March 16, 2022
Approach End-users for Business Development Strategies: Why and How?

End users approach

In energy turnkey projects or complete systems installation, end-users (Transmission operators, distribution operators, rural agencies, private companies) are the stakeholders which express their needs. In most cases, they will write the technical specifications of the energy projects (protocol, architecture, norms, equipment specifications …), and approaching them will enable your organization to influence the way these technical specifications will be written and optimize your chances to sell your products and services.

  • In public tenders, the end-user is not necessarily the one who is actually funding the project, indeed, projects might be funded by organizations such ADB, World Bank, etc… Nevertheless, approaching these large funding organizations is often a huge challenge even for well-known companies. They are not always easy to approach (difficulty to find the relevant contact, multiplicity of decision-makers, and legal restrictions preventing from meeting them).
  • End-users may contract with an engineering consulting company in charge of working on the technical specifications. It is important to know which engineering company is advising the end-user to intent to enter into a technical discussion with them.

Deploying a good spec-in strategy

Many manufacturers or service providers focus 100% on their direct client (the EPC in the scheme here above) and neglect direct business development towards the end-users. Approaching end-users is key as:

  • They are the ones which are writing and publishing the project specifications and therefore indirectly qualify the possible products or services.
  • If they know the pro’s of your solution, they will be able to better differentiate the bids they will receive from EPC’s which include your product and services.

A good spec-in strategy is a long-run approach where you have to invest now for a future hypothetical reward

As a manufacturer may have some difficulties meeting the technical staff of the end-user to promote its product on ongoing tenders (which is often legally prohibited), the approach is more to work on technical specifications of past tenders and propose an innovative solution, architecture, model, product…. If the end-user sees the benefits, it will be in its own interest to integrate your inputs on the specification of the coming projects.

Do not propose to charge him to provide him these engineering services, work for free! You are planting now to harvest later.

A good spec-in strategy is fully customer-oriented

The fact that your ultimate goal is to promote your products shall not prevent you from genuinely helping the end-user: Put your best sales engineer, dedicate hours, and make it for free!

The most efficient way is to organize exchanges between end-user technical staff and your engineers. The ultimate objective of a business development strategy with end-users is when you manage to write with them or help them to write the detailed technical specifications. Some good practices to build a serious professional relationship are:

  • Invite a delegation of representatives of the end-user to your factory/offices.
  • Invite end-user engineers to your training session: to have the opportunity to train end-user technical staff to your products in your offices is a great success.
  • Visit them regularly to show them new products / organize technical sessions or conferences.
  • Communicate about these events and make sure your direct client gets aware of this.

A spec-in strategy is a well-structured and planned company approach

In some companies, to invite engineers or decision-makers from end users may request authorization from Management and Compliance officers (to ensure compliance with Codes of Ethics, anti-bribery policy…). There are possibilities to make it happen but this takes time and effort and therefore shall be organized.

Inviting 5 people from South Africa to Germany for a 5-day training session has a cost. Most of the time, such a budget can not be allocated to a project and therefore shall be planned in the budget in advance. As a commercial/Business Development director, make sure that you have a dedicated budget.

You can refer some of the projects here

Key Learnings

  • Even if you are far away from the end-user on the value-chain, if your product has some differentiation, knowing the end-user and meet him to present your solutions/products shall be a constant effort of your organization. A good business development strategy always includes an action plan to address end-users.
  • Spec-in strategy is an investment: to accept to work for free for end-users shall be part of your global business Development strategy.
  • Make sure your direct customer knows that you have met or are in relationships with the end-user. The consideration he will bring to your offers will be drastically increased. It will improve your relationships and leverage during negotiation.
  • Have a dedicated budget for end-user business development actions.

You can get the demo here