Our client is a custom plastic injection molder and contract manufacturer. They offer complete end-to-end solutions, including engineering support, transfer tooling services, customer fittings, secondary operations, assembly, and Kanban and other inventory management systems.
The company’s director of sales realized that the traditional sales model was no longer working. He had several salespeople working for him, but they weren’t pursuing new business at a rate required for growth. The company was doing well, but he had an aggressive growth plan to bring in $5 million in new business in 3 years. Plus, the company had become a national supplier and having local salespeople no longer made sense.
“There is a balancing act between hunting and farming. Once you start managing more accounts, the energy you have to hunt is diminished. You end up farming your existing accounts because it is easier, and your pipeline for new business development slows down or comes to a stop altogether,” said the director of sales. ”I looked at our strengths and weaknesses, and our strengths were our account management team and our closing ability. We sell ourselves very well. The issue was to find the right leads.”
The director of sales parted ways with his sales team, leaving only himself. He told his management team he was interested in breaking away from the traditional sales model and taking a risk with outsourcing their front-end sales activities. He said he was willing to risk failure because what they had been doing wasn’t working.
"We closed three new accounts and quoted $35 Million of the right type of business. We have so much business that we had to purchase two new machines, and we still have to say no." – Director of Sales
Abandoning Traditional Sales Methods
Athena reached out to the director of sales as part of its outbound marketing process. “Athena used its process on us. I spoke to them a couple of years ago, but I was not ready to connect. Occasionally, I’d get an email, and when I was ready, I reached back out,” the director of sales said.
Todd Zielinksi, Athena’s managing director and CEO, and his team met with the director of sales to discuss the process. One selling point for him was the metrics Athena provides to show return on investment. Other process selling points were the list clean services, the lead nurture component, and integration with Pipedrive CRM. He decided to make a one-year commitment.
“I loved their model. I decided to commit to a year because it takes that long to develop. We have long sales cycles. It can take months to break into a company, and then by the time you sign NDA, get the RFQ, it can take a year or two,” said the director of sales. “So there was a risk with it taking a year to build the foundation and not getting anything in return that year. It comes down to being willing to take a chance. You have to be willing to commit long term.”
Not long before bringing on Athena, the plastic injection molding company partnered with an SEO and digital marketing firm. Athena has a partnership with Thomas for its inbound marketing, but when a client has an established relationship, Athena works with them to create a cohesive process.
The director of sales explained why the two agencies work well together. “The inbound leads from our digital marketing firm’s efforts are typically people who have a need right now. On Athena’s side, we are identifying targets and reaching out. There were many top accounts we set meetings for, got NDAs, and had RFQs. Athena had a hand in all the leads. All the inbound leads would go to Cody [Athena account manager] to validate; there were countless that were not a fit. There is tremendous value in vetting them out, so the work I did was truly value add.”
Success During a Pandemic
Not long after the agencies started working together, the world was hit by the Covid-19 pandemic. Despite this, the companies stayed true to their processes. In the first year working together, the plastic injection molding company has quoted $35 million in what they refer to as “the right kind of business.” For the company, this means medium-to-high volume transfer tooling programs. Three of those closed, resulting in $3 million in new business, and they are on track to hit $5 million.
Because of this success, the plastic injection molding company bought two new machines and has had to alter its services with Athena. Speaking about the outstanding quotes and his current capacity, he said, “Covid-19 put a strain on companies. Many projects were put on hold, but we can’t handle anymore. We signed a maintenance contract with Athena because we are at max capacity right now. This allows us to maintain Pipedrive and the contacts, and they can vet out some of the opportunities.”
In October 2019, the company acquired a low-volume plastic injection molding company specializing in technically demanding, close tolerance parts and assemblies. The director of sales intends to use the same process to grow this new company.
“[The new plastic injection molding company] is our next focus for growth. They only run on one shift four days a week, so there is tremendous room for growth. But to grow, we have to hire a few people,” he said. “Once we get it to a level where they can handle the growth, Athena’s services will be turned back on to focus on growth there. Our long-term strategy is to grow, maximize profits, and acquire new companies. Every step of the way, you need additional sales resources.” Athena