Lawford Case Study Hbr

Topics: Sales, Procurement, Decision making Pages: 5 (1673 words) Published: June 5, 2012
Lawford Electric Company
Case Analysis

Lawford Electric Company
Case Analysis
In this case, Robert Allen, a Field Sales Engineer for the Systems Controls department at Lawford Electric Company, has lost a very large sale with Bayfield Milling. Bayfield Milling’s average annual purchases with Lawford are about $50,000. The lost revenue on the bid discussed in the case was nearly $900,000. The case chronologically outlines Allen’s Sales Activity log which provides an overview of the presentations and conversations he has with Bayfield Milling’s employees. Exhibit A outlines the cast of characters in the case. In reviewing the sales log the question to be answered is “How did Robert Allen lose the sale?” Allen lost the sale on several fronts. First and foremost he didn’t seem to fully understand the players. That is to say, who was the decision maker, who the influencers were and who needed the technical information? He neither connects with the operations department, a key group on this project, nor does he fully utilize his boss’ offers to help. Lastly, he doesn’t address an underlying them in the case, which is that Bayfield is concerned with reliability. To start, Allen does not seem to grasp the role that Gibson has in this sale. Gibson is the purchasing agent not the decision maker. Gibson is the right person to work with when pushing reorders and selling parts, however the drive train system is a major capital expense. Bayfield had already spent $200 million on the mechanicals of the project and was planning on spending another $900k on the drive system. Gibson has no executive power and therefore Allen should have spent less time with him. An example of this is when Allen shows Gibson Pollack’s spec ideas. It’s clear from the log that Gibson was the wrong person to share this information with because he admits he doesn’t really understand them. At this point, Allen should be presenting this information to the engineer and operations teams who he knows is having problems finalizing the specs. Another breakdown in the discovery process was Allen’s failure to contact the operations department. Gibson advised Allen that sales people should not contact the Bayfield engineering team or the VP of operations but that they could contact operations personnel. Allen fails to do this. Contacting the operations department would have been important for two reasons. First, he learns early in the bidding process that Bayfield engineering and operations are “hassling over the drive system specs.” He hears from Mainwaring that engineering is relying on the specs from operations. Instead of contacting operations he continues to focus his efforts on Mainwaring. Additionally, targeting operations may have given Allen access to Vogel who is undoubtedly the decision maker on this project. Furthermore at the beginning of the discovery process Webster offers his help. In reviewing the logs it doesn’t appear that Allen made the best use of his offer. We know that Webster takes some of Bayfield players to lunch and participates in the final presentation, but beyond that we don’t see Allen going to Webster for assistance. As the regional sales manager he would have been a good resource for pursuing this lead. Lastly, one of Bayfield’s main concerns is reliability. Allen notes that both Mainwaring and Hughes have a concern with reliability of the product. Several times Allen has contact with two influencers, both of who work on the Bayfield plant floor and utilize existing Lawford Electric equipment. It’s a natural assumption that if they have something negative to say about the equipment that their supervisors will hear about it. With a large purchase coming up it’s more than likely that the management team is being asked for feedback on any equipment that is made by the firms that are bidding. The A G Booster tells Allen he likes the AG engine because it doesn’t need to be serviced. The...
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