While things are picking up and many mold manufacturers are quite busy (and happy about it!), winning profitable jobs is still difficult. As one moldmaker told me recently, "We still fight for every job we get." Selling molds isn't easy, which is why moldmakers might need to take a different tack when it comes to sales. After all, it's not like selling vacuum cleaners!
1. Sell your value, not molds. Ask most salespeople who work for moldmaking companies what they sell and most will reply unhesitatingly "molds." So does every other mold manufacturer! What you really need to be selling is the value your company provides to its customers. There is actual value (the obvious value that a quality mold provides to the customer in terms of getting conforming parts); the perceived value (that not-so-obvious value that gives customers confidence in your ability, or that intangible that gives your customers the perception that you are a valued supplier); and the strategic value (how you can actively participate in your customers' success and be a strategic player in their supply chain—provide not just molds, but strategic relationships). Do you know your value to your customers? If not, then how do you know what to sell? Find out what your current, satisfied customers value most about your company, then sell that to other potential customers.
2. It's not the price. Almost every mold company will say that the number one reason that they didn't get a particular job is the price. Call the purchasing agent or engineering person responsible for buying molds, ask why you didn't get the job and the answer is nearly always the same: "Your price is too high." Well, that's the convenient thing to say because either a) The moldmaker's salesperson will take that at face value and move on, or b) offer to lower the price in order to get the job (this is what the OEM's buyer is really hoping will happen). Bill Tobin, a long-time consultant in the moldmaking industry, says that when a mold buyer says something like, "If you could come down by $5000, you've got the job," you've got the job—they're just trying to get you to lower your price so they can look like a hero. OEMs are getting extremely savvy when it comes to price. One moldmaker told me that he has a customer that uses a mold-quoting software program just so that he can keep his moldmakers honest-he knows about what the mold should cost even before he goes out for bid.
One molder told me, "Mold shops are discounting their price to stay in business. They've got to pay their bills, and I understand that. But people need to remember that the lowest quote might not be the best quote. [Moldmakers] are cutting the guts out [of the mold] to get the work and we molders have to live with it."
3. Educate your customers. In today's world, sales is less about selling and more about educating your customers and potential customers. Throwing a quote over the wall to the OEM buyer, then sitting back to wait for a response won't get you very far. Quotes should be detailed and educational for the buyer. Does the buyer know why you quoted a certain type of gate and the benefits to the OEM of having that type of gate in terms of efficiency and productivity? Does the buyer understand why you quoted the type of mold you quoted, the type of runner system, the design you created? If the OEM mold buyer does not understand all of this in terms of benefits to the OEM, they will not understand your value. Educating customers is key to developing your value proposition with them.
4. Differentiate your company. Every company can buy equipment and technology, and that creates a fairly level playing field. So how can you differentiate your company from all the others? That's what you have to uncover, and then promote. The differentiators might be your employees—do you have on staff people with unique skill sets? Unique talents? Do you offer creative ideas and innovative thinking as opposed to just building it to the print? People are often a good differentiating factor. The markets you play in can also be a differentiating factor. Do you specialize in certain types of molds that not every shop is capable of building? Or are you just a me-too moldmaker? Find your differentiating factors, and then promote those more than those things that everyone else has as well.
5. Follow up. Poor followup is the best way not to get new business. While most sales people would rather be out pressing the flesh, there's a lot to be said for following up on leads, such as those provided by trade show activity (either from your attendance or from the lead lists provided by the AMBA). One moldmaker was tired of getting the trade show "qualified" lead lists that the AMBA provides, and requested that they stop sending them, saying he doesn't have time to follow up on them. Another moldmaker told me once that the leads on these lists would receive dozens of calls from every AMBA member, so he didn't want to waste his time doing it too. What he doesn't realize is that it's surprising how many companies don't follow up on these leads. And don't forget to follow up on quotes. I know that purchasing people/engineers rarely answer their phones, but leave a voice message expressing your continued interest; send an e-mail asking them if they have any questions about the design, the delivery, or the price. But follow up! It's critical to making the sale.—[email protected]