Application Sales Profiles

Cut ambiguity out of Plasma applications.

Effective marketing and sales initiatives come first from understanding the needs of customers and then acting on that knowledge by creating a targeted strategy to communicate your solution with impact. Understanding a customer’s purchasing process can do as much to help increase sales as knowing what a customer buys. Having and using this knowledge is key, especially in identifying sales opportunities for such products as plasma cutting equipment.

Far too often, industrial products are promoted across a broad range of industries with a “one-size-fits-all” features-and-benefits approach to selling. Sales results from this generic view of the potential market are further depressed by the commonly promoted “market saturation theory,” in which a salesperson assumes to know all the potential accounts in the area and that every customer who needs a plasma cutter has one.

The need for portable plasma cutting equipment varies greatly from the light use of a hobbyist and facility maintenance personnel to heavy users in manufacturing and fabricating environments. It is essential for successful sales to understand the needs and applications of the various types of users. Knowing what plasma systems are best suited for specific applications enable salespeople to better direct customers to make the right purchase decisions. Building this knowledge is the basis for this article and the premise behind creating such support documents as Application Sales Profiles for specific usage of plasma cutting equipment.

Application Sales Profiles
Application Sales Profiles are documents designed for salespeople to understand and identify plasma applications and target how particular types of plasma systems may be used in specific industries. Plasma cutting equipment has thousands of applications and thousands more specific benefit arguments to match. These applications range from the obvious and familiar to the surprising and new.

By focusing in on specific product applications and conducting the necessary segmentation analysis (to identify specific customer characteristics and needs), profiles can provide a precise roadmap to find and close new sales opportunities while significantly improving efficiency of the sales process. Not only do the profiles provide basic customer demographic information, they also correlate solutions with user needs. They are excellent tools for training sales personnel, creating target markets and sales initiatives to increase business in a particular industry or begin to establish a presence in one.

How to Create an Effective
Application Sales Profile

  1. Select an industry/market where the plasma equipment is being used or has the potential for use.
  2. Develop industry/market demographics such as related trade shows, publications, organizations, Web sites and other sources for obtaining leads.
  3. Interview a range of users in the targeted industry/market to gain knowledge of their metal cutting needs.
    a) What are the primary costs in the
    production or repair process?
    b) What is the critical process or quality
    parameters?
    c) What are the limits or problems with
    existing tools used?
    d) What new capabilities could plasma
    cutting bring to the operation?
    e) What are the customer’s sources of
    product/process information?
  4. Compile the data and begin creating an Application Sales Profile document.
    a) Write an overview section on the
    industry/market. List the users’ cutting
    needs and issues that were identified           during the interviewing process.
    b) Specify the plasma systems that are
    best designed to meet the need and list
    application specific selling tips (system
    features and user benefits).
    c) Include industry information that will
    help sales personnel to identify where
    they may begin obtaining and pursuing
    leads.

The Structure of an Application Sales Profile
The content of a typical profile is simple but the research to create an effective one should be comprehensive. The due diligence to develop a thorough profile will deliver the intended result. Remember the old adage, “garbage in, garbage out.” If the information in the profile is not accurate and current, a less effective campaign will be the result.

In conducting the research to create a profile, the fundamentals of the customer’s business and how the potential plasma cutting systems fit need to be identified:

  • What are the primary costs in the production or repair process?
  • What is the critical process or quality parameters?
  • What are the limits or problems with existing tools used?
  • What new capabilities could plasma cutting bring to the operation?
  • What are the customer’s sources of product/process information?

Utilizing the information gathered and analyzed for a chosen target market segment, a highly effective profile can be created for understanding, locating and selling to targeted customers, not based on general product capabilities, but rather on how specific plasma equipment can solve their metal cutting problems. Also from a profile, specific marketing/sales initiatives that target high-potential industries or applications can be conducted utilizing advertising, direct mail, conventions/ shows, and many other specialized avenues.

Combination for Success
The user and industry demographic information compiled for an Application Sales Profile should not be used exclusively to determine a solution for users’ needs, but viewed as a tool for understanding end user needs. No amount of knowledge of a particular application should replace listening to customer needs when an opportunity presents itself. As stated, not all users’ needs are the same, even though two customers may be in the same industry and using plasma equipment in similar fashions. For example, one customer may be concerned with such things as consumable life and cost whereas the other may view cut quality as a critical component of the process. This type of information will not be found in a profile, nor could it be.

The key is to combine the knowledge obtained from Application Sales Profiles with the information from customers to offer a complete solution for their particular needs and applications. The powerful combination of listening and learning is essential to understanding customer requirements and why they buy products. With the knowledge in hand, you are on the right path to increase market awareness for portable plasma cutting solutions, higher sales and customer satisfaction.

Gases and Welding Distributors Association
91a_mellottharry Meet the Author
Harry Mellott is a marketing specialist, manual systems, at Hypertherm, Inc. located in Hanover, New Hampshire, and on the Web at www.hypertherm.com.