A few months ago, I had the privilege of attending the Powder Coating Institute’s (PCI) “Hands-on Powder Coating Workshop.” Over the course of two days, the participants were exposed to a variety of topics, including the proper use of application equipment, storage of powder coatings, pretreatment systems and curing. This invaluable workshop culminated in a hands-on lab session, in which the students were able to handle a powder coating gun for ourselves.
While the workshop was exceptionally well run, the memory that lingers with me is my interaction with my fellow students. During this interaction, I learned that some of the participants were sales representatives from companies that manufacture equipment and commodities for the powder coating industry (the rest of the audience was composed of finishers from job shops and OEMs, or persons looking to introduce powder coating into an existing operation). Like me, most of these people were relatively new to powder coating. Some of them were new hires. Others had been transferred to their company’s powder coating division from some other department.
Initially, I had not given much thought to the presence of so many suppliers at this event. But as I’ve thought back to the workshop, and my interaction with various supplier companies since then, I’ve found myself becoming more and more impressed with the fact that so many suppliers invested the time and resources into training their employees about the powder coating industry.
These days, too many companies fail to educate their employees about the products they are supposed to be selling and—more importantly—the industries that they are supposed to be serving. One of my biggest gripes is when I’m approached by a sales rep asking me to buy a product about which they know nothing about. How are they supposed to answer my questions? How do they know that the product is a good fit for me? While I don’t personally do any purchasing from within the finishing industry, I suspect that your experiences very much mirror my own. The fact of the matter is that if a sales representative doesn’t understand the product line, they cannot sell it no matter how good their sales skills might be.
So, to those suppliers who invested the money, time and other resources into making sure that their employees were educated at the PCI workshop (and other workshops like it), I express my gratitude on behalf of the industry. For you finishers out there, the next time you are approached by a sales representative, ask them the “hard” questions—what’s their perception of the industry, why do they feel that their product is a good fit for you, what is their understanding of the processes that you perform. The answers will speak volumes.