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Ben Hayes at HD Connectivity

I decided to take a year in a work placement to enable me with practical business experience to give my degree an extra edge of competitiveness over those who may have not. I wanted to do it to gain useful contacts & to broaden my horizons which I think I can take into my final year of study. I enabled a Sales & Marketing placement at an electronics manufacturing company called HD Connectivity who are based in Malvern not too far from my home in Worcester.†

Moving into my outline of how my placement developed and the tasks with it. From the very start I remember the first thing I did was go down to the main trade show in the UK for the custom installation industry EI south. The main thing for me here was to gain as much product knowledge as I could take in which was quite difficult at this stage. I had very little understanding of the industry and it did seem quite overwhelming but the good people in the business helped me along and understood the fact that it is difficult to learn at first which made me feel more comfortable. This lead on to my first project that I personally managed which was a basic mail promotion where I was sending out letters of an offer on one of the products we were looking to phase out. I was given the names and had to obtain all of the addresses out of our in house customer base and had to organise that into a spreadsheet to send to each customer. It took me around a week to get a few hundred brochures sent out and then follow up on the phones. Initially I hadnít really had much experience on the phone and was a little nervous. If iím being completely honest it did take me a while to get used to it but now i do believe my skills on the phone are at more than a comfortable level to do the job.†

After the mail promotion I carried on for a couple of months developing as much product knowledge as I could whilst doing things such as trade account application reviews and other basic processes while getting used to the customer base system that we use & I think by end of September i had a good basic understanding of everything, especially the HDanywhere products.†

As we moved into October and November I started to get out of the office more and went to visit one of the distributors for HDanywhere in London and did also actually go down to the Google headquarters as well which was a totally different experience than what I was expecting. Here there was a very relaxed atmosphere which seemed to have no pressure whatsoever. People were dressed very casually and was a very creative environment. These couple of trips definitely helped me develop my face to face business personality and I think this is something that I do have naturally but was good to deal with 2 different businesses and different people at those businesses.

By far the busiest day I have encountered as part of the sales team here was on 27th November which was Black Friday. Itís definitely something that I want to mention because it did give me a buzz that day because it was so successful and we did take a lot of money and something that does sort of drag me back to and want to do sales again. I was hardly off the phone at all.

The first major project that I had to take under my belt was the Installer Network. Now the Installer network is a platform which lists our best installers and I had to go through and check who qualified & who didnít and continue to manage this until the day I left. Itís quite a big responsibility and I think I have done a good job of it.†

Moving into 2016 I was then given the task of building and developing my own customer base to manage. Itís definitely something that you have to work out on your own because of the fact that theyíre your customers and you need your own system to make sure that youíre in regular contact with them and can keep an eye on any opportunities that they may have mentioned to you. This coincided quite well with the introduction of a new CRM tool through SAGE which was useful as I could customise it to my needs.†

Then in February I had the highlight of my placement. We attended the biggest trade show in Europe, ISE which was just like the EI south show that I mentioned earlier but on a much bigger scale.†Very different companies. All competitors under one roof. Gave us the chance to develop new business and for me personally gave me the chance to develop my face to face communication skills especially with people from loads of different countries. When we got back to the office these leads had to be followed up which was good because you could see the direct success from that. I started to understand which leads could be developed and which I may be wasting my time on.

Another event I went to was the national bodies event, the CEDIA tech forum which was more a product knowledge development event but did give me the chance to speak to a few installers and followed them up the same as ISE but on a smaller scale.†

And that brings me on to recent events. I feel now I have a very good product knowledge that would allow me to sell both residential and commercial kit. I recently went to the EISouth trade show again in July where I was on the Just Add Power stand which is a product for a more commercial market. I feel that by the end of my placement I really started to understand the nature of the market and gather that things donít happen quick but take a lot of time and effort. I do now feel like a valuable employee and when I look back I can see how much I have developed.

In November 2015 Chris (MD) and I did set some learning objectives and I thought it would be a good idea to take a quick look at these and assess to see where Iím at now.

Strengths - I think I have built on all of these since I have been here, communication skills, punctuality, professionalism are all still good.†

Weaknesses - Lack of tech knowledge , something that I have improved in. Now I understand Just Add Power (commercial). Taking ownership of tasks , yes I do believe that iíve improved on this. I remember I used to sometimes get distracted from tasks but now I donít seem to. Organisation , I think that this is something I still think I can improve on.†

Opportunities - Growing company in need of my skills , this still applies, figures show growth on the company and on my personal accounts. Learn and grow within company , I think i have grown and am a valuable member of the team and the fact that I have been given new responsibilities confirms this. Meeting new clients , something that has been limited and i would have liked to have done more but I appreciated that because my role has grown I am quite key in the office to push sales.†

Threats - External competitors, still an issue but it is always going to be an issue as itís the nature of business. Small industry , yes it still is but I feel as though now iíd actually like to challenge this as I do think the industry is growing and people are becoming more aware of the Ďsmart homeí which can only be a good thing for the company.†

Taking everything into account I believe that my year in work has been a success. The main benefits that I think there has been is the fact that I have applied what I have previously learned at university into the Ďreal worldí and also can take what I have learned from work experience to reapply into theory when I return to university to complete my degree. I have learned the technical aspects of the industry and itís nature and have gained some valuable contacts that I can potentially use for my dissertation and for after completion of my degree for career prospects.†

As I have previously mentioned I think I have been an asset to the company and the fact that they want me back just goes to prove this. I donít really have any criticisms of the company or the support that iíve had because of the size† & nature of the company. I do like that fact that iíve been left to get on with it myself and manage my own tasks which I may not have been able to do at a bigger company.†

I have had a verbal offer to go back to HD Connectivity after I have got my degree which if I do decide to take I would like to advance my role even further and to use the knowledge that I will gain in my final year of study.†

Overall I am very happy with the way itís gone and will stand me in good stead for both my studies and future work.