Inside Sales for Valves 101- Written by the Valve Pipeline Staff
This quick article is designed to be a starting point for newcomers to the "valve game"; specifically for those on the order desk (AKA - Inside Sales). The order desk is where orders are made and lost - being efficient in this process will help you and your company handle more business and get more sales.
The first thing a good order desk person will need is a way to record quick notes. I recommend a notebook as opposed to loose paper- a notebook keeps all the pages intact and in order of when inquiries were made (as opposed to scrap notes which can be lost or unorganized).
So grab yourself a double-sided lined notebook (or whatever you prefer) and let's get started.
Here are the questions/information you'll need to get when answering a valve inquiry. The information can be obtained in any particular order- the caller will give you most of the information without you asking; but this guide will help be a checklist to keep the process running smoothly:
1. Date each inquiry - putting the day they called helps you follow up on inquiries and gives you additional information to review or go back to if needed. (it's amazing how many times you may get asked questions like "When did you quote this?") being able to go back and show an exact date will make you look like a star (plus you'll be better organized)
2. Get their name and contact information - This is the most important part of the call; if you get this information you can always call or e-mail back to get information or ask clarifying questions in case you missed something (the point of this article is to help make that happen less but no matter how good you are or how much experience you have- inevitably you will have to call someone back. The key information is: Name, Phone Number, and Company Name.
3. Type of valve - Usually they'll give you this information with the inquiry but it's useful to have this checklist in your head when handling the call. Don't forget to inquire about the quantity of each valve as well. - Type of valve - this will be gate, globe, check, ball (trunnion/floater), needle, butterfly, control etc. There are many types of valves so get as much information as possible for each type of valve. You'll also want to get the valve size with this i.e. 2", 4" etc. as well as the end type of the valve i.e. raise faced flanged, RTJ, threaded, butt-weld etc.
4. Steel grade - for most inquiries the steel grade will be regular temp, low temp or stainless. Most people who call make generalizations over these types of grades and the typical steel grades are assumed. Here is a quick guide for each: - Regular temp - people will call this regular temp, or normal, or something along those lines. The typical steel grades are WCB (cast) or A105 (forged). - Low temp - known usually as low temp the typical grades are LCC (cast) or LF2 (forged) -Stainless - people will almost always ask for stainless by the word "stainless". The typical grades are 316SS (cast) and CF8M (forged).
5. Trim material - trim is often said with the steel grade at the same time during an inquiry i.e. "I'm looking for a WCB 316 valve" This means the customer is looking for a regular temp valve with stainless trim. If they don't give you trim it's always a good idea to clarify, if they say "just the usual kind" then you can assume the standard trim to go with the body material (though it never hurts to clarify to be thorough).
6. Working pressure - this is important information; what ANSI valve do you need? What working pressure? You need this information for all valve inquiries.
7. Port size - this variable typically only applies to ball valves and check valves (usually ball valves). Port size is important for lines that are being pigged (a process that cleans the line). There are two typical port sizes: full port and reduced port (commonly called reg port).
8. Operator type - More often than not the customer will indicate if they require a special operator i.e. a gear operator or actuator (as opposed to a lever operator). This is not a question you usually need to ask but it is useful to know as it is an important piece of information if they mention any special operators.
9. Any other special information - Again this is not a question you need to ask but it is useful to know that people may indicate special elastomers (seats/seals) or service conditions that need to be checked with a valve supplier. People may also indicate brand preference; if they do write this down. Depending on where you work the question "do you have brand preference" may or may not be important. As a rule "if a customer says something that strikes you as different- record it and ask a more experienced colleague about it" - over time you will learn what is useful and what is not, there are too many variables to list them all here now but err on the side of caution starting out. If a customer says they want Impreglon coating write that down and figure out what it means later.
10. Delivery requirements - Ask when they need the product; the best order desk people know when a valve is required at time of inquiry. This will save your warehouse staff countless late nights if you learn that your customer is ok with a 2-3 days versus overnight. It also helps with sourcing items, some customers can wait, most can not but it's good to know either way.
That's the basics of what you need on a typical valve order desk call. To summarize here are questions that reflect the most important points above:
1. Who is calling? Where do you work? What's your phone number?
2. What type of valve you looking for? (material/trim/working pressure(ANSI) port size, operator) Any brand preference?
3. How many of each valve?
4. When do you need the valve?
5. Remember to record any other special information the customer may say- especially if you don't understand what they asking for, write it down and ask a colleague or visit valvepipeline.com and research for yourself.
As you gain more experience in inside sales you will learn your own questions/methods for keeping track of inquiries. To start with here is what a sample record would look like if I were taking an inquiry over the phone for inside sales:
____________________________________________ Date: 05/10/11
John Smith ABC Company 403-555-5555
5 - 4" 600# RF (raised face) WCB 316 Ball valve
3 - 1/2" 800# RF (raised face) Reg temp Gate valve Trim 8
After you get all the information (assuming you can't handle the inquiry over the phone) you'll want to add what price you quoted them to the inquiry. It is also a useful practice to indicate that you have finished handling that inquiry, a simple check mark works. (or whatever works for you) It is also a good practice to follow up with your inquiries after a few days, you don't want to do this too often to the same customer (you don't want to be a nag), but this call back usually will result in future inquiries and often helps you gain useful information i.e. your pricing was too high, your delivery was no good, or they prefer a different brand.
Inside sales is all about being personable and efficient. Getting back to the customer with price and delivery (known as P&D) quickly goes a long way; being organized and having a good understanding of the process helps too. Hopefully this article helps you in your future endeavours of inside sales in the world of valves.
Contact - The Valve Pipeline
If someone quotes you 12-14 weeks they probably mean 15 weeks.