SGS Custom Designs Sales Processes that Help NACS Engineer Profitable Growth.
NACS, Inc. designs and builds custom automation equipment for manufacturers, including many Fortune 500 companies and a significant medical device niche. From basic fixtures to turnkey robotic systems, the company’s comprehensive services include conceptualization, design, proprietary manufacturing, integration and field support.
- Revenue has doubled in two years and is expected to double again over the next 3 years.
- Processes help sales people better manage proposals/quotations and deliver higher quality presentations that have resulted in some huge wins, including a $2.8 million project.
- Qualification and quotation criteria have boosted closed sales by nearly 50%.
- Average project revenue jumped by nearly 50%.
- A closely managed pipeline now provides accurate information for making better management decisions.
The CEO’s Perspective
For two years, NACS, Inc. President Bill Doty experimented with ideas he gleaned from SGS’ monthly eletters and a presentation that Principal Danita Bye gave at a Minnesota Technology seminar. And while he had a modicum of success, Doty realized that he needed SGS’ direct help to achieve the changes that would drive the company’s growth.
He explains the situation that needed resolution. “We were chasing too many opportunities we shouldn’t have — poorly qualified projects, many of which the prospect was simply fishing for numbers. These were situations where we were dealing with the wrong people who were not intelligent about automation projects. There were some that were underfunded and didn’t have the resources to support sophisticated technology. And there were those that would not likely provide an annuity of future opportunities. We were rarely controlling the sales process, quoted just about everything, and tracked very little. Plus, our growth had made the quoting process and logistics very challenging, involving more expensive resources that were loosely managed. Cyclical peaks and valleys further added to the complexity of managing the business.”
Disciplined Processes Help Engineer Become a Great Sales Manager
Having been impressed with SGS’ core concepts of discipline and process, Doty contacted Danita to take a more aggressive approach to solving NACS’ issues. He also looked to Danita for help with due diligence in hiring a director of sales, because he knew that a bad hire would be a costly mistake. In fact, they searched for a year for a sales manager that met the critical characteristic criteria Danita identified before Doty’s Partner and Vice President Todd Olson decided he wanted to take on sales management responsibility.
“Who would have thought that a great engineer would also make a great sales manager?” Doty asks. “But Todd’s penchant for procedures allowed him to envision how to integrate sales management best practices into our culture. And with SGS’ leadership coaching and mentoring, he has really taken our sales organization to a higher performing level that has grown revenue way ahead of plan.”
The processes, analysis, metrics, and methods that Danita introduced NACS to are the foundation of the success the company continues to build on. Doty explains that establishing hardcore criteria for placing projects in the pipeline and creating quotes has cut NACS sales costs. “We’ve stopped spinning our wheels. We’re quoting only projects that have been properly screened. We’re not chasing projects that aren’t ready for our involvement. As a result, the sales team feels more empowered by addressing the projects that have the most likelihood to result in an order. And, we’re finding the right buyer. We no longer feel like victims — spending way too much time quoting and giving away valuable information without results. We are confidently vying for larger projects and recently won a 2.8 million – dollar project. We’re also getting better at developing associate relationships within our client companies’ multiple divisions.”
Better Communication with Customers, Prospects and NACS Team
The entire management team is stronger as a result of feedback from the evaluations they took as well. Says Doty, “The information we now have about our personal operational styles, motivational factors, and communication preferences has helped us work better with each other and our reports. We’re a far better team.”
Doty admits that his experience with SGS is contrary to other consulting firms NACS has engaged. “We’ve been disappointed a few times. When they disappear after telling us what we should do, we felt cheated, having seen no results. SGS has restored our faith that a consultant’s expertise and perspective can make a difference. Danita’s all about ideas, implementation, reinforcement and results. As a vendor, we pride ourselves on the quality, service, professionalism, and integrity we provide our customers. And it’s important to us to work with vendors whose values align with ours. Like us, Danita does what she says she’ll do.”
Sales Leadership’s Perspective
It was a 180 – degree role change for Vice President and NACS Partner Todd Olson when he stepped into the company’s sales management role. “I was breathing it, but not living it,” he explains. “I was used to participating in a sale at the end, brought in to add credibility. The only management experience I had was overseeing the engineering staff, and I needed enlightenment about how to run a sales staff.”
Danita’s coaching and mentoring helped Todd overcome the challenges he faced in his new role — those involving personality and those dealing with processes. “It was no surprise to learn that I’m very analytical, like most good engineers,” says Olson. “But to be a good sales person as well as an effective sales manager, I needed to communicate more effectively. Even more specifically, I had to make a very conscious effort to listen. Danita recommended I make a tick mark each time I felt the urge to interrupt or offer my own thoughts before I got the whole story from either a prospect or my staff. That was a real eye-opener. I carry that visual of all those marks with me. Danita also worked with me on adjusting my communication and management styles to more effectively work with different types of personalities. This has been a tremendous help in interaction with staff, customers and prospects.”
The sales processes that SGS introduced Todd to and helped him integrate into the company’s culture have transformed their sales efforts into a precise, sophisticated program.
Leveraging SGS’ principles, Olson has tightened the sales operation and injected accountability throughout the entire company. He explains, “We now have processes that take us from RFQ to closing, including subsystems like entering a potential project into the system and dealing with individual prospects. We’re focused on virus selling — penetrating our customers’ organizations — now that we understand how to recognize valid opportunities.”
Accountability and Metrics
NACS now has a focused sales department that is holding regular meetings, tracking numerous metrics and attending regular sales training sessions. “We have checklists for everything — from criteria that must be met before quoting a project to topics covered in monthly and quarterly meetings with each sales person,” says Olson. “Every quarter, I close the loop with each sales person about where they are with the all the projects they have in the system. At each weekly sales meeting, we look at a piece of the sales process, share experiences, and examine how we can strengthen each step. It’s all about drilling down and eliminating the FAT words to get to the heart of a prospect’s potential. I’m making joint sales calls with each sales person, so I can coach them as well.”
The icing on Olson’s sales management cake is the metrics he tracks. “It’s these reports that really bring it all together visually ,” he explains. “Previously, everyone had their own reporting forms, so we really couldn’t get our arms around the pipeline and where we stood in terms of not only sales, but the allocation of resources for projects coming down the pipe. Now we’re tracking key indicators that help us manage the business. For instance, monthly and year-to-date revenue performance against plan and the volume/value of quotations for each sales person alert us to potential valleys, make better business decisions, and focus my coaching efforts on those who are falling short of their goals.”
The processes that SGS helped NACS implement in just two years have already helped the company double revenues. As the company continues to strengthen and expand these processes, Olson forecasts, “We plan to double revenues over the next 3 years, building our contract manufacturing business on this bedrock of processes and discipline .”