Throughout both my engineering and sales careers, I have always looked towards improving the products and the processes for those I have worked with. In my current role as an Account Executive at KBMax, I’ve worked with multiple single-use assembly companies who I have learned quite a bit from about common bottlenecks and characteristics of their sales process. Each one has identified similar issues that can grind the closure of sales nearly to a halt, and yet, are easily remedied.
Save the Napkin for Lunch
Whether it is a metaphorical napkin (or a real one) most single-use sales start with a sketch by the prospective customer. But just as the customers themselves are varied, so too are the tools for this first approach to a sketch. The ones that I have seen have ranged from hand drawings to Powerpoint and Word files to the red-lined re-drafts of past assemblies. But just like the hieroglyphs of ancient Egypt, before they can interpret what the customer wants, they need to make sure they are speaking the same language. They need the Rosetta Stone (engineering) to translate those initial sketches into a breakdown of their specific components, filters, bags, bottles and items for quotation.
This is the first opportunity to innovate. By starting the process with a common platform built using engineering rules, they can shrink the time it takes to get from initial sketch to initial quote.
Draw From What You Know
Drawings are the largest bottleneck in the single-use assembly sales process. In fact, for companies aspiring to grow their single-use assembly business, they are often confronted with a tough choice. They must either grow their engineering teams by hiring new engineers and draftspeople to keep up with the demand for drawings for sign off and production, or they must find a way to automate the drawing creation process.
By using the same initial tool that captured the customer requirements at the beginning of the process, they can breeze through the subsequent iterations to automate more detailed drawings needed for customer sign-off and manufacturing. Taking that one step further, they can choose to keep the drawings in the quoting tool or connect that information to the more traditional CAD tools that might already be implemented for their final drawings.
Play By the Rules
Once they have established what the client is looking for, they need to make sure that they can produce what they are requesting. They need to review to make sure that they have all of the components necessary, those components are compatible with each other, and that they have them available. Plus they need to compile all of the necessary information in order to provide the customer with a digestible quote. Fortunately, this is yet another avenue for innovation.
By utilizing a rules-based system to generate the quotes, they can hardwire in product compatibilities to ensure that what the customer wants can be made. On top of that, they can also build in rules for pricing (whether it is material plus margin, a labor cost formula based off components or component types, or overall process fees like setup and irradiation) and discounting (based on things like quantities or preferred customer status). In all, by having rules that underpin the platform used for the initial sketch, it ensures that the right components are assembled in the right way with the right pricing, every time.
Go with the (Work)flow
As stated previously, it takes time to go from the initial customer sketch, through the iterative and final drawings for the customer’s sign-off to complete the sale. Engineering goes back and forth with sales and the customer in a Bermuda Triangle of emails, voicemails, and iterative attachments where time and (version) control are lost. And this process is repeated anywhere from tens to hundreds of times per month, often overlapping the same team members across different sets of multiple opportunities. It is not uncommon for mistakes to be made and mutual understanding to be lost.
However, this is also an opportunity for innovation. By building an overall workflow process into your quoting tool, you can ensure that the changes are documented, authorized, and accounted for in a single accessible location. A platform like KBMax can also ensure that the particular quote documentation that the customer needs is also consistent and professional looking, free from the liberties that salespeople can take for the sake of “getting the deal done”.
While every customer application is unique in the single-use assembly field, the sales process itself is repeatable and ripe for tackling in a new way. Those that do so will set themselves up for the long-term, with great success in being responsive to unforeseen increases in demand such as what is occurring with COVID-19. Those who don’t innovate their processes will bracket themselves into how far and how fast they can grow.