What separates lab gas suppliers from each other? What are the expectations of their customers and what is the most valuable item that can be delivered - SERVICE!
The need to stay ahead in the gas industry has never been as important as it is today. There are gas distributor sales people in the field every minute of every day selling hard and offering products to each others customers.
Advanced services are the key to opening the door to new business. Anyone can sell on price but nobody wins. The gas distributor that slashes gas pricing to get in the door can often not support his promises to the customer due to a lack of margin to conduct business. In the end the distributor loses and the customer suffers. New services, advanced services, novel ideas that enhance a presentation and truly benefit the customer is where you separate the men from the boys.
Example: Gas distributors that sell cryogenic freezers are a dime a dozen. All sales are based on price and the low man gets the sale. Sound familiar? Now, consider a gas distributor that not only provides the sale at a "competitive price" but can offer a "Preventative Maintenance Program" for the freezer with full time, factory trained staff that can respond to service issues within 24 hrs? Getting interesting? Now add a 1 year PM program, uncrating and initial set up as part of the sale and you have a nice package. This is an example of "advanced service". I recently signed a 7 year agreement to provide gases and service to a MA company based on the ability to provide service to their cryogenic freezers on a 24 hr. basis. That was a handsome $300,000.00 in sales.
Bar Coding of cylinders / Many gas distributors barcode cylinders but many only barcode a portion of their inventory of cylinders. How useful is that to the customer when they want an inventory of cylinders on site? It is inaccurate at best. Cylinder barcode systems come in many shapes and forms, many are package systems that can be purchased off the shelf. What separates a shelf system from a superior system is the ability to print custom reports that serve the customer and provide an accurate count of all cylinders on site.
I find that large accounts with multiple departments or divisions and considerable cylinder inventories depend heavily on a custom designed cylinder barcode system that includes the gas distributors entire inventory of cylinders and dewars.
I have recently acquired a high profile account in the center of Cambridge MA, with a significant inventory of Liquid Nitrogen dewars and high pressure specialty/rare gas cylinders based solely on our ability to deliver an accurate cylinder inventory barcode sheet for each department within minutes of a request. The system is capable of delivering customized inventory reports to suit the customers needs. The key is "custom designed" to perform better and faster than the competition. We were not the least expensive supplier in the bid process for this customer, we were the preferred supplier. $300,000.00 in sales was added due to our advanced barcode system.
Advanced service capabilities / Selling specialty/rare gas equipment usually means several steps for the customer.
Now, lets lighten the customers load and deliver a quote for the equipment that includes one stop shopping. Include the equipment, the installation, permitting, testing, calibration and a guarantee that the equipment will perform as promised. Now enhance the proposal with a "Preventative Maintenance Program" for the equipment sold. This reflects a very nice package free of hassles and a serious time saver for the customer. That's service!
I was involved in a bid process at two large manufacturing plants in MA in the last quarter of 06 and the bid dragged on and on for weeks. Knowing that equipment pricing could not be held any longer and the process would have to be repeated, the customer awarded the business to the company that had the all inclusive quote. The all inclusive quotes secured approximately $440,000.00 in new business.
Adding over $1,000,000.00 in new business was accomplished by "selling the service". Anyone can sell a product but it is the service the customer is looking to buy. Service has become a rare commodity and rare things are valuable.