This dialogue takes place during the debriefing of a lost service-sales pursuit – George (an engineering and maintenance services sales-manager) and David (a service salesperson in George’s team) discuss what happened, highlighting a number of issues in the pursuit – pencil down your thoughts as you read and let’s see what they are.

George: So, what happened, why do you think we lost this pursuit? Did you follow the sales process I asked the team to discuss? It provides a good preparation checklist for sales pursuits.

David: Yes and no. I did a few of the steps, but not all them. I did not have the time. I think I must have missed that particular meeting, and was given the material by Jane. I was visiting a customer at the time.
Price. I believe it was price, even though I gave them a very good discount, right at the start.

George: You need to catch up on the process discussion with the team. Why did you give them a discount right at the start?

David: Well, I thought it would facilitate and speed up their decision.

George: How did you select this customer?

David: I knew about their equipment.

George: How is the relationship with them, with whom do we have good contacts, do they value productivity and performance, and do they mainly depend on external service providers?

David: Sorry George, I need to do some homework on that. As I said, I mainly knew about their equipment.

George: What do you know about the equipment apart from the fact that they would like to monitor it remotely?

David: We know when the two hundred motors have been commissioned, but do not have a record of their maintenance history.

George: Whom were you talking with during the pursuit? Have you thought about their decision process and about who is supporting us and who isn’t?

David: I was mainly talking to Wong; he is part of the operations team. I have known him for a while. He requested a lot of information as he said this project would affect him and his team considerably. However, I did not see him when we presented our solution and offer. I do not understand why.

George: Who attended your presentation? Where you alone or did you bring John, who is our expert in remote monitoring solutions?

David: The customer maintenance management team was there with one person from purchasing. I knew a few people, but had not talked to them about our solution before the presentation. There was one person in particular who did not seem to like our company. There were a few tough technical questions I could not answer. They also compared our solution and execution capabilities, with the solution and capabilities of the competition. No. I did not involve John, which in hindsight I should have done. I just downloaded the material from our web page, presented it and left copies with them.

George: What kind of customers are they? Are they looking for a partner to work with, do they want to optimise the use of their equipment, what support are they looking for?

David: I do not really know. They seemed in a hurry to find a solution.

George: Did you explain to them, what value our service solution could bring? What would be the return on investment, and how long it would take?

David: Not really. How would I know? I just told them it was good, and that our pricing was very competitive.

George: Did they ask about who else implemented this solution and how it worked?

David: They did. I told them it was successfully implemented in Finland, but I did not bother putting them in touch with our customer in Finland, and providing more information. I thought it would not be fair. You know, our customer in Finland is one of their competitors.

George: Do we understand why they were looking for this solution?

David: Well they want to improve.

George: What would they like to improve? Did they want to improve the equipment availability and speed, and the production quality?  Do they need to reduce maintenance cost, improve energy efficiency? Do they have any potential health, safety and environmental issues?

David: Yes.

George: What would you do differently?

David: Well, this is very different then selling spare parts, which I have done until recently. You have asked some really good questions. Let me think about it George.

Experience shows that the great majority of service salespeople selling engineering and maintenance services need good sales training and learning, as

  • Their competence is typically limited to selling spare parts,
  • They are usually not able to develop a value proposition and effectively present it to customers, and
  • They rarely sell as a team effectively.

In particular, it looks like David did not do his homework regarding the customer installed base, its history and requirements, as well as regarding the customers parties (who supports him, etc.) – a few useful relationships seem to be in place but key ones look like they missing. Also, he appears not to have a clear enough idea about the customer needs and concept of value and accordingly about what would be a good value proposition for them. He forgoes bringing John along – who presumably could have helped him as technical expert – and did not sell as a team. He had the good idea to provide a reference but did follow through. Finally, he went for a price discount right away instead of first insisting on highlighting the value proposition.

How many did you catch?

o Customer installed base, its history and requirements homework

o Customers parties and relationships

o Customer needs and concept of value and value proposition

o Did not sell as a team

o Provided a reference but did follow through.

o Price focus instead of value focus

If you caught four or more, you are doing well but may want develop further.

If you caught three or less, you probably need to look at selling as a process and become more systematic in your pursuits to prepare and manage these thoroughly.

Bertil Brandin is based at the Advanced Remanufacturing and Technology Center (ARTC) in Singapore. Prior to that he spent over nine years developing the engineering and services business of ABB in Asia. Bertil also worked in senior strategic and operational roles at Siemens Healthcare in Europe developing and managing its Medical Solutions business unit. He is the author of “Influencing in Engineering and Maintenance Services“, a book outlining winning practices for team-selling as a process.