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Tips& Tactics n

Problem/Solution D&D Technologies (USA) Inc. Ph: (800) 716-0888, x292 Web: E-mail: Contact: Maureen Williams

Problem: Keeping ornamental gate hardware properly aligned and rust free left to right: Lokk-Latch PRO, Magna-Latch Vertical-Pull, Magna-Latch Top-Pull, by D&D Technologies. The Magna-Latch magnetic, self-latching gate latch features magnetically triggered latching, with no mechanical resistance to closure. If the gate gets out of alignment, it can be easily adjusted both vertically and horizontally. The patented lost motion mechanism ensures that even if the latch is locked in the open position, it will default to latched when closed. Lokk-Latch PRO features a 6-pin security lock and can be keyed-alike to most household doors by a locksmith. It can be key operated from either side of the fence.

The problem:

Common hardware used on ornamental iron gates can rust and get out of alignment. Typical metal gravity latches are inexpensive and commonly used on ornamental metal gates, particularly in residential applications. They cost little at the beginning, but can be very expensive in the long run in terms of maintenance. As we all know, these latches frequently become rusty, stick, jam, and eventually need to be manually forced shut. These latches are welded to the gate and not designed for adjustments. They are also not easily replaced. In addition, gates commonly feature an external spring to pull the gate closed once it’s been opened wide enough to cause the spring to stretch open. Springs can get out of adjustment, so that gates won’t close unless they’ve been opened far enough to stretch the spring sufficiently. Adjusting springs can be difficult, especially if they’ve been painted or if adjusting pins are broken or missing. Special tools are

The Magna-Latch is adjustable vertically and horizontally.

Solution: Self-latching and self-hinging hardware needed to do this adjustment. These when children swing on gates, or springs also rust and stain, and can create dangerous pinching hazards. When used in applications where safety is vital, such as on gates around pools or child play areas, a latch that doesn’t self-latch can also put children’s lives at risk. The most important element of a safe fence is a gate that closes the first time, every time. This can only happen with a latch that has very little or no mechanical resistance to closure, i.e., no friction or components that can get in the way and prevent the gate from closing. Solution: Self-latching latches and self-closing hinges

when the ground shifts. Self-latching latches are designed to work most effectively with self-closing hinges. Most self-closing hinges featuring internal springs, are tension-adjustable, and some can also be adjusted vertically and horizontally during installation by the homeowner anytime after installation and without special tools. D&D Technologies, for example, offers gate hardware made from an injection-molded polymer, which doesn’t rust, bind, or stain. Plus, D&D gate hardware is quick and easy to install with screws, and most products are self-lubricating.

Latches with no mechanical resistance to closure are available. The best selflatching latches can be adjusted vertically and horizontally to compensate for gate misalignments that happen


Fabricator would like to publish your problem/solution case study. For consideration, please contact the Editor at 532 Forest Parkway, Suite A, For­est Park, Ga. 30297. Phone (404) 363-4009, Fax (404) 366-1852, E-mail September-October 2003 n Fabricator


Tips& Tactics n

Design Tips The Wagner Companies Ph: (800) 786-2111 Web: E-mail: Contact: Heidi Bischmann

Winning combinations

How can you economically enhance a simple, stock handrail bracket on your next project and integrate it with your overall railing design?

One: Add decorative elements such as rosettes or stampings. Two: Build a decorative bracket from a variety of bracket components. Three: Modify stock brackets or bracket components.

By Heidi Bischmann Wagner Companies

petals, and candle pans.

Although brackets can be custom designed and manufactured in a multitude of sizes and styles to complete a designer’s artistic vision, they can be expensive and/or time consuming to design, prototype, and manufacture. Combining bracket components or modifying brackets and bracket components may offer cost savings and faster delivery than custom bracket design. One: Enhanced brackets

A unique way to enhance a bracket is to attach a decorative stamping or cast ornament in similar or contrasting metals to a stock bracket. The stamping or ornament that you choose may be found in the overall railing design or may introduce a fresh or new idea. Stampings and cast ornaments are available in many shapes, sizes, styles, and finishes to meet any railing design. Different stamped ornamental pieces may include leaves, flowers,

Two: Combine components

If a stock bracket doesn’t meet your design needs, you can combine bracket components to create a more custom look. Components such as bases, bar bends, and saddles lend themselves to creative design. Disks, cast rosettes, medallions, or other ornamental items can be used as decorative bases with bar bends and saddles to create unique handrail brackets. The materials may be similar or contrasting for a variety of styles. Custom bending and finishing also enhance the completed bracket. Three: Modified brackets

Modifications to finish, hole size or placement, or mounting surface shape can be made to stock

brackets or bracket components to fit specific requirements. Consider visually altering a stock bracket that meets the architectural and code requirements of your project to add flair or continuity to your complete railing design. Step-by-step design suggestions for enhancing stock components Choosing and attaching a decorative stamping:

Step 1: Select a handrail bracket Step 2: Select a decorative element Step 3: Verify mounting method and size Step 4: Modify the stamping or ornament as required Step 5: Attach ornament to the mounting surface of the bracket during railing assembly Combining stock components to create a custom-look bracket:

Step 1: Select a decorative base Step 2: Select bar bend and saddle Step 3: Verify mounting method and size Step 4: Drill and tap mounting hole in bar bend Step 5: Modify the stamping or ornament as required Step 6: Assemble bracket


Fabricator would like to publish your problem/solution case study. For consideration, please contact the Editor at 532 Forest Parkway, Suite A, For­est Park, Ga. 30297. Phone (404) 363-4009, Fax (404) 366-1852, E-mail September-October 2003 n Fabricator


Tips& Tactics n

We heard it online

ListServ participants


Getting advice on managing hand and power tools I need some advice on managing small, hand and power tools. Up to this point I’ve bought all the tools needed for the shop. Occasionally, my employees bring in a couple of their own tools (e.g., battery-powered drill or air sander). However, there seems to be a fair amount of negligence lately. n Do most shops require their fabricators to provide their own tools? n Are tools bought by the shop and assigned to each employee, who then takes responsibility for them? n What works? Thanks for the help, Kim Boyer, Masterguard Ornamental Iron

Response number one:

Tracking tools is always a big chore. You can keep a complete inventory of each tool area. Make the foreman, or someone who is responsible for the tools, sign an inventory sheet (explain to them that they are responsible for the upkeep and safety of these tools) and keep track from there. The biggest problem I see is drill bits. It may be cheaper to replace them than the labor to track them. To identify personal tools and company tools, some companies use stickers printed with their company name. Try the ones that leave the messy sticky paper on when pealed off. This makes it easier to identify them in the pawnshop and an employee’s trunk. Some shops pop rivet I.D. tags on tools and equipment. The most expensive method is a bar code tracking system. It’s probably most effective in larger shops. Be honest with your employees from the beginning and have them sign the inventory sheet (modify this as new tools are added). Tom McDonough, Eagle Metal Fabricators Inc.

and found the answer lies in how your shop functions. If you’re a big shop having someone in charge of tools might be cost effective, but I don’t think that works for most of us. We built a shop tool cage. Everyday the tools are taken and returned to the cage, and no one leaves until all the major electrical tools are in their place along with the pneumatic tools. As for hand tools, we issue them to all employees that require them and scribe a number into the tools for identification. Employees are are responsible for the tools, just like they are responsible for the gloves, safety glasses, and ear protection we issue. If they loose something, they have to explain it. This works for us; we cut tool loss dramatically. We were even able to track when a new employee started taking other workers’ tools home. However, you need to look at how your shop functions and how tools are used in order to get the best handle on it. It took me months, but it was well worth it. Thomas B. Zuzik, Jr, Artistic Railings

Response number two:

Response number three:

I had the same question six years ago

For years, we just handed out tools as

Kim Boyer, Masterguard Ornamental Iron, Seattle, WA, Ph: (206) 204-0021, Web: www. Tom McDonough, Eagle Metal Fabricators Inc., Ft. Lauderdale, FL, Ph: (954) 583-8353, Web: Thomas B. Zuzik, Jr, Artistic Railings, Garfield, NJ 07026, Ph: (973) 772-8540, Web: John O’Reilly, MMF Architectura, Mullingar, Co. Westmeath, Ireland, Ph: 011-353-444-9269, Web:

employees needed them. But two problems arose: There was no responsibility, and more importantly, it took too much down time looking for a tool to do a certain job. So we came up with the following plan: All employees are given a small grinder, a big grinder, and a drill and drill set under the conditions that the tools are company property. We repair them and replace them if they get worn out. If employees loose the tools, they must replace them. If the tools get stolen, employees must produce a police report. We have a tool allowance each year. But staff must produce a set list of tools in their possession, including company hand tools, in order to receive their allowance. Keep in mind: People want to work; they do not want to be delayed. Ownership and responsibility are very effective. Bonus systems are difficult to manage. And unless you have set out very clear rules and procedures, they can cause unease among staff and management. John O’Reilly, MMF Architectural


Fabricator would like to publish your problem/solution case study. For consideration, please contact the Editor at 532 Forest Parkway, Suite A, For­est Park, Ga. 30297. Phone (404) 363-4009, Fax (404) 363-2857, E-mail September-October 2003 n Fabricator



Shop Talk

Kynar 500: How does it apply to our industry? Tom McDonough Eagle Metal Fabricators Inc.

Malcolm Brant Windsor Metal Finishing

Kynar 500 is a product that is promoted throughout the country to architects and designers. The product is an excellent paint for long-term protection, but it’s offered in a limited variety of popular colors. Most prepainted aluminum sheets and standing seam roof panels are offered with Kynar 500 paint; these products are painted during the manufacturing process. As for Kynar 500 being worth the cost or effort I say no, but it does depend on the application. Kynar paint is not as wide spread as powder coating, so if you’re not lucky enough to be close to someone who can apply Kynar, you have to ship your material to that location. Between shipping to and from the painters, the additional shipping and protection costs can get up there. Then you are limited to the colors. Color matching Kynar 500 paint is astronomical. Powder coat finishing has come a long way as far as cost, the amount of colors offered, and the ease of application. Powder coat painters have also popped up all over the country. When we bid a job that specs Kynar paint we figure all the costs involved, and we also offer a deduction to powder coat the item. Even if we’re getting paid to paint with Kynar, it becomes a lot of excess work for a benefit that to me is not that great. I don’t know the exact specifications or comparison data between Kynar 500 and powder coating but for 99 percent of what most NOMMA members make, powder coat is sufficient. That’s my non-technical opinion. I only use Kynar when I have exhausted all my options to persuade the architect to change their specifications. (Usually when they see the cost savings, they come around.)

Over the past 25 years, Kynar 500 has estab-


lished itself as the first choice of the architectural community for the high performance coating used for exteriorly exposed aluminum and galvanized steel building products. Currently, no other organic coating, liquid or powder meets all the criterion set out in the (architectural coatings) industry’s most demanding specification, AAMA 2605. As regards the purported economies of “powder” coating, I believe this is a misnomer as powder coating describes the application process and not a particular coating type. In other words, a liquid polyester coating and a “powder” polyester are essentially the same resin based finish, so it follows that any associated economies simply reflect a lower base cost type of coating, which, say, for an interior railing for a shopping mall might be adequate. Generally speaking, architects insist on Kynar finishes because they have a broad understanding of the environment’s effects on the performance of architectural coatings. Although Kynar 500 fluropolymer “powder” coatings have only been available in the past couple of months, preliminary tests at Windsor indicate that they will be comparatively priced to the liquid version. The powder version will be available in a broader range of color and gloss but custom color matching with powder can take some time while we are able to provide this in-house service to customers in “liquid” expediently at no cost. At Windsor, we provide custom finishes for metal fabricators along the Eastern Seaboard and the Gulf Coast, many of whom go to significant lengths to persuade builders to upgrade to Kynar 500 based on their experience with other architectural finishes.

About the participants


Kynar 500® is a fluoropolymer coating whose molecular structure makes it incredibly thermal, chemical, and ultra violet resistant. Some architects and contractors insist on it. But some ornamental fabricators feel it’s overkill for our industry. We asked a NOMMA fabricator and a Kynar applicator to share their insight.


Tom McDonough Eagle Metal Fabricators, Ft. Lauderdale, FL, is Vice President and overseer of purchasing, production, and safety for Eagle Metal Fabricators. The company, established in 1977, specializes in structural and miscellaneous metal fabrication. Ph: 954-583-8353, Web: Malcolm Brant is President of Windsor Metal Finishing, Kissimmee, FL, an approved applicator of Kynar 500 finishes. Brant has been in the Kynar spray business since the mid 1970’s. He organized and founded the first dedicated Kynar 500 production facility in the industry. Ph: 800-272-2689, Web: www.1stchoicewindsor. com

If you would like to E participate PA RT IC IP AT in a point/ counterpoint, please contact the Editor: 532 Forest Pkwy, Suite A, For­est Park, Ga. 30297. Phone (404) 363-4009, Fax (404) 3661852, E-mail fabricator@

Fabricator n September-October 2003

Biz Side

Tax savings ideas you may have overlooked

What you’ll learn! n Find out ways to decrease what you pay to Uncle Sam by taking advantage of tax breaks for business owners and understanding some of the tax laws new to 2003.

By William J. Lynott If you’re inclined to let your accountant do all the worrying about your business and personal income taxes, you could be making a costly mistake. “Your accountant may be the tax expert,” says CPA Tom Normoyle, Huntingdon Valley, PA, “but no one knows the fine details of your finances as well as you do. That’s why your accountant needs your help to hold your shop’s income taxes to a minimum.” Filing deadlines for your 2003 tax returns are still many weeks away, but you have only until December 31 to make sure that you’ve done everything possible to keep Uncle Sam’s paws off as much of your money as possible. Here are some steps you can take now to slash your 2003 tax bill:


Accelerate payments and defer income

Tax experts agree that accelerating payment of bills and deferring income wherever possible are among the most effective ways for you to reduce current year taxes. “Pre-pay as many of your business-related bills as possible by December 31,” says Paul Rich, CPA, Siegel Rich Division of Rothstein Kass, Roseland, NJ. “Prepaying your rent and anticipating supply needs are

September-October 2003 n Fabricator

among the most often overlooked ways to reduce current year’s taxes.” Consider buying your first three months of supplies for next year before December 31. Also, pay any outstanding bills before yearend. If you don’t have the cash, use your credit cards. The IRS allows you to take the deduction in the year of the charge. Other expenses that lend themselves to pre-payment are state and local taxes and professional fees. If you’re paying estimated taxes, make your fourth-quarter state tax payment by December 31 rather than in January. Before the end of the year, make charitable contributions that you would normally make early in 2004. That way, the charity gets the money early and you get a tax deduction. Rich also suggests that you donate unused business equipment to a nonprofit before the end of the year. Be sure to get a receipt and an estimate of the fair market value of the goods you donate. If you’re audited, no receipt means no deduction. Note that 2003 is the last year that a business can take an increased deduction for donating used computer equipment to a school or library. Instead of throwing the old equipment out, you can donate it and take a deduction equal to its cost basis, plus one-half of its fair market value. If you’re self-employed, you may deduct charitable contributions up to a whopping 50 percent of income under some circumstances. If you have equipment that might fall under this provision, talk to your tax advisor about the possibility of donating it before December 31. If 2003 has been a good year for income and your accounting is on a cash basis, you can reduce this year’s taxes by delaying collecting of accounts receivable until after 73

For your information



last-minute tax savings tips

Number one rule: Reduce current year taxes by accelerating payment of bills and deferring income. Last chance: This is the last year a business can take an increased deduction for donating used computer equipment to a school or library. New this year: A new tax law for 2003 increases the Section 179 Deduction (concerning capital purchases) from $25,000 to $100,000. About the author: William J. Lynott is a freelance business writer for the manufacturing and construction industry.

“Prepaying your

rent and anticipating supply needs are among the most often overlooked ways to reduce current year’s taxes.”

Remember that the maximum deduction is based on your per-

centage of business use. For example, if you use your car 80 percent of the time for business, the first-year deduction is limited to $8,568 (80% of $10,710). December 31. For example, you could consider giving your customers an extra month to pay, invoicing at net 60 instead of net 30 as a “holiday gift.” However, if you expect abnormally high income or a change in marital status or state residency next year, your marginal tax rate could actually increase despite the general reduction in rates. If so, consider reversing the above process by bringing in that extra income now and putting off deductions until next year. Take advantage of the new tax laws


The Jobs and Growth Tax Relief Reconciliation Act of 2003 (JGTRRA), signed by the President on May 28, creates some significant business tax breaks. Whether you

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structured your shop as a corporation, partnership, S corporation, or sole proprietorship, JGTRRA’s incentives affect you. All of the provisions affecting businesses are effective retroactively, either to January 1, 2003, or to May 6, 2003. “JGTRRA has opened up a number of tax savings possibilities,” says Cheryl Pimlott, CPA, and Tax Manager for Rothstein Kass. “But the biggest tax break for businesses is the Section 179 deduction which allows you to immediately take a per-year depreciation deduction on the cost of new and used assets purchased from now until 2005.” The new law increases the Section 179 Deduction from $25,000 to $100,000. Capital purchases made right up to December 31 qualify for this huge

2003 tax break. In addition, off-theshelf computer software is eligible for the Section 179 deduction for the first time. “Bonus depreciation, introduced in 2002, increased the maximum first year depreciation on luxury automobiles to $10,710 from $7,660 effective May 6, 2003,” says Ginita Wall, CPA, San Diego, CA. “Purchases up to December 31 qualify for bonus depreciation, but only if you use the car 50 percent or more for business.” Remember that the maximum deduction is based on your percentage of business use. For example, if you use your car 80 percent of the time for business, the first-year deduction is limited to $8,568 (80% of $10,710). In addition to creating opportunities to lower this year’s taxes, JGTRRA makes basic changes that could also affect how you operate your shop in the future for tax purposes. For example, the new law may make it worthwhile to reexamine your choice

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of business entity. JGTRRA reduces individual marginal tax rates, while keeping corporate rates the same. That change will tend to make partnerships and limited liability companies more attractive. At the same time, a maximum dividend tax rate of 15 percent combined with a top corporate rate of 35 percent leaves a potential 50 percent tax on income earned at the corporate level. If you’re self-employed, don’t forget that this is the first year a selfemployed individual can deduct 100 percent of health insurance premiums. Now is the time to make sure that you pay everything by year-end. “While the new tax laws have incorporated many tax breaks for business,” says Wall, “they are now more complicated than ever. She suggests that every small business owner consult with his or her tax advisor to determine how to take maximum advantage of the changes.

tax credit of 50 percent of the cost of establishing and/or maintaining the plan. The credit, available for each of the first three years, is limited to $500 per year.” Use IRS Form 8881 for this purpose, but the procedure is tricky so you will want to consult with your tax advisor before proceeding. Trips that combine business and pleasure

Did you make any trips that combined business and pleasure this year? If more than half of your time was devoted to business,


you can deduct transportation costs as well as all directly business-related expenses. If more than 50 percent of your time was spent on pleasure, the cost of transportation will be disallowed. Of course, if the trip was entirely for business purposes, such as attending a business seminar (related to your current business), trade association convention, or trade show, all expenses associated with the trip may be chalked up to business expense. “Many business travelers don’t keep adequate documentation for travel

Save more for retirement


Make sure you’re contributing the maximum to your 401(k) or other tax-deferred retirement plan. If not, adjust your savings before yearend. If you’re self-employed, open a tax-deferred Simplified Employee Pension (SEP) or Keogh plan by the Dec. 31 deadline. In recent years, the IRS has increased contribution limits and made it easier than ever to put more money away to fund your retirement years. Except for the new Roth IRA, all contributions to your retirement plan are tax deductible in the tax year they are contributed. “You don’t actually have to make your contributions until you file your return in April of 2004,” says Pimlott, “but you must open the account by December 31 in order to get the tax deduction for 2003.”

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Set up a new retirement plan


“If yours is a small shop without a retirement plan,” says Carol I. Katz, CPA, Baltimore, MD, “you might want to set one up before December 31 to take advantage of the

September-October 2003 n Fabricator

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expenses,” says Rich. “As a result, they risk losing out on deductions.” Documentation for travel and entertainment should include the business purpose and such details as where, when, who you were with, and a receipt for any expense over $25. Use of your personal car for business

Even if you used your personal car for 6 business only on occasion, you may deduct the costs of maintenance and operation for the

business-use portion. In figuring your auto expense deduction, you may use either actual expenses or the standard mileage rate. Many tax advisors suggest you or your accountant figure out your auto deduction both ways and use the method giving you the biggest deduction. When you use actual expenses, you deduct the business portion of car expenses including depreciation, gas and oil, insurance, licenses, parking fees, registration fees, repairs, tires, tolls, and even garage rent.

Under the standard mileage rate for 2003, you may deduct a flat 36 cents per business mile (down from 36.5 cents per mile in 2002).

Purchases financed by business loans or credit cards

If you bought any business equipment or supplies on your credit card or with a business loan, you may deduct those purchases this year even if you won’t pay off the loans until later. While you’re at it, don’t forget to deduct any interest costs on the loans themselves.


Balance out investment gains and losses

This has been a volatile year for investments. Some did poorly while others rebounded nicely. By selling appreciated assets and liquidating under-performing investments, you may match gains and losses to minimize your personal income taxes. If you have sufficient losses to offset your gains, you may deduct the losses this year on sales completed by December 31. Note, however, that tax rules limit the amount of capital losses that you can use to offset ordinary income to $3,000. If your net loss totals more than $3,000, don’t worry. You can carry forward the losses over $3,000 every year until you use them up. On a related note, if you’ve hesitated converting your traditional IRA to a Roth IRA because of income taxes that would then become due, this might be a good year to convert, provided you have losses to offset the income. Of course, you can’t rearrange your business affairs to accommodate every twist and turn of the tax laws. Still, whittling down your payment to Uncle Sam every year is worth the effort. If you can cut just $1,000 off your tax bill each year and invest that money in your tax deferred retirement account, after 20 years you’ll have added an extra $60,000 to your nest egg. After 30 years, it will be more like $160,000—all at Uncle Sam’s expense.


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Fabricator n September-October 2003

Biz Side

The science of ‘go for the no’ selling From Jeff Thull’s Mastering the Complex Sale, published by John Whiley & Sons (2003)

n A new book by sales consultant Jeff Thull gives advice on closing complex sales. He says you must help a customer calculate the cost of his problem and always be willing to walk away. By Jeff Thull As salespeople, we are taught from day one not to take no for an answer. Consider the salesman who refuses to acknowledge the words: “We’re just looking”; the telemarketer who recites scripted answers to objections until the victim slams down the phone; the sales rep who must practically be removed from a potential customer’s office with the jaws of life. These images have become stereotypes for a reason: we tend to equate anything other than a yes with failure. Probably the most debilitating myth ever perpetuated in the world of selling is: “A good salesperson can sell anything to anybody.” But those of us pursuing a complex sale should consider the opposite approach. We should be thinking “go for the no.” Conventional selling grew up in a world of unlimited prospects and unlimited demand and was based on a go for the yes approach. In short, the salesperson’s role was to engage the prospect—qualified to buy and use the product—and relentlessly present, pursue, persist, cajole, convince, and persuade until the prospect said yes.

September-October 2003 n Fabricator

Too many salespeople are so focused on getting the order that they actually lose track of reality. And that’s a mistake. Selling has become such a complex process that if you don’t consider “no sale” as a valid outcome you could end up wasting valuable time, company resources, and delaying access to more lucrative opportunities. Real professionals recognize that a no—after a quality diagnosis—wins the potential customer’s respect, leaves the door wide open for future business, and frees you up to pursue a better match. You should always ask yourself: “Is there someplace better I could be?” And remember, about 35 percent of all sales are bad sales. Going for the no helps you steer clear of the trap of making a sale that turns out to be wrong for you and the customer. And ultimately, this helps you avoid customer dissatisfaction and bad press.   As the title of my book suggests, I believe that the environment we work in—characterized by long sales cycles, multiple layers of decision and influence, and numerous perspectives that often cross national and cultural borders—has become so complex that the very nature of selling has changed. I advocate a system called Diagnostic Business Development, or the Prime Process. It provides a navigable path from the first step of identifying potential customers, through the sale itself, and onto expanding and retaining profitable customer relationships. There are four phases to this system: Phase one: Discover

The sales professional researches and prepares and sets the stage for a compelling engagement and a continuing relationship based on trust and respect. 77

For your information


What you’ll learn!

About the author: For the past 22 years, Jeff Thull, CEO/President of Prime Resource Group, has gained a reputation for expertise in the arena of sales and marketing strategies for companies involved in complex sales. His wealth of real world experience has made him a leading authority and valued advisor for executive teams of major companies world-wide. In addition to Mastering The Complex Sale, he is the author of Diagnostic Selling and Prime Performance Leadership. About The Book: Mastering The Complex Sale: How To Compete And Win When The Stakes Are High! (John Wiley & Sons; 2003; ISBN: 0471431516). To order, contact: Rocks-DeHart Public Relations, Phone: (828) 459-9637.

Ten timely tips for mastering the complex sale 1

Every sale is not a good sale. About 35 percent of all sales are bad sales. In one way or another, the customer is left disappointed or the seller has excess costs and diminished returns. Often salespeople are so concerned with getting the order, they write business that is not good for themselves, their company, or the customer. Walking away from a situation that is not profitable for anyone is the right thing to do. It requires a salesperson who is comfortable with hearing and saying no and moving on to the next opportunity. When professionals move on, they open themselves more quickly to higher levels of opportunity and success.


Traditional selling maintains that if the salesperson is clever enough to say all the right sales stuff, he or she will be successful. This is far from the truth. Sales professionals know that the preparation put into understanding the customer and his or her industry is vital to success. Understanding the customer’s critical issues and dissatisfactions—and recognizing the business opportunities that arise from them—takes research time and 3 dedication. Do not allow the customer to selfdiagnose. This is not to say that the customer isn’t intelligent, its just that he or she doesn’t make a decision regarding your products and services very often. A customer may only make such decisions once a year or even far less often.

Sales representatives, on the other hand, continually diagnose customers with similar situations. The successful sales professional takes on the role of valued advisor or business consultant.


You have competitors. Your customers have options. When you’re with your customers, don’t refer to your competitors as competitors; for example, by asking a question like “Who are some of our competitors you’re considering?” It conveys a very traditional sales image of concern about the competition in the sales process verses concern over the customer’s situation. A better question would be, “What are some of the 5 options you are considering?” Never ask for the order. If you have to ask for the order, then your customer has missed something, and it’s your fault. If the diagnostic protocols have been followed, and the customer has recognized problems that can be eliminated by the solution you offer, the decision to buy will come as the next step in a well-executed quality decision process. The arm-wrestling of the traditional selling process is replaced by the acknowledgement 6 that a mutually beneficial business relationship is developing. You will gain more credibility through the questions you ask than through the stories you tell. Every prospect expects salespeople to say good things about themselves and the products they sell.

Thus the stories you tell are rarely taken seriously and are frequently discounted. What is taken seriously is the concern and knowledge you display in learning about the customer’s situation. Ask thought-provoking questions to help you understand the customer’s unique and to help you and the 7 situation customer to manage quality decisions. Always be leaving. Customers have learned through annoying experience that a traditional salesperson won’t take no for an answer. They hang on to their customers like a bulldog on a postman’s leg. Displaying a willingness to accept the customer’s view will greatly reduce the tension and cause the customer to be more comfortable in expressing his her real feelings. This relaxes 8 or both of you and helps build an atmosphere of mutual cooperation and trust. Don’t get emotionally involved. Salespeople don’t have problems, their customers do. As you perform your diagnosis and lead the customer through a quality decision process, yes is not a problem and neither is a quality no. The professional operates with an objective and clear mind and methodically unravels the customer’s challenges so both the salesperson and the customer can come to a mutually understanding of the 9 beneficial problem and the alignment of the solution. Getting emotionally involved is getting defensive and acting biased toward your needs. People never say what they really mean . . . at first. People learn from a very early age that saying what is really on their minds can have negative consequences. As a result, they are cautious to express their real feelings until they feel safe with another person. The 10 enough professional salesperson peels the onion to allow the customer a feeling of safety, which allows for the free expression of thoughts, opinions and feelings. You can’t sell a group. A guaranteed prescription for failure is to present to a group without having first identified and appealed to the critical perspectives of its members on an individual basis.

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Fabricator n September-October 2003

Phase two: Diagnose

An in-depth determination of the existence, extent, and financial impact of the customer’s current situation is pursued. Diagnosis is meant to maximize the customer’s objective awareness of their dissatisfaction and determine whether or not that dissatisfaction supports the salesperson’s offerings. Phase three: Design

The goal is to get the sales professional and customer working together to identify the optimal solution to the problems that were uncovered and quantified in the Diagnose phase-even if it involves alternative solutions offered by competitors. This phase is the dress rehearsal before the final presentation is made. It is here that many salespeople make the mistake of becoming an unpaid consultant.

If, in the course of a diagnosis, you discover that sufficient pain

does not exist to motivate the customer to solve his problem, a yes decision to change is not advisable or likely. Accept it and move on. and quantifiable. If, in the course of a diagnosis, you discover that sufficient pain does not exist to motivate the customer to solve his problem, a yes decision to change is not advisable or likely. Accept it and move on.  You must help the customer calculate the cost of his problem. If you don’t have a cost of the problem, you don’t have a problem. Think of the customer’s pain and dissatisfaction as the

vehicle that drives the decision and the cost of the problem as the decision accelerator. The higher the cost of the problem, the faster the decision to solve it. It’s unlikely that the customer can or will quantify the cost of the problem on his own—he probably doesn’t have the expertise. That’s why you must help him calculate the cost of the problem, by providing a formula and plugging in numbers derived

Phase four: Deliver

This phase begins with the presentation of a formal proposal and the customer’s subsequent formal acceptance of the solution. Implementation and support of the solution are next, followed by maintaining and growing of the relationship with the customer. A diagnostic approach

A diagnostic method of selling, backed by plenty of preparation and old-fashioned hard work, is what it takes to succeed in today’s world. This method requires that sales professionals understand, up front, that sometimes stepping back from an unsuitable situation is the right thing to do. If there is no pain, there will be no sale. Pain is the most basic human motivator for change. It is the natural defense mechanism that tells people that if they don’t change and deal with a problem, they will face consequences. And of course, change itself is painful. Therefore, change will not occur until an individual or company recognizes that the pain of change is less than the pain of staying the same. The diagnostic approach contends that pain is the result of indicators or symptoms of suboptimal situations that are objective, observable

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from the customer’s reality. Doing so not only helps the customer prioritize the problem, it differentiates you from the vast majority of salespeople. Too many salespeople shy away from fixing costs. Many complain that it is too hard to determine, and it’s not their responsibility. They say the customer should know, but we find that the real reason is they fear the cost of the problem will be too low to be addressed and the engagement will end. They are reluctant to admit anything that might interfere with going for the yes. This is always a possible outcome, and it is a legitimate one. If the cost of the customer’s problem does not support the investment for the solutions being offered, the professional will acknowledge that reality and move on to a better-qualified prospect and perhaps determine proper timing to re-engage this prospect. It’s all done without any pressure from you. The beauty of the Prime Process is that it allows you to guide the customer through the process without

ever resorting to the sales techniques that customers find so distasteful. One of the points made over and over in Mastering The Complex Sale is that you manage the decision process for the customer; you don’t make the decision for him. You don’t even make a presentation until the last phase of the process. This progression of events— and the fact that you’ve demonstrated (or at least implied) that you’re willing to walk away—gains the customer’s trust and establishes credibility for you and the company you represent. You haven’t sold him on anything. You’ve helped him recognize, measure, and solve his problem. Ultimately, the go for the no mindset that permeates the Prime Process shatters the stereotypes that have long plagued salespeople and almost guarantees that the customer will select your product to solve the problem. After all, why wouldn’t he?    At the same time the customer is reaching the critical stage in the change progression, the salesperson

has been establishing her own value in the customer’s eyes. The sales professional has earned the customer’s respect because of her ability to conduct a high-quality diagnosis. She has gained the customer’s trust because of her willingness to end the engagement at any time the diagnosis revealed that the problem did not exist or was not worth acting upon. The true professional creates exceptional credibility by demonstrating an in-depth understanding of the customer’s business. Now that the customer has made the decision to change, whom does the customer believe is best qualified to help design and deliver a high-quality solution to the problem?

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