How product managers prepare Thanksgiving dinner

International Sales Management and Technology

Bachelor of Engineering

International Sales Management and Technology - Bachelor of Engineering

Working day of a sales engineer

Monday, 8.00 a.m. Start the computer, get coffee, empty the mailbox. A few more emails came in over the weekend - there are probably customers who are always working. But there are also some interesting inquiries: a customer is looking for a supplier for special screws with high strength and high corrosion protection, exactly what we have developed over the last year. Another has a problem with the last shipment. I have to go to the quality department to see if we have the complaint under control.

9.00 a.m. Informal coffee break. Here you meet briefly and exchange ideas. There is nothing like the collegial flow of information on important and less important topics. Apparently there is a new travel expense report due to changed legal requirements. Funny that everything is becoming more and more complex and never easier, you could really save a lot of time and work here.

9.10h. I'm going to quality management for a moment. The colleagues have received the complaint and the check is ongoing. What could have gone wrong? Together with the quality manager, we go into production and talk to the foremen about the various production steps. Apparently the raw material does not meet the specification. Here the ball falls back to quality management, as they have to ensure that this error is ruled out.

9.40 a.m. My calendar says: Prepare offer for customer X. Where is the drawing? Where is our cost estimate? A short call to production planning, the processing of the request is confirmed for the early afternoon. A quick look at the calendar: it fits, there is not much on the agenda in the afternoon.

10.00h. Weekly meeting on current topics and brief processing of the topics from last week under the chairmanship of the managing director. This is always a bit critical, because often not all topics could be dealt with and you don't want to be naked in front of your colleagues.

10.45 a.m. I finally get one of my most important customers on the phone. Our offer from last week is in the decision-making phase and we are going through the important points again. Apparently we are doing well and we can expect a bigger order. It pays off that we started development work three years ago based on customer comments. At the moment only we can offer this solution and that gives us an advantage in the market as our solution saves the customer a lot of money.

11.10h. I have to plan my trip to Bologna on Thursday. We are in the process of getting an Italian customer enthusiastic about our product. Given the needs that this customer has, that would be a whopping increase in sales with a good profit expectation. I want to take the plane on Wednesday, then I can go to dinner with the technical manager in advance, put out my feelers and take some information with me. Bologna has many excellent restaurants, let's see which one can be easily reached from the hotel. The return flight is on Thursday afternoon - when it comes to commercial matters, the conversations often don't last that long and I can be fully productive at work again on Friday. I don't need to book a car for Bologna with its limited city traffic and chronic lack of parking spaces, taxis are much more sensible and easier.

11.15 a.m. A phone call tears me out of my planning. A colleague has a similar use case as I did two weeks ago. He wants to know what exactly the customer asked and what convinced him to hire us. Brief immersion in our arsenal of arguments and then good luck with his negotiation!

11.45 a.m. Still not finished planning my trip, because now the phone rings in one go and one colleague after another keeps coming in and asking for information on various topics. Hopefully it will be quieter during the lunch break, otherwise I'll have to walk to Bologna and sleep under the bridge.

11.55h. The afternoon offer is on my table. Just take a quick look. The stated costs are completely utopian and cannot be negotiated. I have to look in detail to see why that is and connect with my colleagues.

12.15 p.m. Lunch with colleagues from sales. My counterpart has just returned from Brazil. He has a good chance of getting a very lucrative job there. He tells how everyday life is in this currently somewhat troubled country. His motto is: take a look, it won't be that bad. He's well off, he can set an appointment for Carnival and then watch the famous Carnival in Rio. I'm jealous! What is Thanksgiving in my USA against it.

2 p.m. The excessive costs of the offer have been cleared up, firstly, a number shift was involved and secondly, we were able to save some work steps. Manufacturing has planned too much security here - it doesn't have to be. With a new handling device, we can work much faster with greater production reliability. Now I can finish my offer, we are competitive.

14.05h. Instead of working on my offer, I sit with the boss. He is satisfied with my work in the USA and would like to expand my sphere of activity. He was recently in China and Japan and would also like to give me the area as a sales region. For me, however, that means that I get calls from Asia from five o'clock in the morning and that I still call my customers from the USA until 10:00 in the evening.

That can't really be brought together and the boss has some understanding. Although of course I want to show my boss that I am ready for action, the suggestion can only mean that neither of the two regions is being properly looked after. We agree that I will take over Asia on a temporary basis and we are looking for a new employee who will then devote himself to Asia in detail.

3.30 p.m. After what feels like the tenth call, I finally reach a customer in Spain. Here the boss buys personally and he is of course difficult to reach. He has a pretty low asking price and I have to decide whether it's worth pursuing this business and perhaps convincing him through a face-to-face interview. I think I'll go there next week. There are very cheap flights to Valencia and from there it is only two hours to the customer. There in the morning, back in the evening. It would be laughable if it didn't work out!

15.42h. Now the meltdown has occurred, the biggest accident that can be assumed. Our super customer, with whom we make about 25% of our sales, puts the gun on our chest. The new management there wants to save costs and gives us the choice of either reducing prices by 20% or relocating the entire order package to the competition. That can hit us very hard, because with the requested discount we cannot cover our costs and the alternative of losing the contract is no better either.

15.45h. The sales management canceled all appointments and called an urgent meeting. How do we deal with the customer's request? Embarrassed faces around me, how do we get the cow off the ice? My suggestion: check the requirement for realism. Can the competition even do this at this price? Even competition has to buy material, has to pay wages and has energy costs and machine depreciation. The boss calls the buyer and production management to the meeting. It quickly becomes clear that the demand can hardly be realistic. The possible competitors are known and the customer would not buy from us if we were not attractively priced. The following principle is probably used here: Asking a lot in order to receive at least something. The colleague who looks after the customer now has the critical task of finding out how the customer can be satisfied again without giving too many discounts and, on the other hand, not losing face. But my colleague is experienced and will bring that to a dry sheet.

16.50h. The offer is waiting on my table. Now it's getting quieter, the colleagues from production and technology have already left the house, but they also start at 6.30am. Now I have to look through all the emails again and collect what exactly the customer wanted and what conditions he set. The individual cost items are transferred in detail to his offer form so that he can better compare the different offers. Actually, I'm doing something with it that harms me - as a supplier you don't want to be comparable, but this is the customer's requirement and anyone who does not meet the requirements here will not be taken into account when awarding the contract. I've got used to this transparency and know a few tricks that help us look positive. Let's see how this round ends.

17.45h. In fact, I have been able to work undisturbed for almost an hour and now I have my procedures in order. Now just put together the offer, make sure that nothing is forgotten and that no errors occur. Exactly at 6:22 p.m. I press the “Send” button in Outlook and the offer is sent to the customer.

Now home and I can still mow the lawn. But what about planning your trip to Bologna? If I postpone that until tomorrow, the airfares will be more expensive or I may no longer be able to fly. So quickly booked the hotel and flight on the Internet, prepare the travel application and send it to my boss so that everything runs smoothly. The travel expense report from last week still has to do something, because I should be slowly going home.

18.35h. For once, I leave the office very early. Tomorrow evening there will be an interesting lecture from the neighboring university on the market development in the USA under the current protectionist tendencies of the government there. I should listen to that. Then the motorcycle tour will be postponed until next week, because on Wednesday I wanted to be on the plane. Well, today everything went smoothly and it was a rather quiet day. Tomorrow it will be lively again.