Mason, one of the members of the community did send us his testimony of his work experience in a surge protection devices company. According to Mason, the industry spends a lot of time putting the competitors down. Will you agree with his point of view and the 6 lessons he’s learned from this experience?
Over the past year I’ve been in charge of updating our company’s boiler plate specification for surge protection devices (SPDs) also called Transient voltage surge suppressors (TVSS). Meeting with several product reps it became very difficult to separate the sales hype from the important facts.
Additionally, I was really turned off by the vendors themselves. While it is standard practice for a company to differentiate itself from its competitors by their features, it is rare that the competition is explicitly named.
The SPD industry took it one step further as the reps actively discredited their competitor’s products going so far as to point out failings and misdirection in their competitors literature while handing off their own. It seemed they spent as much, if not more time, putting the competitors down. This negative tactic left such a negative taste in my mouth I dreaded having the discussions and meetings.
6 lessons I’ve learned from this experience
With this in mind I pass along several of the lessons learned and tricks I used to separate the chaff from the wheat for the technical aspects as well as some of the interpersonal skills it took in hopes that you’ll find some of them applicable to situations you may face.
1) First, don’t let them bring you down with them. I found myself taking the opportunity to use their negative comments as an excuse to gripe about other off task topics. This wasted energy but also wasted time.
2) In a related way take the personal relationship out of it. Sales personnel should be personable, likable, and provide sales support when you need it. That doesn’t mean you can’t say no. Remind yourself that they always want your money do while they may be disappointed in being cut out now, or taking a path they don’t agree with they’ll be happy to come around to revisit it in the future as they always want your business.
3) When it comes to reviewing the materials ask yourself what your bidding environment is. As our projects are public bid we can’t have any features which would effectively limit the product to any one item but most manufacturer specifications are written so no one else can meet them. If you are using provided specifications as a resource make sure to ask them to identify what is unique.
4) Hand in hand with elimination of unique properties is the comparison of several specifications and product sheets for similar features. Use the commonalities to build your spec and identify the industry standards.
5) Take the time to educate yourself outside of any meetings. There is a convenience to having vendors/reps on site with “lunch and learns.” It’s easier to schedule a meeting than scheduling time to focus to the tasks which doesn’t lead to a bottom line. However continuing education is part of all engineering so consult white papers, textbooks, even Wikipedia.
6) Finally, take a break between iterations. Specifications are ever evolving documents and large construction time between projects is slow. From predesigned to final completion it can be years so in this perspective taking a break to revisit in a year doesn’t seem so harsh. You’ve established a good basis for the current projects, in a year you can revisit and refine.
Those were my advices to make the best of the worst. What about you? Have you ever worked in a company which spent more time putting the competitors down? How did you feel about it?