Chris Hickson, Sheeting Sales Manager at MacLellan Rubber, shares his thoughts on hitting the 20 Years mark.
Recently passing the 20 years in sales milestone has left me in a reflective frame of mind. Throughout this time I have benefited from working with some people who I believe to be amongst the best in the business, and also some of the worst out there, both of which have been fundamental in my own career development and a number of which have moved on from the rubber industry and have now found their way back, due to the seemingly magnetic pull of the trade.
Looking back over the past two decades has really made me realise how things have changed so significantly. Gone are the days of the "cheesy salesman" travelling forty thousand miles a year, turning up without an appointment as "they were in the area so thought they would pop in", asking for orders over a cuppa and a chat. Due to the changes in internal office structure, departmental downsizing and other efficiencies, many buyers now just don't have time for face to face scheduled meetings, so these salesman dinosaurs are now almost extinct. One word for anyone still out there pounding the pavement...Skype!
Gone too are the cheeky techniques once common place, such as "sorry, I've just been cut off, can you pop me through to Mr something" and "hello I'm ringing on behalf of (insert well-known brand name) as they have a similar product or service to offer". Getting past the gate-keeper with such out-dated tactics is even more unrealistic with the introduction of automated phone systems, caller identification and voicemail. Word to the wise, car leasing, utility providers and mobile phone third party call centres...we've heard it all before!
Starting in sales back in the 90's, well before the days of Google and LinkedIn, our go-to lead generator was a stack of Yellow Pages and business directories available in our state of the art office which was complete with a typing pool and a room where the fax machine and printer was situated on their own dedicated tables. Now all of this is available to me at the push of a button without the need to even move from my desk. A list of target accounts can be generated and promotional email delivered to them within a few moments. The question, however, is how effective is this in today's market place? As sales people have changed so to have buyers, rejecting the hard sell in favour of dealing with the sales professional that makes it easy for them to do their job.
It's been long said that people buy from people, and I believe that this has never been truer. There's always a need for people who have the ability to build a strong customer/supplier relationship, but this is only the start of the journey in making a sale. The organisation must provide the product at market price and also have the ability to deliver it to where and when required. Fortunately, MacLellan Rubber have these three sides of the pyramid in place and our sales team continue to build strong customer relationships. But how do we further develop our market share without new range of materials into both existing and target accounts?
Our answer to the market is to move with the times by implementing a coordinated product marketing strategy. At MacLellan Rubber we are synchronising our press releases, product development and launches through to the correct person at the best time. This initiative, combined with delivery through social media platforms, case study press releases and e-shots, means we pride ourselves on delivering the correct information and allowing buyers to review proposals in their own time, coming back to us when it fits in with their individual workloads.
Known as 'inbound marketing', this strategy is helping to secure us as the authority in the UK rubber sheeting market and, furthermore, growing our market share across Europe.
I personally am not an expert in marketing, however, through the wonders of a well-known search engine I was able to determine that 50 per cent of all business placed in the past 12 months came from social media marketing. Admittedly, MacLellan Rubber are not striving to be the next Amazon, however, we do have big ambitions. Times are changing fast and I am proud to say that at MacLellan Rubber we are charging forward.
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