Thanks to my father, who spent a good chunk of his career in the industry, I’ve been around material handling for most of my life. As a teenager, during the summer months I helped his company install shelving and pallet rack. However, I didn’t go straight into the industry after graduation; I spent nearly a decade as a sales rep for Taylor Made selling golf equipment. After tiring of that job, I decided to pursue a new but familiar challenge. Skarnes Inc. had recently purchased my father’s employer, DL Systems, and I decided to join the team as a sales engineer.
While designing material handling systems might not possess the “wow” factor that comes with selling golf clubs to the pros, I find it to be equally rewarding. In this industry, every day has a different puzzle to put together. You get to learn about the way that companies work and develop strategies for making them more efficient. It’s a challenge every day, which makes the end result all the more rewarding.
One major contributor to that sense of accomplishment is that I’m involved in every single step of the sales and installation process. Skarnes Inc. sales engineers don’t just sell or design the project. I have my hands in everything from the initial contact with the customer to the first quote to the design and installation of the project. From the first cold call to the final walkthrough, I’m there the whole way.
At age 38, I am young by industry standards, and some end-users have hesitations about trusting me. It’s no different than when someone goes to the hardware store. They don’t look for the young guy; they go find the grey-haired veteran because they assume that he’s been there before. Obviously, I don’t see my age as a handicap. In fact, I see it as an advantage. Since I haven’t seen a particular situation 100 times, I’m not stuck on one tried-and-true way of fixing it. Thus, I am more willing to ask questions and come up with an outside of- the-box solution that improves upon what’s been done in the past. Still, this bias poses a challenge when it comes to competing for business.
That means, once I get my foot through the door, I have to blow the customer away. I typically throw on a t-shirt and jeans and go right to work with my installers. I’m there through the whole installation to make sure that everything goes well. Customers appreciate having one point man to see the whole project through. It also helps me earn their respect, which is critical. If I make a promise, I have to deliver—and I do everything in my power to deliver more quickly than promised. It reinforces my commitment to the customer—that’s what keeps them coming back.
|Meet the Author
Matt Thibodeau is a sales engineer at Skarnes, Inc., located in Plymouth, MN, and on the Web at www.skarnes.com. Thibodeau is the second generation of his family to work for the company..