Industry Q&A: Developing Relationships with Major Customers
Recently our Membership & Communications Manager, Sheldon Varcoe, sat down with Michael Lang, Founder of SG Partners, to gather his thoughts on the challenges that METS companies experience in accessing major mining customers and advice on how to overcome this.
Would you introduce your business and what your role is within the METS sector?
I’ve been a part of the Australian METS sector for 10 years and one thing I hear consistently is how companies are challenged around how they get something they love dearly, their innovation, taken on board by mining companies.
I’ve been at many Austmine functions and at the round table discussions regularly I hear the issue of accessing decision makers brought up, where METS companies feel that mining companies don’t take them on board to the level they could.
In reference to this topical issue, SG Partners help METS companies think differently about their engagement with both their existing customers and potential customers. I have found that just because they’re passionate about it, doesn’t mean that their customers or potential customers are. But also, just because their customers aren’t currently excited about something, doesn’t mean there isn’t high value there for them. I help them communicate more effectively in their client engagement.
What are some of the major challenges you’ve come across for METS companies aiming to bridge relationships with potential customers?
There are a lot of people in the industry who are not as confident as they should be about how to communicate their value proposition. I’ve spoken with mining companies and they don’t understand the value propositions for some of the METS companies. Some companies are presenting from their point of view rather than communicating in a way that is effective with the mining company. So, when they do engage with them, the mining company tunes out because they’re not feeling that the METS companies are solving their problems, they feel that the METS companies are instead selling their own innovation or solution.
They’re not getting to the right people. Often METS companies are starting their contact with a level they’re comfortable with, which is engineers. Engineers are important but aren’t the ones to change the mindset in mining companies about taking on a solution.
I think that people don’t care how much you know, until they feel how much you care. And they feel how much you care by the questions that you ask.
METS companies show up and start talking about their solutions without realising that just telling people won’t change their mindset. Just about every customer out there is doing just fine right now. They don’t need your solutions. They don’t know. It’s your job to get them to be uncomfortable with what they’re currently doing, so they want to do something different. Sometimes this is not blurting out your solution straight away, it’s finding out about what they could be doing differently and why they would want to do it differently.
For a METS company with an innovative new solution, how can they help themselves find out about those challenges that their mining customers are looking for?
The biggest thing that they could do is ask questions and listen. Then ask more questions about their answers. This is the most effective way of understanding how your own company can best meet the challenges of that mining company. Learn how to build rapport and connect with the individual in front of you, then move on from there.
What advice do you have for companies attending industry networking events, such as the many that Austmine host throughout the year?
Sometimes when we network and we meet someone, we decide from their nametag that there is no value in networking with them. My advice is don’t readily dismiss networking with other METS contacts. Imagine what it would be like to have ten other people out in the industry looking out for you, even though they don’t have a direct connection with your company. Show some interest and learn about what they do and get them to show some interest in you. You never know if they may end up being able to connect you to someone else later. Networking shouldn’t always be about selling but should be treated as a great opportunity to connect with people.