As many of you know, our headquarters is in Southern California — an area famed for its breathtaking coastline, beautiful beaches, fantastic restaurants and traffic, lots of it.
Last week on my drive to the office, I ended up stuck at a standstill for around 15 minutes, so I took the time to cycle through the radio stations and was struck by an ad for the upcoming Grand Prix of Long Beach — it reminded me of a sales story I want to share.
It’s all about developing the business acumen to think like an executive — and shows that sometimes the slowest solution wins, even in the motorsports industry.
A friend of mine runs sales at a company that manufactures 3D printers, not the hobby variety you might find in your local library, but industrial machines built for the aerospace, defense and automotive sectors.
One of her new account executives — we’ll call him Alec — was having success in the automotive industry, and he got the idea to go after racing teams.
Everyone knew that one particular team had been struggling and that major design changes were on the horizon. Alec went a step further with his research and discovered a recent interview with the head of engineering that mentioned manufacturing efficiencies.
It makes sense, right? Research means near continual testing of new parts, and if you don’t have the manufacturing capacity to keep up, you're limited in how quickly you can make improvements.
Alec was beyond excited — his company’s latest 3D printer was 5x faster than anything else on the market. It seemed like the perfect match.
Then came the meeting with the head of engineering. As a former engineer himself, Alec described everything in high definition — right down to the technical details that enabled this printer’s incredible speed. He even received a polite follow-up email from the potential client, then … nothing.
Where did Alec go wrong?
Like so many sellers, he went after the pain — bypassing the true business issue in the process. Stuck in the seller’s mindset, he failed to think like an executive.
Yes, the business issue was more revenue. The ticket to more revenue was more wins. To do that, they’d need a faster car, which would require more testing and a manufacturing process that could keep up.
However, the head of engineering wasn’t merely focused on 3D printers. He evaluated their personnel, the testing team’s process, manufacturing protocols, software, hardware, and the risks and benefits of outsourcing work.
Where was the weak point?
It wasn’t the printers themselves that was key to their scaling issue. It was the burden placed on the engineering team by the software tied to those printers.
Alec’s competition took the time to adequately understand how the business objectives, business issues, problems and value connected with their unique solution.
Ironically, their 3D printers were a little slower than the racing team’s original equipment — but the software they ran on improved overall print processing time by 63%. In the end, the time savings was enormous, and the ROI spoke for itself.
If you want to dive deeper into the value of developing business acumen, check out:
- Our upcoming webinar on Sept. 21: “Selling to the C-suite”
- “How To Sell To C-level Executives” in the LinkedIn Sales Blog
- “Your Sales Reps’ Top 3 Questions on Engaging Executive-level Buyers, Answered” in Training Industry
Until next time, happy selling,