This time last year, I was walking around downtown San Diego knocking on doors with a folder full of business cards, line cards and Duthie screwdrivers. Today I’m sitting at home, sifting through spreadsheets, typing up emails, and making phone calls to do the exact same job: make more contacts and close more sales. Even so, my team and I have still driven sales up from a year ago. Because while a lot of things have changed in my 15 year adventures in sales — especially in the past year — the important things haven’t.
We service an extremely broad spectrum of customers, so a critical aspect of our job as the Sales Engineer, is to customize their maintenance plans or new generators to their own specific needs and applications. For example, I have had a homeowner walk me over to what they thought to be their generator, when it was actually their A/C unit. Now on the other end of that spectrum, I have met plenty of Engineers that know more about engines and generators than I do.
The first one, naturally, needs our technicians to service their generator four times a year (once we find it.) So we’ll let them know that. But the engineer who’s perfectly capable of doing certain maintenance themselves? An effective sales strategy means NOT trying to sell them on something they don’t need.
Focus on the Customer’s Needs
This is what helps our continually growing base of customers believe we’re the ones to stick with year after year. They know that my team will get them the information they need, and provide exactly what they need, without trying to hype them up in hopes of getting a bigger sale.
This is the exact opposite of how many larger corporations work. Before working at Duthie, I had a blast selling kitchens and bathroom sales for a nationally recognized hardware store. I’ve always loved the adrenaline rush of making a sale, but that franchise’s focus on their bottom line distorted my natural sales instinct into something that didn’t help our customers. They encouraged us to push sales on our customers that the customers didn’t always need…but if we didn’t hit our daily quota, we’d be fired.
Fortunately, I learned how to redirect that drive when I came to Duthie Power. Here, that mentality doesn’t work because generators aren’t a one-time buy. The Duthie team helped me realize that since Duthie provides ongoing maintenance as well as sales, I needed to cultivate a positive, ongoing relationship with each individual customer.
Aim for Long-Term Relationships
Now, after almost 10 years at Duthie and as the Head Sales Engineer for our 2 year old San Diego location, I see the game of sales more holistically. Instead of just focusing on the rush of short-term gains — the next big catch, the next big job — I’ve learned how to think about where we’re going as a company, and how I can help the Duthie team grow and expand over the long term.
For instance, at the national hardware franchise, our superiors only knew us as numbers and quotas. But last night, one of my Duthie engineers called me on my cell with a question and we chatted for a while because I know him personally, not just as a number.
It’s the same thing with customers. A new customer reached out to me last week for a generator rental — at 9:30 pm. I responded that same night, because I know how urgent the need for a generator is from the customer’s point of view.
So amid everything that’s changed, in my book the key to a successful sales career hasn’t: focus that “next big catch” sales instinct (we salespeople all have it) on creating long-term individual relationships with both your sales team and your customers. Find out what they need, and give it to them — no more, no less.
That’s what’s helped Duthie continually attract and retain customers for the last 55 years, and I look forward to helping it do for the next 55 as well.