Taking a long term view
Orders and sales are front and center for many businesses. How those orders and sales are achieved, though, varies enormously from industry to industry. Retail sales, for example, are usually simple, quick, one-to-one transactions of relatively low value.
In our business – military embedded computing – we perhaps couldn’t be further from that. Our sales cycles are extended, usually over a period of years, and order values are often high – perhaps in the tens of millions of dollars.
Where they’re perhaps most different, though, is that orders and sales for us are all about teamwork, involving multiple individuals from multiple organizations within Abaco. On our customer’s side, it’s generally the same: their team works with our team to try to identify the optimum solution.
That’s why we recently got together in Austin, Texas (and what a great time of the year it was to be in that part of the world – if heat is your thing…) – for our first-ever Business Development and US Sales Workout.
Our business development team is charged with taking a long term view of what’s going on in the military embedded computing market. What’s the ‘big picture’ in terms of our nation’s defense? What are the DoD’s strategic priorities – and where is it allocating budget, and for what? What technologies are the US Army, Navy and Air Force evaluating?
Something of value
The purpose of the Workout was to bring together the commercial teams across the regions and share our knowledge – ‘compare notes’, if you like. It’s a hugely complex process because, not only do we need to understand what solutions the DoD is looking for and in what timescales – we need to understand whether we have something of value that we can offer.
And: it’s not just about what we can deliver from our product range today – it’s about how we should be developing our product range in the future in order to intersect what our customers need from us. What strengths do we have? What are our core competencies? Where can we really make a unique difference in serving those who serve us?
It would have been all too easy for the session to have become a ‘talking shop’ – but that wasn’t what we wanted. Given the rigorous and painstaking process we used, and given the breadth and depth of our discussions, we needed to ensure we came out of the event with agreed concrete plans – because helping our customers rise to their challenges doesn’t just involve those in business development and sales: it involves every part of our company, from engineering to finance, from manufacturing to marketing, from customer support to HR. It’s all about teamwork.
The next weeks and months will see us following through on the plans we made in Austin – some of them round a conference table, and some of them over outstanding barbecue at Stubb’s… It was unquestionably a very worthwhile session and one that we’ll repeat – perhaps in a cooler location.