As a sales professional or business leader, how do you plan to tap into the energy industry? As a sales coach, there are three key lessons I have learned in working with clients who have successfully penetrated this market.
Know what’s unique
Knowing the ins and outs of the shale gas industry is key. It isn’t necessary to understand the nuances of the technology used for drilling, unless that’s what you sell. There’s no other industry like this in the region — some of the largest companies in the world dominate the business. They are parachuting into the region, bringing their own culture and often, suppliers. So pay attention to differences: a regional or home office may have different challenges. Thoughtful and deliberate questioning will reveal a lot.
Mike Pijar, former CEO of Tank Services based in Canton, OH, has had 30 years of business success due in part to thoughtful questioning which helps him identify what potential clients want and whether or not they are buying out of need. And, once he’s secured a new client, he makes it a point to out-perform because as he states, “there are plenty of other businesses ready to take over if you don’t.”
As you develop relationships, look beyond staff working here. Remember most of the companies have headquarters hundreds or thousands of miles away. Get to know people involved across multiple locations. Remember that your best chance of success is more about relationships you’ve built than with selling the perceived best or least expensive product.
Building relationships takes time. Buyers in the shale gas industry are continually bombarded by sales people, job seekers and others. This is a long-term play. More companies will be coming as the business shifts from exploration to drilling and now, to transportation. Don’t fall prey to the hype — yes, these are big companies, there’s a lot of money. Don't let that cause you to lose sight of what got you to where you are.
Differentiating yourself from competitors and taking a proactive approach will increase your chances of penetrating this industry in the long run. John LaCarte, President of Model Uniforms, has differentiated his business by being proactive in selling his ability to control large inventories up front, an important factor for many growing businesses.
Most importantly, get to know the ins and outs of the industry and those involved to demonstrate your readiness to work with these companies. Some businesses have had success opening up special divisions or creating products to specifically focus on the demands of the shale gas industry. Model Uniforms adopted this strategy by opening up a “fracware” division, which grew so quickly they were forced to go to market with the product along with a dedicated team.
Our clients’ experiences prove that patience, persistence, creativity and a willingness to be different will pay off in the end.