Should Principal Field Visits Be a Production?

by Stephen Fowler, President, PERCS

The old expression goes, “Don’t make a production out of this,” referring to the 1930s Busby Berkeley musical movies, when the centerpiece is a complicated, ornate dance routine, dominating the film, taking seemingly forever! Glitzy, showy, endless tapping and strutting — So don’t make a production number out of this, make it quick, keep it straightforward and simple. Always?

You should, in fact you must, make a production out of some key events because some don’t take care of themselves. Those times need the production values of excellent content, quality script, great participants, superior directing, and lots of post-filming work. The event demands it, and you demand it of yourself.

The concept: a visit by a principal (regional manager, VP or even president) in your territory, with your customer (large or small, trivial or hugely important to you) about one of these situations:

  • A high stakes introduction or long overdue get-together.
  • Business relationship problems (quality or delivery or billing).
  • Special purchase order opportunity.

What is the importance of maximizing value of joint field visits? A joint call with the potential of a “production” moment happens:

  • When your customer gets you and your commitment.
  • When your principal gets you and your business acumen.
  • When you get the importance of performing and acting as an outstanding leader.
  • When you apply discipline, focus and energy.

While a visit might appear simple or limited, quite the opposite is occurring: You organize and control; for you, chaos is not your normal business mode. You demonstrate clarity, knowing the events and situations precisely. You focus without distractions and with precision on the key features that make your company effective. You possess and demonstrate discipline and tenaciousness with regard to the process. Finally, you engage your organization, your principals, and your customers tirelessly.

The script can be controlled by the checklists: schedules, reservations, travel itineraries, who, what and when. You define the content. Yes, you think you know the why — but work on it. The agenda should be broad, yet specific and detailed. Keep it focused but expand the list as time is available. Do you and the factory clearly agree on the subject of the call and the objectives to be achieved? What is a success?

Remember, there are several interactions that will go on in the meeting: between yourself and your principal, between yourself and your customer, and conversely between your principal and your customer. Is it clear who is the lead in the meeting room? Are you aware and in the moment and leading it?

Stop and revisit all the facts and back stories about your principals and customer that have led to the event. You are conducting and negotiating the interests of your customer with those of the factory. It’s really not that simple. You have more at risk then handshakes and dinner. Maximizing the value of a joint visit makes you reacquaint yourself with all key issues and people in the mix — your business objectives, your salesmanship, your control of the ground of where your customer’s interests are. If you can do all of these, you’ll be a leader and a champion.

What are the rewards of a successful joint call? This is not about just meeting the specific objectives, but also creating a history for other principals and other customers, to know what you will do in order to make things successful. Who is the audience beyond the participants in the visit? None other than all your other principals as well as all your other customers: you set the standard for professionalism and success. You create and become an outstanding organization.

Am I making a production out of this? Not if I have worked out all the details, making it seamless, natural and full-flowing.

Stephen Fowler is president of Process Equipment Resources & Consulting Services, Inc. (PERCS), located in Bridgewater, New Jersey. PERCS provides sales, engineering and business consulting services to equipment manufacturers, rep agencies and their direct customers. Before PERCS, Fowler was an executive at a major process equipment manufacturer, and then owned a four state, multi-product rotating equipment agency in the Northeast. Fowler has actively participated in MANA chapters, the Chemical Engineers Sales Association (CESEA), and technical groups such as AICHE (chemical), ISPE (bio and pharmaceutical), and WEFTEC (water and wastewater), representing all phases of the process industry.