By Narelle Coulter
Chisholm Institute has devised an innovative sales and marketing course that is teaching manufacturers how to sell their products to Australia and the world.
When Johnny Depp soars through the air in the hit movie Pirates of the Caribbean the American actor is tethered to a gantry system manufactured in Hallam.
“All the stunt people love our stuff,“ Bomac chief engineer Tate McFarlane said.
“They find it easy to set up and use, and it’s versatile, so they can do a lot with it. We have supplied mainly action films like Woverine and The Matrix.
“I’ll elbow my wife in the middle of a film and say ’That’s Altrac’.“
Altrac is a light-weight modular aluminium rail system manufactured by Bomac. It works like Lego to build high safety systems and material handling systems.
“It started in 1984 as a brains for hire company, so we did everything and anything,“ Mr McFarlane explained.
“Then with a changing economy that was occurring, one-off engineering was cheaper to do overseas, we came up with a standarised product.“
Mr McFarlane’s father Barry, a boiler maker by trade, came up with the idea for the original piece of rail while lying in a hospital bed recovering from a heart attack.
Now the product is making headway overseas in New Zealand, Korea and the US.
As the second generation to run the business, Mr McFarlane said he wanted to build on the foundations laid by his parents. To do that, he realised he needed to get smarter about sales and marketing.
“We are a very technical-oriented company. Engineering knowledge we have. Sales and marketing skills are something we don’t have,“ he explained.
“With the way marketing and sales are going, you have to be up front, if you lag behind, you can suddenly drop off the radar with all your customers.
“Modern business is about creating relationships and networks. You have to be able to relate to the customer and create that trust between the two parties.“
Mr McFarlane is one of eight students who are completing Chisholm’s inaugural Creating Future Leaders in Manufacturing Sales program.
Chisholm Industry educator Michele Tocci said the size of the companies involved in the course varied from small family-owned firms like Bomac to larger firms with 200 plus employees.
Participants include Hilton Manufacturing, Thermofilm, Pluspak and Claas Harvesting.
“The diversity shows you the core issue of technical people developing sales skills is what is important,“ Ms Tocci said.
“The products they have are fantastic. They just have to learn to speak the language to make that connection, understanding and rapport.“
Ms Tocci said Chisholm developed the course to fill a knowledge gap identified by industry bodies including SEMMA and SEBN.
“What they came up with first and foremost were sales skills. There is an incredible amount of knowledge, but it was the sales component that needed to be developed. Second to that was the international trade.“
Students attend a monthly industry expert workshop. They also receive regular on-site visits from educators like Ms Tocci to make sure what they are learning is integrated into their individual industries.
“We are looking for participants to be a lot more proactive in their business, and we are already seeing that in a number of ways,“ Ms Tocci said.
“If we look at Tate and his role, he has an on campus day, then we come out and visit for three hours after one of the those sessions. There is online reading and assessment tasks. Importantly, anything Tate learns can potentially be implemented in his business.“
Mr McFarlane said he had already started using skills learnt in the course in his role at Bomac.
“You don’t just get a certificate at the end that says you have done the course. You actually get tools and use them as you go along.“
He said he found the course relevant and industry-focused.
“Lots of sales courses and marketing courses assume you are selling Coke or some other household name where as this was aimed at something that in the Australian economy should be considered clean, critical and clever.
“Because it was tailored to manufacturing, I felt it was worth taking on. It’s been pretty positive in that it’s always kept that in mind.“
After completing the sales component of the course, students can go on to complete a certificate four in international sales.
“I do think sales is a critical element to any successful business,“ Mr McFarlane said.
“It’s not where my formal training lies. The best step to progressing any company is admitting your weaknesses and then addressing them. I enjoy the challenge of sales. The sparing with other brands, proving to the customer yours has a unique capability. I get enjoyment out of our of customers appreciating we have a unique product that can do what they want it to do.
“It’s nice to tell people that manufacturing is still alive in Australia. That its clean, clever and critical not dirty, dumb and dangerous.“
For more information, call 1300 854 039 or go to www.chisholm.edu.au/flms