November Electrical Distribution Talent

CFO
Currently employed by a regional electrical distributor and responsible for accounting, human resources and company financials. BS Accounting/MS Master of Information Systems. Expertise in transforming troubled companies to profitable. Develop strategies related to ineffective and dysfunctional departments. Experienced in the full spectrum of financial statement / analysis, including benchmarking studies, strategic planning, internal controls, S.W.O.T. analysis, GAAP procedures, and investor relations. Currently living in St Louis and also open to relocation to Texas or Florida.
Warehouse/Operations Manager
15 years of progressive warehouse and operations leadership experience. LEAN Six Sigma White Belt; Yellow-Belt; Green Belt Certified. Solid experience in warehouse processes, physical inventory, fleet, payroll, cycle counts, proficient with WMS. Experience within Graybar and WESCO as well as an independent electrical distributor. Currently renting in Denver but open to relocation and available immediately.
Account Manager/Utility focused
20 plus years’ experience in sales, operations, purchasing and key account management within the electrical utility channel (Public Power as well as Muni’s and Co-ops. Well versed in product, experienced with Profit 21 and some SAP, great VMI experience. Shop floor to Top floor sales strategy. Currently in Michigan but open to relocation.
VP Sales
25+ years of progressive sales leadership experience. Experience in National Accounts, C&I, Automation, EPC, Heavy Industrial, Oil and Gas. Additional Experience in Supply Chain leadership for $350M business unit. P&L experience in excess of $75M. Currently in Texas but open to relocation, available immediately.
Dispute Resolution Specialist
15+ years of electrical industry experience. Responsible for resolving conflicts and negotiating beneficial agreements between parties. Increased customer satisfaction with the company by resolving financial disputes between customer and company as well as advocating for customer in event of disputes with vendors or trucking company. Additional responsibility for freight claims, back charges, monitoring credits being issued to branch level. Implemented SOP for RGA. Success in minimizing outstanding balances, inventory issues and customer satisfaction by acting as the single point of contact for any disputes. Currently in Florida.
VP Logistics, Inventory Control and Strategic Initiatives
15+ years of experience in leadership in electrical distribution for multiple location in varied markets. Helped design and implement online ordering system. Control of fulfillment, inventory control, fleet, supply chain and operations support for a 24-hour location. Additional experience in the management of a $20M lighting projects team. 8 years of branch management experience. Currently in New Jersey open to remote roles in lighting or gear, sales, branch or operations leadership.
Contact Prudence at 847-307-7126 or email at pt@egretconsulting.com.

Have your Sales & Marketing strategies evolved this year?

2020 has been a difficult year and I think we can all agree that is an understatement!  So, to get a better idea how it has affected the electrical industry, we polled VP & C level contacts to see how they have changed their sales and marketing strategies to compensate. Here are the results:

Are customers more interested in solution or price?

53% find a solution is what customers are looking for most
13% said price is the main focus
34% said is a combination of both

Solution:  Respondents stated that end users, specifiers, system integrators and design build contractors are still focused on a solution.  What is important to these customers across all verticals are value adds, shortened lead times, improved inventory availability, good service, going beyond the written warranty, good lighting design and products manufactured in the United States. Relationships with manufacturers and quality products can at times be more important than cost.  Salespeople should focus on the problem or application and the ROI.  Jim Alton, VP of Sales at Remke, stated, “Our customers are looking for a resource, someone that can get them what they need whether or not we offer it.” 

Price: Distributors and electrical contractors are looking for the best price and quick turn around on quotes, especially as this year has brought on more budgetary pressures.  One manufacturer noted the way salespeople are compensated contributes to a focus on price. “Too much emphasis is often placed on instantaneous margin and profitability metrics which doesn’t take into account costs which may be incurred at a later date, nor does it take into account client happiness and customer retention.” 

Combination: Andy Zinner, GM at Leoni, said “about 40% are just looking for the best price/fastest delivery and about 60% are looking for product adjustments for their processes.” Many companies are looking for products that are easy to install and design conscious. If a manufacturer can easily retool and manufacture a custom product, they may win a project over a larger manufacturer that cannot accommodate those customizations regardless of price.

Are companies focusing on new sales channels?

57% are not making changes to their existing sales efforts and paths to market
42% are focusing on building direct relationships with specifiers, end users, design build contractors and national accounts to increase their specifications in the coming years

 

Some manufacturers are finding they can get into new markets, such as healthcare, government projects and horticulture/grow lights by using their existing sales channels.  Others said they are focusing more on distributors now vs. specifiers. In the lighting industry, the showroom channel has been declining although that has been driven more by the internet than COVID has been a game changer for some, with large increases in sales since March.

 

Has there been a shift to hiring salespeople with a more technical background?

73% are looking for the best talent regardless of their technical skills when interviewing salespeople
27% prefer to have salespeople that are more technical

 

Most companies prefer someone that understands and can manage the dynamics of the marketplace. They are looking for problem solvers that can meet the needs of all the players involved and push back when necessary. They need to manage specifiers, installers, distributors, agents, end users and customer service. Having solid product knowledge and giving customers honest answers is more important than ever. On the other hand, Dan Emond, VP of Sales & Marketing with Northern Cables said, “I consider technical salespeople because anyone can sell on price. It is best to find a salesperson who can find the answers quickly for the customer through the various departments in a company whether that is engineering, customer service or quotations.”

 

What new marketing strategies are companies employing in 2020?

93% have increased their marketing budget including hiring senior or VP level marketing employees

 

Being creative and proactive is the best avenue to success.  Companies are redesigning websites, investing in new software and engaging in more digital marketing strategies. Just about everyone has attended a Zoom meeting by now!  More manufacturers are creating videos highlighting products, solutions and installation tips that are sent to their rep agencies and posted to Instagram, YouTube and LinkedIn. Some manufacturers mentioned that tradeshows can be a waste of time. One VP is setting up dinners or wine and cheese parties via Zoom while others are looking into Virtual Reality to engage customers. Manufacturers are focusing on releasing new products or listening to their customers’ requests to make improvements to their legacy products.

 

The overall consensus is that salespeople must evolve. They cannot just have lunch meetings, play golf or casually check in with customers during these unusual times.  Pablo Leguina, SVP Sales at LSI industries, said it best, “COVID has allowed us to go back to basics.  Accelerate our sense of urgency, strong outbound call efforts and follow up, doing sales the good old fashion way.”

Many thanks to the following people for speaking with Pati Kelly and contributing to the article:

Jim Alton Vice President of Sales/GM Remke
Kevin Saunders, Managing Director Woehner LLC, Hampton, NH USA
Andy Zinner, VP Sales Leoni
And a few other in the wire and cable industry.

Have your Sales & Marketing strategies evolved this year?

Given how much has changed since March, Egret Consulting decided to poll our VP – C level contacts to get sense of how this pandemic has affected the electrical industry’s sales and marketing strategies. We greatly appreciate the many responses and have summarized the data below:

Are customers most interested in price or a solution?

53% responded that solution is what customers are looking for most. They identified end users, specifiers, system integrators, and EPC firms are more focused on a custom solution to a unique application over price.  These customers find value adds, good / shortened lead times, product functionality, service and design as most important.  Customers are looking for a resource, someone that can get them what they need whether or not they offer it.  They work with certain (higher priced) manufacturers because of the relationship and quality of their products.  Sales on the solution side should be focused on the problem / application and figuring out what the customer’s need is and where the applications is currently underserved by the competition.  Of course, while focusing on the ROI.

13% said price is the main focus.  It was shared that there is more budgetary pressure than ever before. They identified distributors and electrical contractors as customers that are looking for the best price. One manufacturer pointed out the way salespeople are compensated contributes to a focus on price… “Too much emphasis is often placed on instantaneous margin and profitability metrics which doesn’t take into account costs that may be incurred at a later date, nor does it take into account client happiness and customer retention”

34% responded a combination of both. Several manufacturers discussed focusing on a combination of solution and price.  One response stated that “About 40% are just looking for the best price / fastest delivery and about 60% are looking for product adjustments for their processes.  At the distribution level, we did find that price and quick turn around on quotes are very important.”  Lead times, price and sourcing for alternate products are frequent conversations with customers. While customers are very price sensitive, they are also looking for products that are easy to install and design conscious. At the same time, if companies (those typically smaller) can easily design (or redesign) and manufacture a custom product for a customer, they will win a project over a larger manufacturer that can’t accommodate (or have interest in) those customizations.

Are companies focusing on new sales channels?

57% said they are not making changes to their existing sales efforts and paths to market.

Some manufacturers are focusing on new and emerging technologies.  A focus on technical sales presentations direct to the end user, specifying engineers and EPC firms is the new norm, with less emphasis on the distribution channel.  43% said they are focusing on building these direct relationships to increase their specifications in the coming years. They will bring those specifications back to their rep agencies.

Has there been a shift to hiring salespeople with a more technical background?

27% of manufacturers responded that they prefer to have salespeople that are more technical.  It is best to find a salesperson who can answer questions quickly for the customer relative to engineering and manufacturing capabilities, customer service or quotations.  Technical sales doesn’t always mean they require an engineering degree. Finding a degreed engineer who can present and close sales is not always easy to find, but a recognized growing trend for the future.  While an engineering degree teaches you what questions to ask and where to look to solve problems and determine if your solution makes sense; it does not necessarily teach you how to close the sale.  Bottom line…manufacturers are looking for salespeople focused on solution selling, not just selling SKU’s.

73% responded that they when hiring salespeople, they are looking for the best talent regardless of their technical skills. They prefer someone that understands and can manage the dynamics of selling and that are problem solvers.

What new marketing strategies are companies employing?

Nearly all manufacturers, 93%, said they have increased their marketing budget including hiring senior or VP level marketing team members and have pushed more into a digital marketing strategy.  Focus has shifted to social media posts, creating short videos highlighting their products and solutions that are posted to LinkedIn, YouTube, etc. and sent to their rep agencies. These short videos discuss new products, new features to existing products, installation techniques, etc.  Manufacturers are taking the time to redesign their website and focus on corporate branding.

A few manufacturers mentioned that they now feel tradeshows are a waste of time. One VP said they are setting up interactions via Zoom with customers that provide a much personal connection than a trade show event can offer.

Manufacturers are also focusing on new product introductions or listening to their customers’ requests to make improvements on legacy products.

Overall, most responded that salespeople must evolve.  You will not be having lunch, playing golf or just checking in during the pandemic.  COVID has required many to go back to basics.  Accelerate the sense of urgency, strong outbound contact efforts and follow up, and doing sales the good old-fashioned way as they employ new ways of presenting themselves to the customer.  These customers want solutions to their problems but require a reason to set up a ZOOM call or schedule a meeting.