Do you like to be sold to? You might say, “It depends what we are talking about,” but I think not many people like to be “sold” to. What we really want and need is a sufficient amount of helpful and useful information in order to make our own decisions.
I’ve been a marketer for Hallam-ICS, a highly technical B2B service provider, for over 22 years, which is nearly two thirds of the entire time the company has been in existence. There have been only a few full time sales guys that came and went relatively quickly, whether on their own or otherwise. We never established a formal sales department. You would imagine a multi-million dollar service firm ought to have it in place, so why not at Hallam-ICS? And more importantly, how did the company manage to grow and thrive without it?
We All Do Sales And Networking And Meetings…
First, all of the leading technical personnel at Hallam-ICS do sales. However, that’s not a revolutionary approach and in many companies it’s expected from their top people. Second, the traditional Hallam approach is to network with their clients. Again, nothing new here, lots of companies do that. Though at Hallam-ICS there aren’t many formal or informal networking events hosted. We participate in several trade shows across the country and take advantage of the networking opportunities there, but still, trade shows alone will not support a business like Hallam.
The Secret Sauce
It turns out, at least in our case, providing helpful, useful and timely information to our clients on how they could solve their problems is the secret formula. A lot of companies talk about client experience and that they are all about their clients’ needs, yet the oh-so-typical approach is to sell to that client: sell your services, sell your approach and try to put in words why your company is the best. All noble approaches if your goal is to “sell” to the clients.
Hallam’s approach is to be there for the clients – building trust and relationships. When a leading engineer does the project and communicates with the client on their needs, present or future, that’s the information a client can really use.
A Hallam engineer doesn’t say “yes, we put three MBE tools in a lab.” He say “yes, we finished a job last year with oxide MBE tools (a GenXplorer, a 930 and Gen Ten), in addition to the tools, we added a liquid nitrogen delivery system with phase separator, two process cooling loops and an 80 kW UPS system.” Bringing parallels of the similar project to the client’s project makes it possible for the client to see what else can be done and how to make his project move forward quicker.
Being There For Clients
The “being there for the client” comes through when clients hear our engineers talking about the project’s equipment or systems contractors as “my pump” or “our contractor” – they are putting themselves mentally as an owner. It’s not about “what we can do for you” but more about “what we can accomplish together.” This mostly stems from how many Hallam engineers and specialists think about themselves as engineers first, second and third. Not a project manager or account executive; engineer first and always. As a result, when working with clients who are of the same ilk, they can establish a relationship and mutual respect that is not forced. Engineers working with engineers - they understand each other.
Looking Out For Clients
Looking out for the client’s interests when producing smart designs or “shopping around” for the best fitting technology are all testaments to the way Hallam deeply cares for the clients even before the project is started. A few years ago one of our control system specialists, Jamie Godbout, got a call on a Saturday afternoon from a company he met on a sales visit. They needed help right away as their network went down and their mission-critical production was in jeopardy. That company manufactures life-saving nutritional foods for children at high risk of death from starvation. Without hesitation, Jamie got to work resolving the issue remotely. As it turned out, he managed to save 1,500 children’s lives who would’ve been lost as the result of the downed production lines. You can read more about in his story here [Jamie’s My Hallam story].
Building relationships, trust and delivering top-notch experience are the reasons why Hallam shares their extensive body of knowledge on and off-line. No nickel and dime for the information, but to support the fact that we do know how to solve a problem and put the client’s mind at ease and take some stress out of the project.
Many companies pride themselves on excelling in that department, but often fall short on a project that lasts a while. Hallam customer service rests on responsiveness and willingness to “make it happen, no matter what.” Since we work with real people who share what we do, we feel that we can’t let them down. They are the plant managers, directors of engineering and safety directors who need our service. To them “customer service” is so much more than a fast turn-around time or polite staff. It is about thinking ahead and guiding the project path. When one of our toxic gas monitoring experts comes in to a brand new lab space and says some choice words about a seemingly perfect facility, he already noticed and anticipated problems that other designers didn’t include in their work; they didn’t think or were unable to predict all of the “what if’s” the client needs to know. It’s this desire to build things and having the goal of seeing a physically completed project that drives Hallam people to find ways to help the client succeed. They measure their success by their client’s success. Being aligned in that way offers clients comfort in how Hallam will deal with their project.
Make it public
Not so long ago, Hallam-ICS decided to augment business development by rebuilding our online presence and taking advantage of Inbound marketing. It turned out to be a natural and seamless transition from doing all the things we were doing all along. We took our caring approach and splashed it online. By doing this, we offered our clients, present and future ones, useful and helpful information so that they can make their decisions. Quite often, a potential client will now call after he’d already collected all of the qualifying information he needed to make a decision. By glancing over the technical blogs, scanning the carefully written white papers and guides, he can get a sense of not only the expertise but attention to detail with which our engineers happily share their knowledge of system conversions, tool installation, specifications and design intricacies.
Show Your Culture
We open up a lot about our culture, our people and our values so that you don’t need a meeting to start getting a sense of who we are. In fact, we put all of our employees, photo and all, on our site. Though instead of the typical skills profile, we shared their stories of where they came from, how they arrived at working at Hallam-ICS – their truly personal experiences. Visitors to our site can get to know the people behind the technical titles and education degrees. Our People page gets significant traffic - engineers ARE interesting!
Put It All Together
In the beginning of my marketing career at Hallam, there were company brochures that contained what we do, but who we are was discovered during meetings and projects. Twenty years later, there are still brochures that our engineers leave with clients after meetings, but the true client care approach is now visible right away for all to see and experience. In his blog, our CEO, Keith Flaherty talked about time and timing of sales. Sales are very much part of our business, however, it’s the quality of information and truly caring about the client needs that allows Hallam-ICS to not have a large formal sales staff, because nobody likes to be “sold to.”
About the Author
Natasha has been with Hallam-ICS since 1995. She holds an M.S. Degree in Marketing from Southern New Hampshire University. From wordsmithing and color splashing to goofing off on social media she strives to add a human element to the highly technical world of engineering and controls.
Read My Hallam Story
Hallam-ICS is an engineering and automation company that designs MEP systems for facilities and plants, engineers control and automation solutions, and ensures safety and regulatory compliance through arc flash studies, commissioning, and validation. Our offices are located in Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, Vermont and North Carolina and our projects take us world-wide.