A major global manufacturer of induction stirrers for metallurgical processing had been using the same supplier of silicone for many years. This supplier provided them with the materials and services that basically suited the company’s needs. However, to remain competitive, the directors of the plant asked the production manager to focus on optimizing production, lowering costs and to review purchasing policies. The goal was to retain the same levels of quality and performance in the final products, but with more cost-efficient products.
Elkem Silicones sales staff was confident that they had the perfect product for the application at the right prices. However, they lacked direct contact with the company’s decision makers and needed to gain their confidence. Several silicone suppliers were contacted and were invited to provide initial quotes based on predefined annual volumes and a standard order size. Although we were asked to bid, we knew that we were not well positioned in the customer’s mind. We knew we could not win on the basis of a “blind bid” because the customer knew nothing of our added value and our commitment. In fact, the customer was not even interested in seeing us, but we insisted. We knew that Elkem Silicones could be convincing if we could establish personal contact and get our main message across: we care and we are committed to enabling our customers to deliver their potential.
After months of effort and contacts with several people involved in operations, we finally got to meet the Production Manager and the Head of R&D. In our discussions, we learned that the silicone dispensing machine belonged to the established supplier and that a security buffer stock, paid by supplier, had to be made available if we hoped to be considered seriously in the bidding process. We responded that we were willing to comply with these requirements. With this hurdle out of the way, we began to talk about sampling. In all, three potential suppliers were retained for the stage of calls for tender: the current supplier, a second competitor and Elkem Silicones. We were able to demonstrate that, due to the lower specific gravity of our Bluesil™ ESA 7252 A&B product, the customer would gain 15% in production efficiency. The two suppliers gave up since they could not match the performance in optimizing the total cost of ownership levels of Bluesil™ ESA 7252 A&B. We then quickly came to an agreement. We were pleased to win this contract because of the superior features of our products, but above all we were proud of our perseverance in establishing a personal contact with the key people involved in the decision-making process and winning their confidence.