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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 Full SP…

Let the marketplace become your sales force, says Mr. Loadlink upon his return from Asian peregrination.

sp logoThere have been two stages to the SP revolution. First, industry started to refer to SP Radiolink pluses and SP Wireless Loadshackles etc.; now, many engineers are driving the brand towards synonymity with all requirements for force measurement, load monitoring and suspended weighing load cell technology, regardless of the specific product required.

“You’ll need an SP for that,” she said, looking at the job spec requirements to perform load tests on a 400t capacity deck crane aboard a vessel. This particular engineer, like many of her peers the world over, simply identified a need for a low headroom load cell and knew Straightpoint could provide the solution. In a completely unrelated email I received recently, the same assumption was made: “Can you help me source an SP package to measure this load before we order the crane?” it read.

Family values

It’s a heady status that the whole Straightpoint family has been working towards for many years, in earnest since we launched the new ‘SP’ logo, say, five years ago. Yet the marketplace is driving it; they’ve become our sales force.

We’re not getting ahead of ourselves and it certainly doesn’t represent the completion of any journeys—only another milestone—but it’s something we’re extremely proud of. Where Tannoy might be used to describe a public address system, or one might buy a Coke neglectful of the brand of fizzy drink available before Hoovering the carpet, SP will one day be used just as ubiquitously in the rigging industry.

Consider that there will always be more weighing requirements than there are Straightpoint personnel or distributors, and think how powerful ‘SP’ could become. As such, I thought it prudent to share in brief the four main reasons, in no particular order, why this evolution has taken place, in the hope readers might be able to apply similar strategy to their own businesses. Remember, our starting point can be likened to many other companies; we started off small in a market with a number of much larger competitors.

  1. Quality

Engineers don’t give compliments easily. They understand materials, structures and systems as they relate to their fields of expertise. They identify problems and set about finding solutions. Thus, only by providing a world-class product, backed by a dedicated distributor network, has SP become associated with the positive impact it can have on an industry, jobsite or application. Ironically, it takes an incredibly reliable and efficient product to achieve secondary status to a brand.

  1. Diversity

It’s taken constant diversification and enhancement of the SP range to differentiate us from alternative solution providers. As our new Clamp On Line Tensionmeter (COLT), specifically targeted at the plumb and tension market, proves, we can tailor solutions for end user marketplaces. Of course, the National Association of Tower Erectors (NATE) community—we launched the product at their event—isn’t shouting about SP from the rooftops yet, but it is getting its first taste of the comprehensive range of equipment that provides solutions for such varied applications.

The engineer referenced at the outset wouldn’t have said, “You’ll need an SP for that,” unless she trusted the brand to cater for all application nuances. She’d have said, “We need to find a load cell supplier that can work with these headroom restrictions.”

  1. Marketing

Visibility and consistency of marketing message has given the marketplace faith that we are sincere about our endeavours to make the lifting industry a safer place. Backed by a simple but effective and recognisable logo, we have associated the SP concept with a commitment to make a positive difference to the way industries across the world use cranes and other equipment. Through non-commercial blogs, press releases, advertisements, social media, trade shows and more, we’ve been authentic and ever-present.

  1. Internationalisation

SP means the same in any language. It’s easy and fast to say, meaning non-English speaking distributors and their customers have been particularly keen to adopt the abbreviation. The effectiveness of our product in meeting local requirements has also endeared us to different geographies. Regulations are different in the UK, Australia, China and the Middle East, but we have ensured our range can be used everywhere. SP would never have caught on if it only provided a solution in certain industries or regions.

Rising in the East

The evolution of Straightpoint to the point where SP has become a solution in its own right was particularly apparent during a recent trip that saw me visit the Middle East, Korea, Malaysia and Indonesia in quick succession.

First, I was honoured to be a guest of Gaylin International and Rigmarine (part of the Gaylin Group) in Dubai, where I was among a select group of manufacturers—Modulift, William Hackett and Samson Rope were also there—invited to network and give a presentation to representatives from 10 locations around the world. I’m grateful to Mike Duncan, managing director of Gaylin, for the opportunity, which I also used to spend some time with the company’s CEO, Desmond Teo and his team.

From the Middle East, I flew out to visit Borneo-based lifting and rigging equipment supplier Leyden Engineering Services, which is based in Labuan, a territory of Malaysia off the coast in East Malaysia. There, I conducted training and participated in meetings with the company’s founder, Anthony Ho; his son, Chiang Seng Ho; and other representatives, all of whom spoke highly of the “SP” range.

As an aside, it was interesting to visit a local museum to learn of the region’s history and, in particular, the importance of coal during British colonisation. I’ve blogged before about the area’s stunning seafood!

In between activity with Leyden I visited a local museum. This plaque reads, ‘Here, on the 10th September, 1945, the commander of the 9th Division, Australian Imperial Forces, received the surrender of the 37th Japanese Army in North Borneo’.

In between activity with Leyden I visited a local museum. This plaque reads, ‘Here, on the 10th September, 1945, the commander of the 9th Division, Australian Imperial Forces, received the surrender of the 37th Japanese Army in North Borneo’.

Next stop was Batam, Indonesia, home to PT Rigspek Perkasa, a distributor across a key region of Southeast Asia and Oceania, where Erald Bangapadang was a fantastic host. It was interesting to note synergies between his company and Leyden, who both see a lot of potential for the SP COLT and wireless compression load cells. Driving demand for the latter is local customers increasingly seeing the importance of getting information about loads before sourcing lifting equipment or instructing a lift. As Asia and the US catch up with Europe in terms of pre-lift preparation, the future for these load cells is exciting.


In other news, we completed a record first quarter and have recruited industry stalwart Mike Neal as project sales engineer. He will utilise over three decades of relevant experience to primarily focus on promoting the company’s range of non-standard products. As I said in a press release, we want to increase our conversion rate on non-standard products to somewhere close to that of our standard range. He was actually my sales manager many years ago and we have kept in touch since; it’s great to have him on board.

There was one more announcement to make but I might save it until next month as Dean Nelson, managing director of Melbourne, Australia’s Hoisting Equipment Specialist (Vic) Pty Ltd is about to arrive and he’s had a long journey. Watch this space!

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

Mr. Loadlink