Roles of Sales Manager and Traders in Steel Industry



Steel is a highly capital intensive product to produce. By virtue of the “Corporate Brand” and the brand equity of a steel company, more often than not, the product gets sold by itself. Steel companies are normally big entities but most of the steel consuming firms are not as big as the steel producers, making the Steel companies to decide on how they price the product and what product they offer and how do they offer them.

Most of the steel professionals would agree that it is impossible to produce steel without rejections and complaints are bound to occur. However, it is also impossible to have a 100% quality check of end products before being dispatching from factory.   So this leaves one to ponder as how quality is controlled at Steel Mills? The quality of a steel product is taken care of to a greater extent by the production facilities that the company employs.  Any wise Steel buyer can say to a certain extent if the steel from a steel company is better or not based on the technology and the facilities used by the mill.

The above factors (viz., Brand name and Quality Control) significantly take care of the sales of any steel product.

So this leaves a case to look at the roles of sales managers and traders in steel Industry.

Steel Companies can be broadly classified in to

  1. Primary Steel Producers (or Major Steel producers)
  2. Secondary Steel producers
  3. Steel Trading Firms
  4. Service Centres
  5. Steel Stockists

Role of a sales manager is different in each of the above mentioned category.

Let’s touch upon the primary, secondary producers and the trading firms as they form the majority of steel companies.

Sales Managers in Primary and Secondary Steel Producers:

The role of Sales Department in many of the primary steel producers, is to allocate the production quantity based on the guidelines set by the management and forecast it (it can be export oriented, margin oriented, end industry oriented, product oriented etc).

The orders normally come to these steel companies.  But with a sales manager, the profit margin becomes better.

Some of the important roles of the sales manager in a Steel Producing Company are,

  1. To carry the company’s brand name to the market. Their actions will reflect on the image of the company.
  2. To increase the profitability of the company, by aiming to sell the products at a higher margin ( a well- educated B- school grad is not required to sell a product at a much lower price).
  3. Act a liaison between the management and the customers and try to meet the expectations of both of them.
  4. Co-ordinate the entire sales activity from order intake till delivery.
  5. Constant feedback to the management from the market and decide on future strategy.

The individual as such may not have a greater significance in bringing out a major change in any steel producing company. The rules are normally laid with a top-down approach and sales managers are carriers and implementers of these to the market.

Mostly the sales managers in such companies are called “Key Account Managers” and their roles would normally to co-ordinate and ensure customer orders are being delivered in time and to carry out the “Paper Work” and documentation as required by their company.

Trader in Steel Trading Companies:

The role of the Trader (cannot be called a sales manager as the role is beyond being a sales manager) is vastly different from a sales manager.

In a Steel trading company, the assets are their people, networks and trade finance.

A Trader has following addition roles to play over and above the roles mentioned above,

  1. Explore the whole steel market to look at opportunities.
  2. Be dynamic and establish contacts and build credibility with Steel mills (source)
  3. Develop customers and gain their confidence
  4. Create value addition to act in between the producer and consumer
  5. Ensure revenue generation with fewer risks.
  6. Gauge the trustworthiness of both producer and consumer before financing a deal.

Unlike the sales managers of a steel producing company, a trader is quite significant for a steel trading company as a traders are viewed as individual profit centers and  revenue generators for the firm, which is not the case in a steel mill ( Irrespective of sales manager, a steel mill can sell its products).

Trader has to act in a timely manner to have the correct information on all fronts to make a deal.

For steel mills, they have the option to sell/ pick and choose customers. But for a trader, the job is tougher they have to prove their value both to the source and consumer and they have to identify the segments where there is a need / gap and which is currently not being serviced.

In other words, Traders act as entrepreneurs and work as if the company is theirs.  This attitude is really important for any trader. As in a steel company, the sales manager has the option of selling less to reduce the work load and still being able to be a “good performer”, which is not the case in a steel trading firm.

Many Steel companies outsource the sales to established Steel trading firms to represent them in different countries as setting up their own offices and establishing them would be a costlier and time consuming process.

Following are some of the attributes (not in order or ranking) of a good sales manager/ trader

  1. The “HUNGER” and “PASSION” to sell more and not be complacent
  2. The “URGE” to do things and get things done as fast as possible.
  3. “NETWORKING” Skills
  5. Ability to gauge people – “INTERPERSONAL SKILLS”.
  7. “NO EGO” but maintaining “SELF RESPECT”.

I still remember the words from a steel professional to his sales managers, which I think is suitable for any business “At the end of every conversation, customer should get a feeling that he has won it. But actually you should have won it.

Happy Steeling !!

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