Q and A Archives

Peruse a rich archive of questions and answers that ran from 1999 to 2017
2017 2016 2015 2014 2013 2012 2011 2010 2009 2008 2007 2006 2005 2004 2003 2002 2001 2000 1999


December Most of us know you are supposed to keep your promotion message simple, but how do you handle a hard to believe truth about your product?
A: If the truth is unbelievable, understate it. One of our clients was selling their $250,000 product to a prospect that was producing expensive chips. Through some simple mathematical calculations they found that the equipment would pay for itself in two weeks. Despite this being the truth, it was unbelievable and highlighting this fact may have killed their position of credibility, and the sale.
November A strong way to increase your profits is by looking for ways to segment your market differently. What do we mean when we use the word segmentation?
A: Segmentation is a process of dividing markets where each segment contains potential customers with similar needs and/or characteristics, and are likely to exhibit similar purchasing behavior. You can capitalize on this and increase your profits by designing or redesigning products/services/packaging focused on a segment and then communicating via highly targeted promotion.

Segmentation is both a science and an art. There are many theoretical strategies that abound on the best way to do segmentation, and there is mathematics involved in digesting the data necessary to identify segmentation possibilities. However, in the end, once all of the data has been collected and analyzed, art takes over. Product knowledge, market understanding, corporate/division strategies, competitive history, corporate resources available and experience offer the final word. In short, knowing modern segmentation theories is valuable; market demographic and other data is crucial, but experience ties it all together in determining the best targeted segments to pursue.

October When account team members are new to an account, or the account is new to the company, how do you quickly find out crucial information about the account?
A: If the account is an established one with your company, the obvious answer is look at a formal account plan that has been developed and/or talk to company personnel who have been inside the account (e.g. service engineers, applications people, etc.). However if that is not available, or is incomplete, other resources are:

-Customer web site

-Customer employees,if you have a relationship or can be introduced to them

-The customer competitors

-Reports on public companies (10K, 10Q, quarterlies, annuals),

-Edgar filings (all kinds of disclosures) https://www.sec.gov/edgar/searchedgar/companysearch.html

-postings or pieces in their lobby, D&B or similar reporting firms

-Vendors, reps, distributors selling their products or selling to them

-Trade journals and business publications (both on-line and print)

-Brokers, venture capitalists, investment bankers

-Trade shows, technical society meetings

-industry technical group meetings (sit in the back and listen)

-Market research consultants

-Blogs on technical and hiring websites

-Former employees

September What are the three most important responsibilities of a Key or Strategic Account Manager?
A: 1. The initiation, development and maintenance of relationships that build trust, business credibility, and functional credibility in a manner that supports the achievement of your company’s overall strategic objectives.

2. Functioning as the internal advocate for the customer in your company. This may involve fighting for the change in policies, procedures or approaches that hinder account development.

3. The development and maintenance of a comprehensive account plan and the communication of that plan to the rest of the account team (formal and informal).

August Normally sales and marketing professionals should be proactive in addressing a conflict with a customer. Is there any time when this is not appropriate and when would that be?
A: Yes there are times. Generally speaking it is when the costs of confronting a conflict outweigh the benefits of resolving it. Some examples are (1) when the issue is relatively unimportant and there are other pressing needs for your time; (2) there is no chance of having a positive outcome; (3) when emotions are so high there cannot be a logical dialogue – wait until all parties calm down; and (4) the conflict is just a symptom of another issue – work on solving the basic problem.
July How do you succeed with highly controlling, domineering and demanding customer personnel?
A: First of all make sure you are dealing with someone who wants to control anyone in their space and has a need to feel they are better than others. This is in contrast to someone who is actually motivated to achieve continuously greater accomplishments. Both personalities can be aggressive and appear controlling, but what is the best approach to one will be a turn off to the other.

Here we are speaking of the former individual, not the latter A quick way to differentiate the two is that the former likes to quickly take control of the conversation; tries to drive immediately to results; and quickly gets bored with details.

These are very "now" people, so get down to business quickly and don't waste time. They will become impatient or disinterested if you do. They are also results oriented so focus on results, NOT details. They only want to know what you will accomplish, not how you will get there. Present a few key facts logically and quickly. Then provide options that you sense this person will agree with so that he or she will make a choice—that allows them to feel in control. Be sure to honor the time limits of the meeting.

June How do you get team members who do not report to you, but are important to your success, to respond to your needs?
A: What is asked by this question is how to exhibit leadership that entices people to follow your lead. James Kouzas and Barry Posner, of Santa Clara University, are some of the leading researchers on effective leadership. In their research, people wanted to follow informal leaders when they exhibited these top 5 characteristics – honesty (83%), Competence (67%), Forward looking (62%), inspiring (58%), and Intelligent (43%).

The leaders who were followed by others showed (1) They were willing to challenge the system and take risks; (2) They had a strong vision for outcomes in their area of responsibility and passionately shared it with others; (3) Involved others in gaining the desired objectives; (4) Were models of what they asked others to do; and (5) Shared the rewards – let others know how they contributed to successes and also made it known publicly.

Try it!

May You may have noticed that time proven approaches to selling your customers are not working as well as they used to. How is industrial sales changing?
A: Customer needs are becoming more diverse and there is an expectation that suppliers cater to those needs. This demands an understanding of the individual key customer, in depth, and customize . . . customize . . . customize to those needs. This is true of both the makeup of the product or service, as well as support and sales approaches. Further, expect more aggressive supply chain management demands, such as providing year-over-year price reductions quite a number of years into the future. For countermeasures in this area see our Combating Aggressive Supply Chain Management workshop.
April What is the purpose and use of Value Propositions?
A: Value Propositions:

1. provide a focus on your company’s competitive differentiation. When used with a specific account it is within the context of elements that are meaningful to that account.

2. facilitate concise verbalization to customers.

3. assure consistency of the message and approach at all levels of sales activity.

4. establish the context and accountability for sales strategies and tactics.

5. provide a firm basis for tough negotiations with aggressive supply chain management approaches.

March In the semiconductor industry what does "More than Moore" mean?
A: "More than Moore" (MtM) refers to a concept of adding values to devices by incorporating functionality that does not necessarily scale according to Moore's law. The physical dimensions of CMOS manufacturing will be crossing thresholds that will make it difficult to operate any transition structure that uses MOS physics as the basic principle of operation. The MtM approach will stack layers of transistors on top of each other in a 3D structure to achieve the expectations of Moore's Law. There are, in addition, some other approaches.
February Under the guise of partnering, customers are increasingly asking suppliers for gross profit numbers and to see financials on individual products and services. How should you handle such a request?
A: Politely refuse with statements such as:

Company policy does not allow us to share confidential information. Our annual report provides our target margins. We do not break out margins by product and region. Or say:

I do not know and send them a link to your company website.

Stick to the above statements. Redirect conversation from our profit to value of the product and our services to them. They are able to increase throughput or increase yield so our price or profit is unimportant.

January Who, on your team, is the best source of information about existing customers?
A: Customer Support engineers for equipment and application engineers for materials are the best sources of customer information. They are trusted by the customer and are involved directly in the customer production activities. While you never want them to go examine a competitive product inside the customer environment, they can provide valuable information about how the customer feels about competitive products . . . about the your products.