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Jim Lucy2012 770

Thoughts on the New Industrial America

March 3, 2020
Despite the influx of new technologies into the industrial market, the best sales strategies to sell industrial products haven’t changed much.

I sense a renewed interest in the industrial market. Perhaps it’s the transition to IoT-enabled sensors, WiFi systems and LED lighting. Maybe it’s the news about electric vehicle plants being built, or the examples of manufacturing moving back to the U.S. But something is happening.

The industrial market has always represented a big chunk of the electrical products sold through electrical distributors, as sales of MRO, OEM and factory automation products represent more than 30% of all products distributors sell.

But I have been getting more questions about the industrial market  data that Electrical Marketing offers, and the regional managers who sell print and digital advertising programs for EW and EC&M magazines seem to be getting more inquiries from manufacturers who want to reach readers who install, specify or sell industrial products.

The folks at the National Association of Electrical Distributors (NAED) have picked up on this  growing interest in the industrial market, and an interesting project now underway is intended to help members get more industrial business. As part of this initiative, Dirk Beveridge, president and founder, UnleashWD, and Ed Orlet, NAED’s senior VP of government affairs and strategic planning, have been running the seminar, “Becoming a Trusted Advisor to Your Industrial Customer,”  at NAED’s regional conferences, to develop a new management tool NAED members can use to sell more industrial products and services.

The timing appears to be right for EW’s feature article in this issue, “Industrial Market 101,” which offers newcomers to this industry a good overview of the industrial market.

I can’t take the credit for the idea of a “beginner’s guide” on the industrial market. It had its roots in the many conversations I had with the late Jim Newton of Oakes Electrical Supply, Holyoke, MA (now part of Horizon Solutions). Along with managing the family business in western Massachusetts, Jim was well-known for the work he did with  Sales Tech Corp., a sales, marketing and training company; NAED’s EPEC training course; Profile Systems, one of the electrical market’s early players in e-business; and the many sales articles he wrote for EW.

As a distributor of Allen-Bradley and other electrical products, Newton, his son Jim (Newt), and the company’s salespeople lived on the factory floors and in the offices of industrial purchasing managers throughout New England, and he used his decades of experiences there to train a generation of salespeople on how to sell more industrial products.

Anyone who ever attended one of his sales seminars can probably still hear his gravelly voice and thick New England accent imploring students to think of all sales situations from the customer’s perspective, or to do “electrical audits” in a facility to find new sales opportunities for electrical equipment that could help make a customer’s life a little bit easier or run their facilities more efficiently or safely. We cover these concepts in the Industrial Market 101 article thanks to Jim Newton.

I never met anyone in my travels with EW who loved the electrical industry more. The last time I saw Jim, we enjoyed a couple of Fribbles at a Friendly’s restaurant near Oakes Electrical Supply, laughed over some of his favorite sales stories, and discussed the Electrical Museum he was working on at his family’s company that housed industry photos and artifacts.

With EW’s 100th Anniversary on my mind quite a bit these days, I have been thinking about some of the mentors who taught me about this wonderful industry and convinced me to spend my career in it. Jim Newton is one of those people, and I hope that in some small way this issue’s Industrial Market 101 article passes along some of Jim’s mammoth insight into this important niche of our industry.

New technologies like IoT, LEDs, WiFi and electric vehicles are changing the industrial market, but if Jim Newton was here to see them, he would agree the sales basics to sell all this new-fangled technology haven’t changed much at all.