Making Long-Term Sales

Does insider knowledge help?

In today’s price-driven marketplace, it’s difficult to create long-term solutions for customers. Why? Here are a few reasons:

  1. First of all, welders are a specialized breed of customer. They’re typically rugged, blue collar individuals who are very loyal and strongly committed to established relationships. If they’ve been using one brand of product for 10 years and it’s working, they are not eager to switch.
  2. Depending on where they are in the chain of command, an end-user can be reluctant to purchase a product that may help him work 50 percent faster. That’s half a position no longer needed.
  3. End-users consume a large quantity of welding rods and gases. That’s easy money for a price-driven salesperson who has a large number of small items to sell and who would rather focus on the tried and true expenditures.
  4. The average salesperson goes into the account, asks the end-user what they are using, writes down the information from a catalog, and then sends it to the supplier with a request for a quote. The sales call becomes a product conversion, nothing more.
  5. With so many products to sell, it’s difficult to have focused knowledge about all of them.

    I often accompany distributors on visits to their end-users, and I’m sometimes amazed at what I see. Often end-users are using carbide burs when they should be using cones and plugs; or they’re using a grinding disk when they could be using a drum sander. I see a lot of end-users working with abrasives with little thought to improving the process. Sometimes the salesperson is challenged when attempting to help the end-user, his customer, be more efficient and productive. Facing a customer who is connected to the product he has purchased time and again, the salesperson hesitates to persuade that customer to look at other options.

    Turning Product Conversion into Long-Term Solutions
    Should a salesperson know how to weld or have experience grinding? Would these skills help a salesperson increase his margins?  I think so. Especially if the salesperson wants to be the partner that a customer looks to for help and returns to again and again with their minds (and wallets) open.

    I started off as a tool maker. I ran tool room shops. I did some machine tool building, making spindles and machines, and then went into engineering abrasives. Those experiences helped me understand how end-users think and what they need because I was an end-user. I used the language many end-users communicate with. Now when visiting an end-user, I often ask myself what I would do if I were the one doing this particular job.

    The manufacturer needs to put the tools into the hands of the distributor salespeople and teach them how to use those products.

    If the manufacturer doesn’t provide the required product training, a salesperson is challenged when trying to market that product. It’s uncomfortable not knowing or understanding how a product works. So why bring it up? The manufacturer has a responsibility to enable the salesperson to move beyond the easy sale and provide a better solution to the customer. The salesperson becomes a long-term solutions expert, and a better partner to his customer.

    The manufacturer needs to put the tools into the hands of distributor salespeople and teach them how to use those products. As a result, this knowledge and experience will provide a competitive advantage. By engaging at the end-user’s site and observing how those products are used, the distributor can provide information over and beyond price. Many suppliers have created spreadsheets and programs that do a cost analysis on the use of various products. Together with the salesperson’s help, the supplier can address cost vs. price issues. Sometimes the lowest-cost product is more expensive in the long run.

    Suppliers must help distributors learn about products—their applications, their advantages, their details. We have to help salespeople engage with their customers to try different approaches. Only then does it become a win for everyone…end-user, distributor and supplier.


    Gases and Welding Distributors Association
    Rodney Finch Meet the Author
    Rodney Finch is an applications engineer at CGW-Camel Grinding Wheels located in Niles, Illinois, and at www.cgwcamel.com.