Skip to main content

It’s Not What You Know, It’s Who You Know…

There’s a time and a place for hertz and gigahertz, says Mr. Loadlink.

I read an article recently about public speaking in which the author wrote about the importance of being passionate about their subject matter. They argued that only if a presenter is bordering on rhapsodic would they be able to engage their audience. The piece went on to explore how a speaker who isn’t wholehearted about their content will always be nervous, reliant on notes and unable to command respect.

Whilst I agreed with many of the points raised, I was always reading ahead to find a reference to the importance of assessing the audience and tailoring content accordingly. In this instance, that key notion was missing.

Language is the simplest way of tailoring information for an audience.

Language is the simplest way of tailoring information for an audience.

I say it doesn’t actually matter how passionate a speaker is or how eloquently they make their case, if the information isn’t relevant to those on the receiving end it’ll fall on deaf ears.

This blog isn’t about presentations per se but more generally covers the process of one entity passing information to another. Given my audience (readers of this blog) are largely from the industrial market, I’m going to focus on effectively communicating the business of a product supplier to a potential customer or supply chain partner. I’ll also suggest it’s important to remain flexible as it isn’t always clear exactly who the recipients of the pitch will be.

Take your company’s most popular product and consider how it can be packaged or communicated differently to various audiences. In Straightpoint’s case, it is the Radiolink plus load cell. To some people, it’s important that units are supplied with an update rate of 3Hz and can be easily configured to run at speeds of up to 200Hz. The same folks might be interested to know that data is transmitted wirelessly utilising the latest in IEEE 802.15.4 (2.4 GHz) technology.

However, to others, it’s only important that a Radiolink plus measures a load, relays the data to a reader and facilitates completion of a load test accordingly. There are those, meanwhile, to whom the application of the product means even less; they’re concerned only with the monetisation of force measurement technologies.

You see why a standard presentation or pitch would nearly always misfire as so much of it would be redundant every time. And this is our best product!

Use other equipment to apply the point to your own industry sector. Think of the supply chain for, say, a mobile crane. A manufacturer, rental company, contractor, operator and rigger are all going to interact with the machine, yet all care about different characteristics. Further, to effectively communicate the crane’s potential to some, it will need to be put into the context of marketplace, market share, utilisation, and industry trends. Actually, how the crane fits a business plan might be more important than how it lifts a load.

On point

It means one better get to know the audience before they pack the suitcase and slip the USB stick into their top pocket. If it’s a meeting at a factory or company offices, find out who will be involved and what their role is at the company.

If the CEO and CFO at a potential new distributor of Straightpoint equipment have agreed to meet a representative, they’re going to want to know how much units cost; what margins they can expect on their use; who is currently supplying them (or not) in the market; what the potential is based on research; etc. These guys are unlikely to be engineers and won’t want to, frankly, be bored by technical detail.

Conversely, if a company welcomes a sales pitch and says the head of engineering and the maintenance boss will be hosting the visit, a different approach will be required. It might be worth following references to 200Hz and IEEE 802.15.4 (2.4 GHz) technology with a few nuggets about LED wireless scoreboards and base stations with analogue (4-20mA, 0-10v, 0-5v) or digital (RS232/485, Modbus RTU, and ASCII serial communications protocol) outputs. If they continue to salivate, tell them about IP67 waterproof rating, 1,200 hours battery life, 700m / 2,300 ft. range, and no external antennae.

Give that part of the presentation to the CFO and he’ll switch off, open his laptop and start working on his latest P&L spreadsheet. Trouble is, the presenter won’t be in it!

As I said at the outset, anyone making visits and presenting a company should be flexible and able to react to questions and surprises. We’ve all been welcomed in reception areas by someone who says, ‘Sorry, Sanjay couldn’t make it today, but Bill, our COO, is going to step in.’ Use the time walking to the meeting room to consider what Bill might want to know that Sanjay wouldn’t and vice versa. Also give Bill some takeaways for Sanjay, as he’s likely to report back. Without confusing the operations guy, maybe say, ‘I know Sanjay was interested in A, B and C so please tell him about how these features will benefit his work…’

A meeting with another party is a valuable opportunity and not one to take lightly. If someone has taken time to put an appointment with a supplier in their diary, they’ve acknowledged that what they have to offer is of potential interest—so use every second.

Of course, it isn’t always possible to cover everything, particularly if only a short timeframe has been given and / or there has been a late change in personnel or schedule. In these cases, it’s good practice to invite follow-up questions and supply additional information once you’re back in the office.

Be authentic throughout, though. Follow-ups shouldn’t be used to move the goalposts. It’ll break a relationship in its embryonic form if an email is sent starting, ‘I know I mentioned IP67 waterproof rating and 1,200 hours battery life, but that’s only on the top of the range models that are double the price.’

Or, ‘It’s true that we want to add you to our distributor network but another company has exclusivity on these markets so you’ll have to sell only into a territory 150 miles away that has no telephones’.

Practice with your content; imagine someone who you’d like, or are likely, to meet, think about what they do and how it relates to the solution you offer. Then, based on everything you know, take the bits that mean the most to that person. If you get the chance and really want to impress them, tailor an introductory slide or message that is exclusive to them. Consider how much more engaged they’d be than if confronted with a two-year-old date and a one-size-fits-all PowerPoint presentation where Page 2 shows a photo of a building boasting its square footage.

Campaign trail

We’re on the cusp of another general election in the UK, where you’d expect political party leaders to always consider their audience of the day. It doesn’t always work like that, however. Regardless, it set the scene for a number of recent business trips where the objective was to continue to spread the key messages of the SP manifesto and build knowledge on our product offering.

There was plenty of time to discuss these matters with John Molidor, director of sales for the western hemisphere, on the campaign trail when we went to Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York and Boston to visit stateside dealers. Before each meeting, we reminded ourselves of all the important details covered above—who are we meeting? What are their roles? What does their company do? What products might they be interested in? Etc. Where appropriate, we took the opportunity to discuss and plan joint strategy to increase sales and gain U.S. market share.

Policy detail was further tailored more recently ahead of a trip to Singapore (where I am writing this blog) and later Malaysia to conduct training workshops for sales and engineering teams at local distributors. It should be clear by now how I plan to greet a single sales representative versus a room full of engineers.

Vote SP!

Thank you for reading and use the hashtag #loadcell on social media.

Mr. Loadlink

The Sky’s the Limit…

An epiphany on board a junk boat floating between the city of Hong Kong and Kowloon Bay, inspired the latest in the Mr Loadlink blog series. I also took the train during a busy month in Asia.

I have been working hard with our PR professionals recently to formulate a content marketing strategy where everyone at Straightpoint is mindful of the story behind their role at the company.

For example, when our marketing team execute the successful launch of a catalogue, a sales person oversees the use of our load cells on a particularly demanding oil and gas application, or a distributor enjoys a fruitful trade show, I encourage them to retain the details so we can generate content to communicate that positivity to the market.

While there is a requirement to produce hard-hitting advertisements and product-focussed literature, that largely rely on initial impact, generating positive energy and interest around the brand and our products in other ways sometimes requires a longer term strategy.

Implementing a successful content marketing strategy requires everyone at the company, particularly those at the coalface, to always be aware of the potential to communicate their activity in a way that could educate, entertain or inform our target audiences and promote our company beyond that which is possible by our advertisements, catalogues and web pages alone.

As with any cultural development at the company, I have to lead from the front. That’s why an epiphany I experienced on board a junk cruise in Hong Kong earlier this month, overlooking my favourite skyline in the world, will live long in the memory.

I’m proud of the fact that I thought of you, my readers, when I gazed upon the hulking skyscrapers of Hong Kong during a spectacular sunset. I also thought back to when I had first seen the same view. It was about eight years ago and I’d been to the Hong Kong Grand National with some friends at the Happy Valley Racecourse.

hong kong skyline

My favourite skyline in the world—Hong Kong—that provided the inspiration for this blog

I have been in awe of that skyline ever since and think about it often. Very little of it has visibly changed over recent years, which is in stark contrast to our business. Little could have prepared me for the growth we have enjoyed and rarely is that put in the context it was by one of the most iconic urban views in the world.

Asian adventure

Hong Kong was just one piece of the jigsaw puzzle. At the start of the month I left the UK and flew into Beijing to meet Xiao Tong Yang and Eric Yang at General Lifting Engineering (GLE) SKIP Lifting, based in Zhangjiakou City, Hebei Province. They are our distributor in China so it was great to spend some time in the head office.

I enjoyed a tour of their new facilities and then led a group training workshop with over 20 of their sales and technical teams. I always enjoy working with people to whom English is a second language. I relish the challenge of getting my message across through a translator as it requires me to be concise and accurate in my delivery of content, which fits an overarching theme alluded to earlier.

The session proved the importance of etiquette, especially when working in Asian markets where, typically, you have the honour of working with very engaging, personable people who show courtesy in receipt and delivery of items and messages. I always respect the way professionals in the region exchange business cards with a very deliberate two-handed gesture whilst making eye contact. Sometimes at home, people are guilty of handing over their details without such sincerity.

Even though building a long-term relationship might not have been my objective, I felt that making eye contact with the translator, who directed proceedings during the Zhangjiakou training sessions, made him feel respected which was important to the efficiency of proceedings. In turn, I averted my gaze from the translator to the group as he delivered my message.

It is of paramount importance that people doing business in Asia travel to build partnerships. It is a long way from the UK but so much can be achieved face-to-face, which is true the world over but particularly of a place where relationships are nurtured and treasured. I have made lifelong friends here in Asia for that reason.

Taking the train

It was a feature of this business trip that much of the mileage we covered in China was by train. I travelled from Beijing on the Beijing-Guangzhou High Speed Railway, for example, which travels in excess of 300kph and is more commonly referred to as the ‘Bullet Train’. The scale of the infrastructure project required to move people around at this speed impressed me. The stations were far larger than I have experienced elsewhere in the world.

Having referenced the personable side to doing business in the region, it was fitting that we journeyed by rail. Travelling at such colossal speeds was similar to being on a plane but there is something more civil about train travel. It is a common mode of transport featured on travel programmes, as we’ve all seen, and it’s no coincidence that learning how to say ‘Where is the station?’ and ‘How much is a train ticket?’ are questions that always feature early in foreign language lessons. Trains are often an efficient way to travel, whilst submerging yourself in a local culture.

Talking of train stations and language lessons, I noted that all the signage at stations was in Chinese. It reminded me of the importance of addressing an audience and providing clarity of information, which is always something I’m mindful of when preparing literature and presentation slides for the Asian market.

The next stop was Shanghai, where we visited the Shanghai Salvage Bureau with GLE to present our new catalogue. They already use many Straightpoint Radiolink Plus load cells and it was rewarding to reinforce their knowledge of our equipment with a training session with their local sales team.

Later that week I met with a very good friend of mine, Julie Zhu, who is CEO of Kyloweigh Inc. She took me on another river trip on the Shanghai Bund. There was no match for the awe inspiring Hong Kong skyline of earlier in the trip but the voyage incorporated a visit to a brewery where I tried one of the best beers I have ever tasted, so I settled for that!

Jian Feng were my next appointment where Candy Lee was my host as we looked at their latest products. They had a range of shackles and slings in stock and it was enjoyable to spend time with Candy and get to touch and feel the equipment. My standout memory will be the spotlessly clean factory and superb layout. We try to be as efficient and clean as possible at Havant headquarters but there are always lessons to be learnt from visiting other facilities.

Too many to mention!

So many companies and fantastic lifting professionals featured in my notes this month and I can’t name them all, but I want to highlight one more—Promat (HK) Ltd, who showed great interest in our new catalogue and extended typically warm and friendly Asian hospitality.

My month concluded in Singapore and Sri Lanka, where we exhibited at the inaugural LEEA Lifting & Rigging Conference Asia and then the Premier Industrial Exhibition & Trade Fair (INCO) respectively. More on both next month as I’m conscious this has been a lengthy entry, but it’s worth saying what a great job LEEA did of launching a new conference-exhibition.

And, by way of a Stop Press, I was invited as a special guest to the opening ceremony of the final day of INCO, which was covered on ITN Sri Lanka TV. Transport Minister Champika Ranawaka was a special guest and stopped by the Straightpoint stand. What an honour!

Heading to Japan next where I’ll catch up with RUD Lifting Japan, who are showing our products at entertainment show Content Tokyo 2015 at Tokyo Big Sight.

Thank you for reading. Keep following us on Twitter—@LoadCell

Mr Loadlink