only fill faster, but take on new gas lines (specialty gas, for example) and create more accurate mixes without introducing human error.

But what about automating the sales process? Recently I’ve been hearing about distributors using vending machines to sell common supplies. Larger customers can have a distributor’s vending machine on-site, allowing them to purchase supplies like welding wire or cutting tips on an as-needed basis.

One distributor I spoke with says, “Vending gives customers better control over dispensation of products, be it a pair of gloves, safety glasses, contact tips, a roll of wire or what have you. It gives the end-user a better idea of cost going into a project, and it can give them an avenue to bill specific products to a project they are working on.”

Vending offers convenience to customers without the need to keep large inventories in stock. As a “Tech Talk” article from General Air (Denver, CO) asks, “How often have orders been placed for product that was already in the tool crib? Or have you ever started a job thinking you had all the parts in place only to find out at the last minute that some of those parts were used in other jobs?”

But with automation, there’s always the question of human jobs. Will vending machines uproot the traditional distributor salesperson? Or at the least, will it change the nature of the sales relationship? What do you think?

Sales Advice From Another Industry

Thursday, October 7th, 2010

Sales Target, photo courtesy of CasitoLast week, I wrote about my tour of Syracuse-based distributor Haun Welding Supply. This week, I tagged along with some of my colleagues for a tour of Liftech Equipment Companies, a distributor of material handling and construction equipment.  President Joe Verzino took the time to show us around, and was glad to answer all of our questions. Although not in gases and welding industry, the company has some very innovative strategies that I think translate across markets.

Verzino explained to us that Liftech’s outside salespeople have a limited number of calls they can make. For his salespeople, it’s around 6 per day, between the time it takes to travel and really take care of each customer. At 6 a day, that’s 1340 sales calls per year. With limited appointments, salespeople can’t waste a lot of time on cold calls; they must maximize every opportunity.

Instead of leaving it up to the salespeople to find all of their own customers, Liftech created a new position—now filled by a former sales manager—who creates a list called the “Top 200.” The list starts off with their “1:2” accounts, consisting of current customers. These accounts have about a 50% chance of leading to a sale. Next are the “1:4” accounts, which include dormant accounts and former customers, and figure to have about a 25% chance of a sale. As customers drop off the Top 200 list, it is populated with leads from the internet, advertising, attending trade shows, manufacturer recommendations and so on. Salespeople get the greatest return by focusing on this list.

By keeping to 1:2s and 1:4s, Liftech avoids the “1:14s,” the name it gives to completely new accounts who have never done business (cold calls). In addition to getting the most out of the call, Verzino says the practice has helped them expedite the time it takes to get their outside salespeople successfully selling.

What do you think? Could something like this work for your company? How does your company maximize the outcome of sales calls?

The Psychology Of Gases And Welding

Wednesday, August 18th, 2010

The psychology of a gases and welding salespersonRecently, I was speaking with Guy Marlin, president of Lampton Welding Supply, and I want to share a piece of our conversation. In talking about the company’s salespeople, I learned that the company refers to its outside salespeople as “field engineers,” and with good reason, too.

As Marlin explained to me, if you walk in to a customer and say, “Hi, I’m a salesperson for XYZ welding supply,” the first thing the customer will think is that you are coming to get money. If, instead, you say “I’m a field engineer,” the customer will probably give you a funny look and ask you what a field engineer is.

Lampton’s field engineers find out what their customer’s problems are and find ways to help customers. Instead of the customer tuning out, expecting to hear a sales pitch, they will begin to share their problems. As field engineers listen to the customer’s problems and help find solutions, they develop a relationship with the customer.

It’s a simple change, but a smart one. By changing the title of a salesperson, Lampton Welding Supply alters the customer’s expectations. It can even change the mentality of the salesperson/field engineer. A field engineer brings a problem solving mindset. Calling yourself an engineer also carries a certain responsibility to be an expert in industry products and processes. Ideally, it will push them to look after their own continued training and education.

What do you think of the name change? Would you ever try something like this at your company?

Choose Your Side: Welder or Seller?

Friday, July 23rd, 2010

Welder or Seller?Over the last few days, I’ve been talking to distributors about training their salespeople. Everyone has a lot of great strategies for getting the most out of their young salespeople. One of the things I’ve been discussing is the skills that make a good salesperson. The distributors agree: personality is the ultimate key. But it’s where they don’t agree that I’m most interested in.

I’ve heard some different perspectives, and I want to know what you all think. Here’s the question: Let’s say you are in charge of hiring a new salesperson for your company. Would you prefer someone with 5 years of sales experience or someone with 5 years of technical (welding, cutting, joining, etc.) experience? Let’s assume both candidates have great personalities. There are two basic schools of thought on this.

One side says, “I’ll take the sales experience. You can always teach the technical know-how through manufacturer product training. It’s more important to know sales skills that only come from experience, such as time-management, customer service and self-motivation.”

The other side says, “Give me the welder. You can teach selling, but there’s a risk they won’t like the industry. On top of that, customers respond to a knowledgeable salesperson, so someone with technical experience has a head start.”

What do you think? I want to hear your argument for picking one side over the other.