Bonus Content

You Landed That Big Job — Now What?

By Barry Olson

I’m frequently surprised at what lengths salespeople will go to secure an order—yet after it’s received, and after initial submittals are approved and released, follow-up is rare unless a crisis arises. Usually, by that point, it’s too late to act in any beneficial capacity and they are simply putting out an already raging inferno. Over the years, I have noted a handful of salespeople who realize the value of great project management and follow-up. This practice not only endears them to the contractors they call upon, but also provides them with other economic advantages—one of which is more orders.

Once an order is received, the initial push is to get approval drawings started and issued for review. The plan I am talking about starts after that point. There generally seems to be a short lull experienced while drawings are in to the specifying engineer for review. It is within this window that the salesperson needs to sit down with the project manager and review delivery dates and milestones to be met for the project. This action will also help the salesperson become more familiar with the project timeline and may help him or her define the best time to follow up re­garding other miscellaneous material needs.

Once a timeline is set, make use of manufacturers’ agents or contacts. Bring them into the office and go over the bill of material they are providing. Work to identify any items that may cause issues in meeting the required delivery schedule. This is also a good time to relay any possible delivery issues to the contractor.

Next, create a way to keep the progress of the job in mind. When I worked in distribution, I would set up a recurring weekly reminder on my calendar that would last the expected duration of the job. Then I would manually go in and add any specific milestone events two weeks prior to the actual milestone date. This method accomplished two objectives: It reminded me to send a quick follow-up email to the manufacturer requesting current ship dates and gave me notice ahead of time as to any impending delivery delays.

Being alerted to possible delays two weeks prior gave me the ability to be proactive instead of reactive in resolving the issue. It also helped my contractor make changes to its work plan to account for a delay in delivery of a specific item or items. Even though a delay in the receipt of materials is not the best scenario, many times the work schedule could be modified without a major crisis unfolding and finger pointing.

Project managers are usually very busy individuals, and they are often caught between the demands of general contractors, owners, and their own management. Making their lives a bit more manageable can pay off big for a distributor.

Olson has spent more than a quarter century in the electrical industry and is currently director of purchasing for SASCO. Reach him at

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