The Challenge of Bringing a New Product to the North American Market
When Denny Weber and Poul Erik Christensen secured a $1.5 million submersible pump order from the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT), the achievement represented much more than an ordinary sale.
The order was a breakthrough against Grundfos’ major competitor, ITT FLYGT, which has dominated the submersible pump market in both Chicago and North America for many years.
Five years ago, IDOT conducted a study to upgrade the existing IDOT Pumping Station #27. The new station will have nine KWM-540-12T submersible axial/mixed flow pumps, each with 540 hp motors and stator windings for 4160 volt, including the complete draft tube assembly columns. Grundfos and FLYGT were the primary competitors.
“When customers think about submersible pumps, they think about FLYGT,” said Weber, submersible products manager. “It’s that drastic.”
Changing customers’ perceptions required that Weber and Christensen overcome the challenge of introducing a new product to the North America market. They knew that even high-quality pumps like Grundfos’ would not sell themselves.
“You can have the number one product in the world, but without the right people to service and sell it, you’re nothing,” said Christensen, business development manager.
Because the Grundfos brand was completely new to many of their customers, Weber and Christensen started from the beginning. Before even discussing a single pump with the customer, they reviewed the history of Grundfos’ and the significant investment in the North American market.
Christensen explained that recounting the company’s history was essential to gaining trust and establishing Grundfos’ commitment to the customer.
“We had to start from zero,” Christensen said.
To demonstrate commitment to the wastewater pump market, Grundfos revealed an impressive exhibition at WEFTEC 2011, which is the Water Environment Federation’s Technical Exhibition and Conference.
“We were finally able to prove that we had a world-class institution behind us,” Weber said.
In addition to touting Grundfos’ reputation, landing the submersible pump order with the IDOT required not just talking the talk but also walking the walk.
Weber took the consulting engineer, Kou Chang, P.E., from AB&H Donohue, the engineering firm that IDOT hired to oversee the technical specifications of the pumps, to the Grundfos manufacturing facility in South Korea to see the pumps certified witness tested.
“The test was very successful,” said Weber.
In the end, Chang approved the pumps.
Grundfos pumps will also be part of a brand new station at the Chicago O’Hare Airport Pumping Station #24.
Although the task of introducing Grundfos’ submersible pump into the North American market has not always been easy, from their offices in Aurora, Ill., the pair has continued on, withstanding all the ups and downs of the challenge.
And at the end of the day, Weber said, they are left with a “great sense of accomplishment.”