How Soon They Forget
How soon they forget! Very common phrase, how does it apply to our industry?
Most companies seem to want to be all things to all people. They want the day to day, quick inventory turn, commodity business but also want the complicated, high profile, detail oriented projects. Does the same approach work in securing both types of projects? Unfortunately not! Are most companies equipped to handle both types of projects efficiently? Probably not!
Most of us are quite familiar with the steps required to secure the day to day, commodity business, its important business and the backbone of many companies. But there seems to be much confusion regarding the complicated, long term projects. Size is not necessarily the deciding factor, many commodity projects are very large, and many specialty projects relatively small. But, they are very different, and require different skills. It is quite obvious who is involved in short cycle sales, but not so easy in projects that transcend years of effort, or include several territories! The same problem exists for firms using company employed sales force or companies using Independent Manufacturers’ Representatives.
Complicated high profile projects often take years of involvement, the project design, product selection and bidding phases. Work, involving many people and departments can and often does lead to confusion.
During the bidding phase of a recent project, the estimator of a major CISCA Manufacturer Member was somewhat peeved that their sales representative in the projects territory seemed to be interfering with the communication between the contractors, architect and the estimator. The estimator could not understand why the sales representative was involved. Interestingly the estimator did not even work for the manufacturer when the promotional phase of the project began. No wonder they were confused about the involvement of the sales person. The Representative had been working on the project for five years!
On another recent project, the order had been placed and the engineering underway. The design architect in one city and the project and contractor in another. Two sales representatives, one in the architect’s city and one in the project city. The national sales manager of the CISCA Member Manufacturer and his team had been working with the projects local sales representative and local contractor and became annoyed at the involvement of the representative working with the design architect, in another city.
The factory representative was not employed by the manufacturer during the four year design phase of the project, consequently did not have the background of all involved. Was not aware of the close relationship between the architects and representative.
These examples are not unusual or unique. On projects that transcend years of development the players. Communication can, and usually does, become clouded. Manufactures can forget where the project came from in the first place.
Major projects require excellent communication and it doesn’t happen by accident. Manufacturing companies involved in major projects should have a detailed plan for all phases of the project. Some of the important aspects of the plan are:
- Developing a succinct written policy concerning responsibilities and resulting compensation of all involved and stick to it! If team members are confident that the policy will be adhered to they are more likely to participate as expected. Exceptions to the policy should be “few and far between”. A sales representative concerned about payment on an out of territory project probably will ignore the opportunity to the detriment of the manufacturer.
- Communicate the policy to all involved in all projects. Be certain that all pertinent individuals in every effected department are informed in writing. Be sure all involved employees understand how the project was developed and by whom. Do not change the policy after the commencement of a project. If multiple territories are involved, keep them involved from the very beginning to the very end!
- Never provide quotations or accept orders on a custom project without obtaining:
- The full project Name and Location.
- The Architects Name and Location.
- If proper credit is not given, it may be the last opportunity developed in territory.
- During all phases of the project from promotional, to budget pricing to bidding to order placement, through engineering, shipping, billing and completion, keep all individuals, in all effected territories involved. All members of the team should be aware of all developments as they occur. Individuals cannot help in the process if they are out of the loop.
Working on long term projects can be very frustrating, particularly for those involved in the beginning. The early team members work diligently to create the projects, often investing years in its development. When the project finally reaches the bidding phase, many of those involved have no idea how the opportunity was initially developed.
If a manufacturer is really interested in complicated, long term projects. If a manufacturer wants their company employed sales staff or Independent Manufacturers Representatives to work with architects on complicated or out of territory projects. They must develop, implement and stick to systems that assure those involved that they will be recognized for their efforts and properly compensated. There is no room for compromise; if a policy is not followed there will be many lost opportunities for all!
William L. Shannon CSI, CISCA
President of Shannon Corporation
Recipient of the 2004 De Gelleke Award