Talking “off the record” with plant owners and maintenance managers, they will often tell me that good pump salespeople are a rare find. Conversely, when I talk candidly to industrial pump salespeople, they will often state that end users, in regards to proper pump selection and operation, don’t always appear to know what they are doing. A conundrum of controversial statements? Yes, and sure to incite some readers to offer opinions and perhaps raise a little ire in the process (while not the intention at all).
So, in our all too polarized culture, who is right and who is wrong? Could it be nobody or everyone? Let’s look closer at the subject matter from a neutral and nonjudgmental perspective and see if we can shine some light on the core issues, because what I witness in my traveling conversations is a little of both. Ostensibly, the world of today demands black and white answers, but if you take the time to look really close, everything is really just some shade of grey.
Many of the problems I encounter could easily be eliminated with better communication, a clearer understanding of the specifications and just a little more pump and system education—on both sides of the equation. I struggled with which tack to use in this column and then decided I would speak to the one I knew best: that is, that good salespeople should teach pump knowledge to the others because there really is no college that offers a certificate or degree in pump design and system applications.
It Really Is the Pump’s Fault
There is a mostly true urban myth that all pump system problems are to be blamed solely on the pump. Further—and it is a fact not missed by most of us in the industry—the majority of pumps do not grow old in service because we usually kill them first.
From misapplication and improper operation, to wrong materials, incorrect sizing and our industry’s stubborn insistence on constantly trying to violate the laws of physics, we all too often insist that pumps do the impossible and then blame them for the failure.
So, what does it take to be a great pump salesperson?
I suggest the successful pump salesperson should possess the following list of skills and requirements. In my experience I have found it is best that he or she be an expert in at least 30 or more formal science and technical subject areas, and, feasibly, a few social and psychological ones, too. The really great pump salesperson will of course be all things to all people. Nevertheless, the successful salesperson must first and foremost be an expert in both people skills and pumps applications. To be successful requires competence in the following areas and disciplines.
Note: Some of the items are subsets of the others but are cited separately, specifically for emphasis. Also, see the list of acronym explanations at the end of the article.