Featured Guest Blogger: Babette Burdick Ten Haken
Sales Aerobics for Engineers
Internet Business Development Strategies for Manufacturers, Distributors and Service Companies
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No matter where you sit around the table, you can provide value to your employer and your clients by staying current with their (not your) area of expertise.
Understanding current industry-specific issues, including financial, sourcing, materials and materials management and legal factors, can provide you with a well-rounded perspective from which to make design and engineering recommendations. Staying current with your clients’ world view is your entire organization’s responsibility, not just the guys/gals at the top.
Because the buck stops everywhere these days.
Triggering events can provide the fulcrum for differentiating your company to current and prospective customers. Triggering events are events that tip the scales and force change within an industry. Like changes in the construction code or ratings for doors used in specific buildings. Like the use of nanotechnology in building materials. Like green initiatives in various states.
Waiting around for “someone else” in your organization to disperse this information to you is not an option. You are the “someone” who must prioritize information gathering to round out your project perspective. And where you get this information is just as important as the information itself.
Because customers who perceive vendors as commodities will always base their decisions on price. Let’s face it, in the absence of any other defining factor, what else is there?
So your ability to use triggering events to enhance the insights you provide for your customers becomes an all-or-nothing exercise in impacting their perception of the value you bring to their table.
And I’m not talking about bombarding your clients with constant tidbits from news feeds or industry magazines. I’m talking about your taking the time to review information from a variety of resources and PERCOLATE that information so it impacts how you synthesize your role to your customers.
You may change your perspective in terms of how you express yourself to your customers, your co-workers and your employer. Which in turn impacts how you view your role as a client resource and solutions provider.
Not all customers call you because they have a problem that needs to be solved. They simply may want to run an idea by you that may have nothing to do with your area of design expertise. They may want you to act as a sounding board on a business decision they need to make. In other words, they consider you a trusted resource. So how do you get there from where you currently are?
Do you have the type of information in your professional toolkit to serve your customers in this manner? And I am addressing everyone up and down the corporate food chain. It’s that important.
At this point you may be asking: “OK, so I am now going to enhance my business acumen and perspective with all this great information. Just where do you suggest I find it?” Good question. And I think you probably know some really good answers.
Here are some non-traditional clue cards. And I welcome your suggestions for additional sources of information.
- LinkedIn discussion groups are a tremendous way of keeping your ear to the rail. Engineering discussion groups are the pulse of industry. There are so many technical, regulatory, financial and philosophical discussions going on within these groups that – at the very least – reading the discussion threads is an education in itself. So if you are not already a member of various LinkedIn groups, join them. If you are already a member, check out the sub groups and new engineering groups that are constantly forming.
- And while you are participating in LinkedIn discussion threads, remember that your name and your company name are included in your signature with each thread post. Participating in LinkedIn discussions is a tremendous way of demonstrating expertise without “advertising” your company. Folks want to build their networks, especially with savvy people like you who provide great input to discussion threads. Don’t you think they will notice which company you work for, as well? And it works both ways. No matter where you sit around the table, you can provide your business development folks with the names of companies you feel may be prospective clients. I think they may find your input valuable.
- Signing up for RSS newsfeeds on various topics allows you to receive industry-specific or topic-specific articles on your desktop. Discuss your findings at work or post your own discussion on LinkedIn. You may be surprised at who responds and what you learn from the interchange.
- The Bureau of Labor Statistics is an additional resource that allows you to provide context to the financial environment of each state. This information is particularly relevant if you work for a company with out of state projects. This information also allows you to understand the issues that may be impacting subcontractors you may use for these out of state projects.
And don’t tell me you have no time to engage in these activities. The nature of what we call “work” and the context of where we gather and exchange information are in flux. The entire business development paradigm is changing.
Do you want to be on the outside looking in or an active participant in growing your value to your customers and your company?
Think about it.