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3 minute read

Sales doesn’t have to be a dirty word says manufacturing chief

A lack of expert sales people coming through the ranks is the biggest problem facing West Midlands manufacturers according to the boss of PP Control & Automation.

David Fox, who has been involved in industry for more than 50 years, believes companies are not investing enough time and money into developing a strategy for selling and this, potentially, could do more damage than Brexit and the widely acknowledged skills gap.

The current Chairman and former engineering apprentice feels the role does not get the credit it deserves in this country and is urging more firms to follow his firm’s suit in developing processes that can help generate the right leads and sales.

Lack of expert sales people coming through the ranks / Picture: PPC&A

“It seems that the US is the only country in the world where it actually puts its ‘sales’ professionals on a pedestal…the rest of us prefer to tuck them away in the smallest possible office and, in recent years, bestow a whole new job title on them…Business Development Managers for instance,” explained David.

“I’m not buying into this magic formula that only a few have got it. Sales is more about getting the process right and making sure people get access to the right training and support.”

He continued: “Securing orders is the lifeblood of any business and without it a company can’t grow, invest in technology and employ and develop peoplethis is why we should make a concerted attempt to change perceptions and perhaps even look at developing some form of qualification for this profession.

“There has to be a joint approach, which industry can drive by lobbying Government and Academia to develop some form of formal training or, taking it one stage further, the launch of our own Sales Degree.”

David took over PP Control & Automation in 1979, when it was predominantly offering panel building services to a small customer base.

He recognised in 1993 that in order to succeed the firm needed to behave differently to its competitors and this started a 24-year journey of continuous improvement, embracing automation and giving every member of staff a personal development roadmap…the latter now stands at 200 hours training for each employee.

Huge sales growth in last 3 years / Picture: PPC&A

The company now employs 200 people and provides electrical control systems, cable harnesses and sub-contract manufacturing solutions to customers all over the globe.

“We also had a significant change in our sales approach in the mid to late nineties, starting really with our successful pursuit of a world number 1 machinery builder. This transformed our thinking as it proved we had an offer that would sell; we just needed to make sure we targeted the right people and embraced the very latest processes,” added David,

“I’m a firm believer of learning from the very best and that involved readings lots of sales books, the majority of which – unsurprisingly – were written by Americans. We get everyone in our sales team involved, almost like a book club you could say.

“Each person takes a section and then presents what they have learned to the rest of the group. Sales have gone up from £12m to £20m in three years so something must be working.”

David lists researching your customer before making the initial call as one of the most important bedrocks to the PP sales approach and then not assuming you know the answer to your customer’s requirements.

“Over the last year, this approach has seen us identify outsourcing solutions that has reduced 3-week build times to just four days and boosted production for another client so they can now make 12 machines every month instead of just 8.”

He concluded: “Sales doesn’t have to be a dirty word and it’s up to industry to ensure it isn’t. We can start by putting sales people on a pedestal for the first time.”

Chairman, David Fox / Picture: PPC&A