There’s a reason why today’s younger engineers don’t answer or return your calls. They don’t want to.
Don’t take it personally. More importantly, don’t expect it to change.
From looking for restaurants to buying music online, this generation grew up on self-serve information. Unlike older engineers, the fastest point from whatever they need to the right solution was never, and will never, be the phone.
Why waste time trying to find the right person with the right answer when it’s so much easier and faster to jump on your laptop or mobile and get it yourself? Efficiency is their one and only priority.
You can look at this significant shift in buyer behavior in two ways. As a threat to how you’ve always sold your products or services. Or as an opportunity to leverage their behavior into a new, highly efficient engagement model that will win more sales and make you more efficient at the same time.
It begins with rethinking your own role in the sales process. Today’s younger engineers don’t need or want you to “sell” them out of the gate. Instead, they want immediate access to what they need to sell themselves. Savvy manufacturers understand when it’s the right time to reach out.
In a word, content. Not just product information. Deep product information. Not just reams of it buried in a website. They want highly detailed content that’s easily found and applied.
And I’m not just talking about written specifications and descriptions. They want drawings. 2-D, 3-D, downloadable, configurable. Something they can drag and drop into schematics. The more they can do with your content, the easier and faster it is for them to determine if it fits and, if it does, specify it for procurement.
But (I can hear you thinking), I can already get them what they need. And every time I do is an opportunity to build a relationship with them.
Let’s take a moment to honestly assess, from the engineer’s standpoint, the “traditional” engagement experience.
Typically, he or she calls you, the sales person, and asks for a specification sheet and drawings. You say, “I’ll get those for you asap!” The second you hang up the phone you call and email for the latest product specifications. You call and email your internal engineers to get the drawings.
Then you wait. Hours. Days. Meanwhile, the customer isn’t waiting. They’re looking at your competitor’s products and services. And calling them, too.
You finally get back to them with what they want and maybe they’ve found it from someone else. Maybe they haven’t. But in either case, what kind of expectations for the relationship have you set? Keep in mind that engineers expect instant gratification. Manufacturers who have all of their detailed product information available, and are positioned to respond quickly are the ones who will ultimately get the job.
Here’s how to rethink the engagement process and your role in it.
Your content, not you, should be the first point of engagement. Enterprise-wide content that provides engineers direct access to the in-depth information and drawings they want gives them the power to efficiently pre-qualify your products. Making sure the same “voice over” information you would provide as a sales person regarding customization, availability and delivery info should also be served up with the product details.
This isn’t just an ideal scenario. It’s becoming more and more of an imperative for manufacturers that want to do business with future generations of engineers.
A recent ThomasNet.com Industry Market Barometer annual survey notes that by 2025, a full 75 percent of the workforce will be made up of the Millennials who are now 18 – 32 years old. These are the same young engineers who are already determining exactly how the sales process should work on their terms. They’re the ones who want to initiate the call after they’ve assessed your products and services.
Instead of an initial inquiry, the customer is now a strong lead. You haven’t wasted your time getting them information on products that may not fit the bill. They’ve already moved themselves through the sales funnel. In giving them what they need to be more efficient, you’ve become more efficient as well. And you’ve established your relationship based on their needs and priorities.
Sounds like a pretty good approach to me.
About Tom Lautenschlager
Tom Lautenschlager is passionate about helping manufacturers grow by using the latest Internet and product data management strategies. His mission is to improve clients’ sales, and help them work more efficiently, by making their product content accessible to customers, distributors and other channel partners.
Drawing on more than 10 years in sales engineering, manufacturing and process automation, Lautenschlager joined Thomas Enterprise Solutions in 2013. As an Enterprise Sales Engineer, he helps manufacturers organize their product content using Thomas’ Navigator Platform Technology. Services built on the platform include online catalogs, product configuration tools, downloadable 2D/3D CAD models and drawings, and Product Data Syndication.
Before coming to Thomas, Lautenschlager was an Outside Sales Engineer with IPT Group, LLC, which offers process automation solutions from large manufacturers such as Endress+Hauser. He also held management and sales engineering roles with McMillan Electric Co., Emerson-Electrical Reliability Services, Power Systems Testing Co., and Dwyer Instruments.
Lautenschlager holds an MBA in Marketing from Golden Gate University and a BS in Electrical Engineering from Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology.
About Thomas Enterprise Solutions
Thomas Enterprise Solutions is part of Thomas Industrial Network, Inc., an information and technology company that connects manufacturing and industrial buyers and sellers.
Our Enterprise Solutions Group works closely with manufacturers and distributors to effectively manage digital product data across a variety of enterprise-wide systems and sales channels to meet their strategic business needs. Leveraging our proprietary Navigator Platform technology, services include webCAD publishing and product configurator technology. Also, we help syndicate manufacturers’ data and CAD drawings directly to their large distributors and OEM channel partners as well as integrating content into design and sourcing platforms that are part of an organization’s daily workflow, from Intergraph SmartPlant 3D for the power, process and marine industries, to Building Information Modeling (BIM) systems for construction of buildings and bridges.
Our flagship brand ThomasNet® offers a suite of Internet and digital media solutions, from websites with product catalogs, to SEO/SEM services, to social media. Buyers and engineers worldwide rely on ThomasNet.com®, industry’s leading free platform for industrial/commercial product sourcing and supplier discovery. ThomasNet News® delivers industrial news and trends via online publications and newsletters.