How Flex-Line Automation transformed their sales process
In the bustling manufacturing industry landscape, Southern Illinois-based family-owned business Flex-Line Automation thrives as a one-stop shop for all of its customers’ material handling needs.
From their humble beginnings as integrators in the early 80s to their expansion into various conveyor systems, ancillary equipment, and robotic solutions, Flex-Line has continuously evolved to stay relevant in the face of changing technologies.
“We recognized there was a manufacturing shift several years ago, so we started in that direction to stay competitive,” explains Cathy Rinne, President at Flex-Line. “These days, you have to do that – increase your product line, change your scope, and change your focus.”
Shifting sales strategies
However, the business struggled to maintain its network of independent sales reps. ”When we first started, we always used independent reps,” says Lauren Van De Mark, Sales and Marketing Manager at Flex-Line. “We didn’t have any in-house sales; over the years, many of them retired or didn’t want to pursue some of the newer technologies. To me, it feels like independent reps are becoming a thing of the past, and it’s really hard to find a good one.”
Recognizing the need to adapt, Cathy and Lauren stumbled upon a solution at Automate 2023 in Detroit, MI, when they met the HowToRobot team.
“I was already connected with a few staff members from HowToRobot on LinkedIn, and Automate was the first time we met in person,” says Cathy. “We didn’t really know what HowToRobot was or what they had to offer until they asked us to go to their booth and provide us a demo.”
Immediately, Cathy and Lauren knew they had found a solution for their sales struggles, marking the beginning of their partnership with HowToRobot.
Empowering sales efforts and engineering
The platform’s comprehensive sales and marketing capabilities proved to be a game-changer for Flex-Line. “It’s like having a 24/7 rep in the field, finding these projects, and vetting them for me,” explains Lauren. “I don’t have to do the “cat-herding” like I had to do with independent reps just to get an update on all our leads.”
Even the wealth of information provided by HowToRobot, including videos, photos, and detailed specifications, far surpassed what their field salesforce had been able to collect previously. The ease of navigating through potential projects and cherry-picking the ones that aligned perfectly with their expertise was particularly impressive.
“I’ve struggled to get qualified jobs in front of our engineers,” says Lauren. “Now, I don’t even have to be a part of that. I signed all of our engineers up for the platform, and they have the ability to pick their projects and communicate with who they want.”
Cathy adds, “They do such a great job of gathering all of the necessary information to make an excellent proposal, which was another thing we struggled with. We’ve designed quote sheets and asked for specific information, and inevitably we would still get a napkin sketch with a couple of ideas.”
The human touch
In addition to the abundance of information readily available at the click of a button, Cathy and Lauren really appreciated the availability of HowToRobot’s staff. Anytime they needed clarification or direct communication, the team was readily available to assist them.
“It’s not just a faceless website,” says Cathy. “HowToRobot’s team is very approachable. During that initial conversation after Automate, it was like picking up the phone and talking to a friend.”
Lauren adds, “They do a great job filling in a lot of the blanks, so those initial conversations with our customers are more organic.”
Furthermore, HowToRobot’s user-friendly dashboard made the setup process seamless and intuitive, allowing Cathy and Lauren’s team to quickly leverage the platform’s benefits.
Driving efficiency and business growth
Integrating HowToRobot’s platform into their sales strategy is already proving to be a transformative experience. By eliminating unnecessary calls and focusing on projects that fit their expertise, Flex-Line is saving a lot of time and resources.
Cathy and Lauren also found the platform to be a cost-effective alternative to some of the other sales techniques they were trying out, enabling them to reach a broader audience in the manufacturing industry.
“The price comparison to independent sales reps and trade shows is a bargain,” says Cathy. “When we first had our meeting with HowToRobot, Lauren and I were braced for this huge fee and huge commission structure, and when we found out how reasonably priced it was, we had this “Shut up and take my money” moment. It’s a big value for a low investment.”
Moreover, the ability to explore international projects and connect with potential customers worldwide showcased the platform’s global reach.
The perfect sales companion
Cathy and Lauren are excited to see how the platform continues to help them grow. They appreciate HowToRobot’s approachability, professionalism, and the ease with which they established a genuine working relationship.
The platform’s organic and conversational approach alleviates some of the pressures of the sales cycle, offering customers a stress-free experience.
“HowToRobot not only connected us to a multitude of potential customers, but the platform also streamlined some of our operations, giving us the peace of mind to focus on what we really do best,” says Cathy.
By empowering family-owned businesses like Flex-Line, HowToRobot has proven to be the perfect sales companion for not just larger corporations, but also for small to mid-sized companies who may not have the resources to support a full-time salesforce.