Do Companies Not Want to Sell Products?

I wonder sometimes how some companies decide on the best way to sell their products on the Interwebs. I sometimes wonder if companies even want to sell product. Let me tell you a little story.

I came across a product brief on one of our sister sites (Design News) that showcased a low power rotary position sensor. Regular readers know that I have an interest in motion control systems going back to my days at Philips Healthcare, where I designed portions of CT scanners. We used a variety of motion transducers such as linear potentiometers, rotary potentiometers, rotary encoders, resolvers (sine-cosine), and accelerometers, for various motion sensing tasks.

I have previously written about using a MEMS-type accelerometer as an inclination or tilt sensor. One of the other ways I had considered measuring tilt for that project was to use either a rotary potentiometer or an absolute rotary encoder mounted with its shaft horizontal. Then, I planned to suspend a weight from a short arm off the shaft (visualize a pendulum). If the bearings around the shaft were sufficiently low friction, I figured I could measure tilt accurately. I ended up using the accelerometer because of cost, component availability, and considerations regarding the likelihood of success with minimal design iterations.

In spite of the fact that I found a solution in that previous design (and in spite of the fact that I'm not even doing that design work anymore), I still keep my eyes open for motion transducers such as encoders. When I saw the Design News write-up, I took a closer look. The article gave the company's website and a shortened part number. Also listed were some general specs — enough to entice me. What I really needed to know, though, was the price. Sure, I wasn't really designing anything, just amusing myself with a product search. But any engineer who was doing a design would want the price at this point.

So off I went to the manufacturer's site, joyful with the thrill of the hunt. Hmm… On the landing page, there's a link for the data sheet. No pricing info there. Products… Applications… How about Resources? Maybe they consider pricing info to be a resource. Guess not. Let's see FAQs… I bet a frequently asked question is, “How much does this cost?” Apparently not. How about Terms & Conditions? Nope. Company Profile? Nothing there that will help. Hey — Sales & Support — surely that will lead me to distributors where I can quickly look up a price, even a ballpark price just for budgetary purposes. You'd think… but no.

If I cared to fill out a form, indicate my part numbers of interest and quantities needed, send it in, and wait for a return phone call, I might get an answer. There's not even a place on the form for me to enter my email address.

What the heck is wrong with the companies that think they'll get engineers to do this to get the answers they need? It's as if they don't want to sell parts. Let me know if you have had similar experinces.

9 comments on “Do Companies Not Want to Sell Products?

  1. Mark Fortunato
    March 6, 2013

    Preventative Marketing at its best!!!  The common thread that I have noticed in these cases, and I have seen many at various companies I have worked for, is a failure to think from the customers' point of view.  It's a mind set: “What should we do to make it easiest for the customer to give us their money.”

  2. Michael Dunn
    March 6, 2013

    Things have become better, on average – hell, one can go to most bigname scope mfrs, and all the prices are laid bare. But sure, some companies still think it's their right to waste your time.

    I guess it's more commonplace with component manufacturers. Want a price? Find a disti. Though more and more companies are providing budgetary pricing, whether or not they have distribution.

    Don't get me started on distis though. They've gotten better too, but some still think you should be thankful for the privilege of speaking to them.

  3. Brad Albing
    March 6, 2013

    Yes – exactly – that's the phrase I wanted – “you should be thankful for the privilege of speaking to them.” Some of the distis – and some of the companies (per my blog) have shot themselves in the foot.

  4. Brad Albing
    March 6, 2013

    Hey Mark – yep, you'd think it would be obvious: The customer has money. We have product. The customer wants the product. We want their money. What can we do to make it happen….

  5. eafpres
    March 7, 2013

    Hi Brad–you again hit on a problem of the supply chain all the way to the end customer.  Som research shows that this part is made by a European company, and the note you saw was from some kind of small dealer or VAR or something in the US. Unfortunately, this part does not seem to exist in distribution, and actually doesn't even exist on the home company web site!

    When large OEMs make lots and lots of parts, product launches can get disjointed.  Typically they are done becuase a particular product manager wanted something he perceived a need for.  Once he's happy, the rest of the machine might never be engaged (i.e., marketing, advertising, distribution sales, reps, training, etc.).  

    I still say the solution for most of this is distribution who are the only guys who can handle customers wanting from 1 to millions, and can handle huge catalogs of part numbers and inventory.  Unfortunately for this part, that isn't even working.

  6. mtripoli
    March 13, 2013

    When I'm looking at new parts I make it a point to do two things, sometimes before even downloading the data sheet: 1.) Look for budgetary pricing. I know its going to be in some “ideal ballpark” but it gives me an idea of “where” they (the company manufacturing the part) is positioned and 2.) check the “local” guys, Mouser, Digikey and Avnet. If the part is in “my” price range (consumer electronics) and available, then I'll download the data sheet and go from there. Nothing worse than finding some “great” part that solves all ones issues to then find “they've ” priced it at $30.00 (which translates into $90.00 or more from distributors).

    There are a few companies that get this and do (what I consider) to be a fantastic job; TI (National Semi) do a great job of giving pricing. They also offer (for the most part) some kind of demo/development system and publish the docs for them (they're covering their costs on the board and its manufacture and not trying to make it a profit center – a phenomenal concept that many others should really think about). Microchip gives pricing right on their “selector” page; again, I scan and find the part that meets my target and specs and off I go. If I have to “login”, send in request for pricing and availability, explain what I'm designing and ask for permission to use a part, I pass. Simple as that.

  7. WKetel
    March 13, 2013

    I see this almost daily on a “thing” that claims to be offering us information on new products: Not even a brief data sheet without registering. And I don't need a salesperson calling when I am just in the concept development stage of a project, or, sometimes, just wanting to see information about what looks like a neat new component.

    And I can promise that if I have no information about a part that it will NOT be part of a design delivered to somebody else to make thousands of. AND, how much does it cost them for me to download an eight page PDF data sheet? E-Postage is quite cheap these days.

  8. Brad Albing
    March 13, 2013

    Hear, hear! That's been my attitude as a design engineer also. If they won't give me a data sheet and a budgetary price, I just move on. Plenty of fish in the sea….

  9. dleske
    March 14, 2013

    My attitude has always been that price is an important design parameter! — both for components I buy, and for the design I build.

    I have never yet had an employer, customer or project manager who didn't list price amongst the important parameters of my product! (And getting accurate cost breakdowns from manufacturing could be like pulling teeth!)

    I always liked Maxim selector guides, which listed budgetary pricing next to each item, though thankfully many other suppliers have now adopted similar practices. How else am I to select between 8 grades and 20 subtle variants of some fancy new device, without guidance on the relative pricing. eg: “Oh, so the 1ppm grade costs double the 2ppm grade – I suppose that will be fine.”

    I fully understand that the indicative US$ FOB 1K price may differ substantially from the 10 sample price from my local distributor and the 100K price to a China factory. What I generally need is an understanding of where the product sits in the market, eg: “So the thin film 0.1% matched resistor arrays cost 10x the 1% thick film arrays.”

    Once I have found likely candidate parts, then my helpful distributors can get down to the availability intelligence, samples and serious price negotiation.

    In the old days, any Rep who visited without leaving behind a Selector guide, Data book, Samples, etc had wasted their visit and would be quickly forgotten.

    These days, with all Data sheets on the web, I still find that a decent Selector guide is a manufacturer's best friend, in explaining to me what they have in their product range, and why I would want to use it.


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