When sales and engineering work together, solutions happen for the customer.
Cisco-Eagle, Inc. does sales as a team. Each team, made up of three or more people, is devoted to uncovering the customer’s real needs. The sales team partners with an application specialist or project manager to bring a full complement of talents to the project.
To provide the best solution that will help our customer’s business grow, we have a list of things to evaluate when visiting a material handling project. We make sure all topics are covered, all questions are answered, and all solutions are uncovered. Result: A win/win for the customer and Cisco-Eagle, Inc.
Talk to Decision Maker
It is important from a sales perspective to understand the role of the person with whom you are talking. Are you talking to the decision maker or to a person who will influence the decision maker’s selection? You must be able to speak with the decision maker at some point during the sales process.
Walk through It All
When evaluating a customer’s needs, you need to get a feel for their whole operation. Each aspect of the operation affects the others. Making a change in one area may have a profound impact on another area, and this may require material handling equipment solutions there as well. Walk through each receive, store, pick, pack and ship process that is occurring in the customer’s operation in order to understand their needs. Dig into any software or PLC program which may be controlling part of this operation.
Collect Complete and Accurate Data
Collect accurate and complete load data and rate information. Spend time looking at the units to be handled on conveyor in a detailed manner. It is important to have a list of ALL of the units that will be handled on the conveyor. This will determine what the parameters of the conveyor need to be.
The physical characteristics of the load are vital to the success of the proposed system. If the customer is using boxes, you need to pay attention to the center of gravity in the box and what the bottom of the box looks like. Is the bottom of the box fanfolded or taped? Does the bottom of the box bulge? All of these things could cause the box to act erratically on roller conveyors.
Rate information should be defined in units per minute. It is important that you define any surges in the desired rate. If the customer does a large portion of their picking in a short time frame, your system needs to be capable of handling these slugs, or the customer’s processes need to be reworked to eliminate the large surges. If the system is large or complex, you need to gather rate information for each area of the system so you can determine the necessary rate at any common merge or transfer points.
Pick Low-Hanging Fruit
Evaluating a customer’s likelihood of purchasing material handling equipment solutions is more of an art form than a science. There are signs to look for when evaluating if they are in need of a solution that will reduce their overhead and/or operating expenses. We call these signs “Low-Hanging Fruit.” If the customer has an excessive number of people performing non-value added tasks, chances are that they could save money and time by automating. Other signs to look for are a large number of carts in their facility, people manually moving products from one area to another, operators doing manual sortation of packages, and manual or paper picking processes.
Usually your customer will have a pre-conceived notion of how their problem should be solved before you arrive. It is important that the customer shares this with you. If you propose a solution that does not resemble what that customer has in mind, you may not make it any further than this preliminary step. If they don’t have a concept of the solution, they typically will have a clear understanding of which part of the process is causing them pain.
Know the Limits
Your customer will have constraints on the purchase of material handling equipment. Capital purchases are usually driven by a return on investment and that return must be realized within a predetermined period of time. Find out what ROI timeframe your customer is using. Does the customer have a budget for this project? What is the timeframe for purchase in implementation?
When pulling together, you and your team can help your customers grow their business. The reward for this strategy and your effort is big…satisfied customer and more sales.
|Meet the Author
Darrell Griffin is manager of project implementation at Cisco-Eagle, Inc. Haynie Mayhew is market manager at Cisco-Eagle, Inc.