In this episode of the Switched On podcast is a brief masterclass in electrical sales from a man who has done it all and everywhere!
Who is Eryl Owens?
Decades before people were calling the Mike Myers character, Austin Powers, an international man of mystery, Eryl Owens already had a secure lock on the title. Eryl is a multi-lingual agent who works in and around the electrical industry all over the world, and has been involved in buying, selling, negotiating, sealing deals, building relationships, and otherwise making things happen in a multitude of ways.
Trained as a mechanical engineer in Wales, fluent in Spanish, Italian, and of course English, he's in his early 70s now and still active in the international business world. He has customers, contacts, friends, and acquaintances in nearly every country, has taken 3,716 business flights (as of this writing), and is a walking, talking textbook of sorts about how to conduct international commerce.
To hear movers and shakers in the global electrical industry refer to him as an "International Man of Mystery" might sound like a humorous tag-line at first, but it's no joke, because they mean it, and he's the real deal.
Keep reading to know more, or you can click here to jump straight into the 4th episode.
Starting out as a production engineer, his superiors quickly noticed his talent for evaluating pricey pieces of electrical equipment and sent him abroad to make buying decisions. Eventually, he ended up with a London-based firm for which he travelled to places like Switzerland, Germany, Italy, and France.
On one of the trips to Italy, his job was to meet with representatives of a company that made equipment for assembling circuit boards. After several repeat visits, the Italian company offered him a job working for them in Monza, a town just northeast of Milan.
That's when things really started happening for Eryl. The Italian company put him in charge of developing their U.S. market, which meant he made multiple trips to the States for several weeks at a time, ventured to nearly every state in the Union, built hundreds of close relationships in the industry, gave presentations to American engineering audiences, and basically helped sell his employer's equipment to the vast U.S. market.
At the same time he was traveling to European nations and doing the same kind of thing, honing his skills as an in-person consultant/salesperson of the highest order. His customers trusted him, knew him, and liked him. To hear Eryl tell it, that's that sales is all about, or should be all about.
How did he do it?
He'd say he trained himself, taught himself on-the-job, day after day. Indeed, he never took language classes or received formal training in Spanish or Italian. In his simple, direct, inimitable way of explaining things, he says that he "just taught himself" because he needed to learn those languages to do his job, live in Italy, and move about the world, one business flight at a time.
He obviously enjoys traveling and meeting all different types of people. His millions of flying miles have made him something of an expert on airplane noises as well. In fact, he once informed a befuddled aviation engineer who had rushed onto a grounded plane that was attempting to depart from Pisa, "The left engine didn't start." The guy gave Eryl a puzzled look, almost in disbelief that a half-asleep passenger would know the exact
source of the problem based on noises in the cabin.
What does this cross-cultural expert think about the way business is done today? What are his views on email, video meetings, and all the other not-in-person ways of doing business? To put it bluntly, he's not a fan.
During the lockdown, he's been lucky because all the people he speaks with via video chat, telephone, or email are folks he's already well-acquainted with. But in his view, email is a weak way of communicating because it eliminates nuance, personal connection, and emotional connections. It's just so many words on a screen. He refers to attempts to use this watered-down way of communicating as "death by email."
One of his "secrets," even though he doesn't use that term, is getting to know the people he sells to and works with. He's what modern business people would call an old-school advocate in "playing the long game" of learning how your clients think, what they enjoy doing, what their families are like, and what their everyday lives are like.
Demesne came onto Eryl's professional radar screen decades ago, when the company was just starting out. He liked that Noel McLoughlin wanted to import equipment directly into Ireland, was an able ambassador for the country, and was unfailingly trustworthy. Noel and Eryl became close friends, attended trade shows together all over Europe, and shared a way of thinking about life, business, and the world. Even today, Eryl maintains a connection with Demesne as an informal consultant to the management team.
What does an experienced pro like Eryl consider his personal philosophy about how to do business, how to sell, and how to build relationships with people for any and every nation on earth? He says that honesty is the backbone of it all. Honesty in the way you conduct yourself, what you say, the commitments you make, and what you do. Even white lies will come back to bite you, according to his personal code of ethics. "No tricky stuff" when dealing with clients, Eryl advises.
"The personal relationship is everything for me," Eryl opines. You can't do a sales job if you don't truly understand how your potential clients think, their culture, their mentality, the whole person. Today's generation of international sales people miss that, according to Eryl, and are worse off when they replace travel with teleconferencing. You lose so many critical connections when you can't spend time with your clients and get to know them, in person.
Is there something about this man's way of doing business that today's technology-obsessed, emailing, chatting, texting generation can learn from? There's plenty, and you could print it all up as a list of do's and don'ts that would probably be an instant bestseller if it were published as an e-book so millennials and zoomers could read it..
Hear the Interview
Listen to our full interview with Eryl by searching ‘Switched On Demesne Electrical’ in your podcast player or just click this link:
Episode 4 of our new Switched On series of podcasts is available to listen to right now