Today, most consumers do not think about the production of the products they purchase. For example, most people do not think about the components of their smartphones: the unbreakable glass, semiconductors, coatings going over the chip, communication cards, and more; most simply go to the Apple Store or Best Buy and buy the phone off the shelf. Or, how about the production of gasoline? Customers merely go to the gas station to fill up their car and give no thought to the hydrocarbons extracted from the earth, separated, moved to a refinery, and put in a pipeline or truck to flow across the country. How about how cities treat the water we all use? Most people turn on the faucet and expect water to flow freely, not thinking of its treatment, filtration, cleaning, or journey through intricate, pressurized piping systems.
What Are the Industrial Markets, and Why Sell to Them?
Industrial markets are all around us and touch nearly everything we do! Let's start this post by defining what exactly makes up the industrial marketplace. We can categorize industrial markets into various segments such as oil and gas, petrochemical, chemical, power, food and beverage, pharmaceutical, automotive, steel, and heavy industry. The list goes on and on.
Industrial Sales is a hidden gem profession that encompasses a wide variety of these industrial markets. Industrial Sales focus on selling mechanical, electrical, and hydraulic products and services. The manufacturing of a good generally takes a process that converts multiple raw materials into a product of another. The end product could be part of the supply chain that goes on to make another product, but eventually, everything becomes consumed. Businesses get established to serve products, such as construction materials—pipes, valves, pumps, motors, power supply, and control capabilities—that fit within that manufacturing process. Many of these products can serve as manual or automated devices and systems. Industrial Sales is the selling and servicing of such products that go into the various manufacturing processes, as discussed above.
The complexity in this profession can be extensive, akin to the multiple disciplines associated with medicine and doctors of specialty. Industrial Sales are often rooted in engineering and scientific principles that govern the ability to optimize processes safely, efficiently, and reliably. Since there are so many specialty areas within Industrial Sales, most salespeople who earn success in this business settle on a focused category within the market. For example, Estabrook focuses on industrial fluid handling with products like pumps, valves, seals, control systems, and repair.
What is a Manufacturing Company?
A manufacturing company is a registered company that makes finished products from raw materials to make a profit. The company later provides the goods to distributors, wholesalers, and retailers, who then sell to customers. Manufacturing refers to the large-scale production of products that convert raw materials, parts, and components into finished goods using machines or manual labor. These products are further manufactured into more complex products or sold to the customer.
Manufacturer vs. Distributor
Some people may confuse a manufacturer and distributor. As I mentioned above, a manufacturer makes finished products and usually relies on distributors, wholesalers, or retailers to sell to the customers. A manufacturer going through these channels gives them more of a salesforce and allows others to field the daily calls from customers. As a distributor, we talk to customers daily, expected to have a substantial level of subject matter expertise. We need to know the manufacturers we sell and have core knowledge of each. The great thing about Estabrook is we have employees with 20+ years in the industry who carry a lot of knowledge. I've noticed that my coworkers may know more than the actual factory knows about their product!
Estabrook Stands Out
This and other reasons spotlights why I feel Estabrook stands out and has a dedicated customer base. I especially enjoy having a customer come to me with a problem and working with them to provide a solution. Additionally, the factory relies on us to work with the customer to promote and sell their products. As a distributor, we have the privilege to forge relationships with customers and get to know them. We constantly communicate with our customers, and some have become close friends. If you enjoy talking and making relationships with people, then a job working for a distributor might be your calling. To learn more about the benefits of working with a distributor vs. a manufacturer, check out Rich Zsigray's blog on the benefits of working with a distributor vs. a manufacturer.
The appreciable thing about Industrial Sales is there will always be one industry with increased demand: a Leading Industry. As the Leading Industry emerges, it makes fiscal sense to gear more efforts and sales toward it. You are in a stable job and can ensure that you will continue to support yourself and your family. Depending on the current market, there will be a different customer base you should focus on while you continue to satisfy your core customers. Some of the Leading Industries in the US are automotive, steel, oil/refineries, chemical, food, wastewater plants, and medical. As we all know, these markets are cyclical, meaning they will grow and contract at varying rates depending on the world's needs. The core customers are the ones that rely on you heavily and have been with you through thick and thin. A diverse customer base allows you to grow market shares in your sales and constantly increase your knowledge base. Every person has their niche industry or safe zone. But, there will be times you must branch out of your comfort zone and learn about a new field. There are many different industries around the United States, and each can be different. But, if you apply the same thought process and are open to learning, you will be comfortable in any.
Every day I go into the office, I know it will be different since all customers' needs and problems are different. This makes for a constant challenge and doesn't make things redundant or stale. We can become bored when we do the same thing repeatedly and don't have to think about our daily job. I can promise you that when working in Industrial Sales, you won't ever feel like the days are redundant. Each customer's call or email is a new opportunity and challenge. Even though each customer has different needs, they each provide opportunities. You will want to gather as much information about the customers' wants and the application process. After this, you will use the expertise of your products to decide what product will work best for this application/customer and then proceed with quoting it out to the customer.
Making a sale to a customer is great, but how can you continue to grow this relationship? To have the customer trust you and make them feel confident in your ability, you may need to…
Show you're a subject expert
Provide new ideas based on successes with other customers
Share ideas that will help them save money or time
Help them redefine their needs and make smarter decisions
Share research/product information related to their applications
For more subject expertise, check out our other Estabrook blogs.
Benefits of Industrial Sales
The biggest reason I love working in Industrial sales is the constant change in daily activities based on the customer's needs. Every day, I know that I'll receive a new request different from the one I made yesterday. Also, I like how I continuously learn new things, and I don't see this changing 30 years in the future. Over the past years, technology has allowed businesses to make changes to save money by cutting jobs. In Industrial Sales, I don't see technology ever doing this because an actual person is needed to help with problems and come up with solutions. This industry allows for a very stable and secure job.
Three years ago, I made a significant career shift to begin my job in Industrial Sales. I previously worked at a charter school where I was the curriculum director for 2nd-8th grades. This career switch was not easy; I weighed many pros and cons. As I began working at Estabrook, I realized the passion and commitment everyone had here to their job and customers. I had a great group to teach me and get me the knowledge I needed to feel comfortable talking to customers. Fast forward three years to today, I have seen myself grow in knowledge and feel more of a subject matter expertise. The best thing is that I continue to grow and learn new things every day. Change is not easy for anyone, but this change was one I am happy I made.
The next time you are in your car, I urge you to look around and see how many different buildings and warehouses you see that have some form of manufacturing. An easy way to identify manufacturing buildings is to look for smokestacks, loading docks, or large buildings. You will soon realize how much opportunity there is in this field. Who's next to join the Estabrook Team?