This sale was Lawford’s to lose. Lawford Electric Company’s ongoing, 8-year relationship with Bayfield Milling Company, coupled with the geographic proximity of the two businesses, gave them a competitive advantage upon which they were unable to capitalize. The price tag of the drive system for which Lawford prepared a competitive bid represented more than 17 years of Bayfield’s average annual purchases from Lawford.¹ Sales engineer Robert Allen’s approach was simplistic and his notes suggest an assumption that the $871,000 sale would be a slam dunk, largely due to the factors mentioned in the opening paragraph. Each of the three sentences which comprise Allen’s strategy reveals a flawed perception of his role. His strategy was centered only on key decision makers and his priorities were 1) emphasizing benefits and 2) “influencing the final specs” (pg. 3), rather than utilizing an inquisitive, collaborative approach to gain a genuine understanding of customer needs.
Allen bombarded his contacts at Bayfield with specs, benefits, and pamphlets and regarded as trivial several potentially significant interactions. He made unfounded assumptions and, as a result of his focus on influencing the process, missed opportunities to explore and adequately address customer concerns.² In addition, the number and frequency of calls and visits made by Allen to Bayfield seem relatively low considering the size of the contract. Lawford Electric did not win this contract because they lacked sufficient information to provide an ideal solution.
Lawford Electric must ensure that its sales force has the training and support necessary to close sales using an approach whereby customer needs are fully explored.
Adoption of this strategy is to maintain the status quo at Lawford Electric.
Elevate, Collaborate, and Evaluate
Adoption of this strategy would see Lawford Electric “sharpen the saw”, i.e. provide training which would elevate the sales skills of its managers and sales force. Management and sales personnel would periodically analyze journal entries and perform collaborative, qualitative assessment of salespersons’ strategies, tactics, and results.
Adoption of this strategy would have Lawford Electric relieve Robert Allen and/or Fred Webster of their employment for letting this sale slip through their fingers. Choice
Elevate, Collaborate, and Evaluate
This is the best option because it is most likely to improve Lawford’s sales process, improve customer relationships, and increase sales. Benefits of this approach include the sharing of knowledge gained from collaborative analysis and the lessening of likelihood that costly missteps will be repeated.
1. Research and schedule sales training for staff.
Estimated Time of Completion (ETC) 2 weeks
2. Schedule monthly meetings with each salesperson to discuss activity, providing for higher frequency of meetings for high-ticket bids or otherwise abnormal situations. ETC 2 days
3. A. Select sample of past cases from sales team.
ETC After sales training
B. Dissect and analyze 1 sample case
ETC 1 week
C. Disseminate findings to all employees of Lawford Electric. ETC 3 days
D. Repeat with another case
Lawford Electric’s customer relationships and long-term revenue had likely been suffering as a direct result of the approach used in this case. Going forward, a focus on understanding customer needs will be integral to their success.
1. Bayfield’s “annual purchases from Lawford occasionally totaled as much as $50,000”. Proposed price of system: $871,000. 871,000/50,000 = 17.42
2. Examples include:
1.13.78 – Allen assumed that Gibson’s “pretty hard-nosed” comment pertained to cost. It is noted on 11.13.78 that Lorenz, “it turned out, was a stickler for attention to small details.”
3.14.78 –Upon learning of the Bayfield engineers’ downtime, Allen may have used this as a chance to gain access to them. The original reason given for their unavailability, on 1.13.78, was that they were busy working on problems with the new line.
5.30.78 – “Good-naturedly” dismissed an issue brought to his attention by the foreman regarding instability of a Lawford regulator. This represents a lost opportunity to create goodwill by discussing and working to address the issue.
7.17.78 – The last two sentences of this entry are potentially dangerous. Here, Allen made . 9.20.78 – He notes that Lorenz “asked very few additional questions” and “seemed sold on the Lawford benefits.” A lack of questions often indicates a lack of interest. The lack of questions is especially curious in this case, where the myriad technical details would seem to generate several questions and/or topics of discussion. 11.13.78 – Allen finds out that Lorenz is “a stickler for attention to small details,” which contradicts his earlier assumption that cost was paramount.