“My original direction…(was) to find what other business besides General Motors (Corp.) there was (in Indiana),” Shepherd says of his early sales assignment with Fanuc 16 years ago.
He was so successful Fanuc eventually brought Shepherd to the Detroit area to figure out how to grow its business overall, not just in Indiana.
“I could begin to see a pattern to how some of the best practices and the best solutions were working,” he says.
That led to Stuart creating his own firm, Shepherd Solutions Inc., four years ago to help automotive companies, mostly Tier 1, 2, and 3 suppliers, develop better selling practices for their complex products.
Shepherd currently has 16 customers, including the Society of Automotive Engineers, which is hosting its annual World Congress here this week.
“They have this huge book of business and this very broad variety of pieces to sell, so they are going from a product orientation to people selling to corporations,” says Shepherd of the SAE.
“They used to use 10, 15 people selling to a particular corporation, selling all the pieces of SAE.,” he says. “Now they have a customer relationship manager that is responsible for the entire business relationship with that corporate customer, one person.”
Shepherd attended last year’s World Congress to analyze the organization’s sales process at the time and interview attendees on what they liked and didn’t like about the show.
“It’s very early in the process of actually rolling this out to the marketplace,” but Shepherd says SAE is on its way to hitting revenue goals this year.
“They’re hearing feedback from their customers that say this more holistic approach, single point of contact, is less confusing and better and easier.”
A longer-term client with which Shepherd has had success is Stuart’s former employer, Fanuc, which he says has grown “substantially” outside the automotive industry and continues to lead not just in total North American sales but in each of its major market sectors through a structured sales approach.
“And Fanuc Robotics has never been known as the lowest-cost supplier of robots in the marketplace; they demand a premium price,” he says.
While he agrees most organizations, with the possible exception of non-profits, have begun to use a structured sales process, many companies are inconsistent in their specific sales practices.
“They still have a wide variety of sales styles (with) which they approach the customer,” he says. “How do you know that the marketing campaign is working if everybody is doing their own thing?”
Shepherd’s client list in large part consists of North American companies, but Stuart says Shepherd also has performed consulting services for an Italian firm that wants to enter the North American market.