Machine Tool Sales Engineer Bob McLain: Meeting Customer Needs

Sep 01, 2020
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Machine tool sales engineer Bob McLain has been in the industrial equipment and supply business longer than most of us have been driving cars. For the first four decades of his career, he worked for a well-known bandsaw manufacturer. After retirement, McLain was left wondering what he was going to do with his time. That’s when he got the call from Kent USA. “They asked me if I wanted to do some follow-up work on quotes and sales leads,” he says. “That was four years ago, and I’ve been busy ever since.”

Job One: Machine Tool Sales Engineer

McLain’s job title is regional sales manager, covering parts of Kentucky, Tennessee, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia. Ironically, it’s only his second job, having taken a position with DoALL after serving with the US Army in Heidelberg, Germany. That was in 1977, and in another ironic twist, it was the first job he applied for upon returning home.

“My father owned a machine shop at the time and had a DoALL bandsaw out back,” McLain says. “His advice was straightforward: if they offer you a job, then you’d better take it. So that’s what I did.”

During his last four years in the service, McLain earned a bachelor’s degree in general business administration and management. He put that knowledge to good use as he climbed the ranks within DoALL and then DGI, the company’s industrial supply division.

McLain has learned many lessons during his four decades in machine tool sales. One of the most important, however, was to find out what the customer actually needs, rather than what they think they need or even what they can afford.

Following the Requirements

“Everyone has a budget they need to work with,” McLain says. “And while I respect that, it doesn’t mean it should be the deciding factor in a machine purchase. A good salesperson will always identify the application’s requirements early on, and avoid selling the customer a piece of equipment that’s not right for them. I stand by that, even if it means walking away from the sale.”

That principle is just as important to McLain today as it was during his time with DoALL. Fortunately, he rarely has to walk away from any prospect, and finds that the second sale is always easier than the first. “I’m very proud of Kent USA and their equipment,” he says. “Since starting here, I can honestly say that I’ve not received a single service call on a new piece of machinery. We plug them in, level them up, and put ‘em to work. It’s just great equipment.”

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