The changing face of sales

Hans Petter Tanum
Hans Petter Tanum

“There is a massive opportunity to improve sales processes in the offshore and shipping industries to adapt to the limitations and opportunities that Covid-19 have created.”

These are the words of highly experienced sales director Hans-Petter Tanum, who has seen his fair share of ups and downs during his 25 years in sales roles in the maritime, offshore and shipping industries.

Seven months into a Covid-19-impacted world, with its extensive travel limitations affecting how he and his TMC Compressors sales team operates, Tanum has identified three areas that can make the traditional supplier – yard/shipowner purchasing partnership even more efficient than what it was prior to Covid-19.

“You can choose to view the impacts of Covid-19 as temporary bumps in the road towards returning to exactly the way you did business before, while feeling sorry for yourself in the meantime. Or you can utilise it as a vehicle to create positive lasting changes to a relatively traditional way of doing business. Our most ambitious customers have challenged us to do the latter,” says Hans-Petter Tanum, TMC’s director of sales and business development.

  1. Consultant vs. product pusher

Without physical face-to-face meetings, it is more challenging to discuss and explain technical and operational issues. Hence, a supplier cannot only act as a product-pushing salesperson. The supplier must be willing to spend more time acting as a consultant or adviser to the client, who has dozens of work packages to manage, even if it means that each sales process takes longer to complete.

“Some of TMC’s customers have seized this opportunity. They are currently utilising our staff to conduct advanced calculations for system deliveries to identify lowest possible capex and opex for our clients’ marine compressed air requirements. The client saves money and TMC could end up reducing our working capital requirements. This is unpaid work upfront, but we believe that we become a better supplier from gaining a deeper understanding of our clients’ projects and technical framework,” adds Tanum. 

  1. Active customers wanted

Customers have historically been spoilt for choice between suppliers. Today, suppliers cannot knock on so many doors and attend as many meetings as before. If you, as a customer, want the best suppliers, the customer needs to take a more active role.

“No supplier wants to stalk customers online. We have therefore requested our customers to  be even more proactive in their information gathering. We are ready to support our customers, but the tables have turned somewhat. The customers need to take a more active role in managing the supplier relationship in cooperation with us,” adds Tanum.

  1. Support has never been better!

If a company calculates the number of days and hours its sales and technical support teams spend on the road or in an aeroplane, you will reach astronomically high figures. From a customer perspective this is an opportunity, not a problem.

“The somewhat ironic fact is that we have never been more accessible to our customers, at even shorter lead times than usual. Our service delivery has never been better. Our digital availability has improved. The clear advice to our customers is that they should capitalise on this.”

“This latter advice is directly connected to reflection number 2 about clients taking a more active role in the customer-supplier relationship. At the same time, we as suppliers need to make customers more aware of this availability. In summary, we need to retain an open mind and consider the current situation as an opportunity and not a threat,” concludes Tanum.