Rising to the top in BASF’s Flotation segment
Tara Haskell, Senior Technical Sales Manager, has had a busy 12 months leading a record 12 trials for potential customers of BASF Mining Solution’s Flotation segment. Here Tara shares what it takes to stand out when working in sales for a relatively new product portfolio.
If you imagine a career in sales involves long lunches, a world of spin and empty product promises, a day with Tara Haskell, Senior Technical Sales Manager, will pretty quickly set the record straight. Forget games of golf, when it comes to winning new clients in Tara’s line of work, customers only want one thing: proof, and lots of it. “If a customer is using a competitor’s product then we need to prove our product is going to deliver to them something that the other product is not, whether that be in terms of performance, cost saving or a combination of both,” she explains.
Whilst simple in theory, Tara shares that it is not always easy to get a ‘foot in the door’, especially when working in a new product segment. “In Mining Solutions we’ve always focused on selling flocculants and coagulants and now with our Flotation division we’re playing in a whole new market. It’s a great opportunity locally to really take a foothold in the industry, but we’ve also really had to prove ourselves,” she explains. “Usually the first question a potential client asks is ‘well who else uses your product’ and being a new segment, up until recently, we’ve had to answer ‘no one, yet’ which is a hard sell.”
BASF Flotation segment was formed in late 2018 with a product portfolio that supports creative and innovative applications for flotation and which aims to deliver optimum performance for phosphates, precious and base metals, coal, iron ore and various industrial minerals including the emerging lithium market. The expansion into flotation was a logical move for BASF, who has extensive formulation expertise along with being a key global producer of a large range of the key raw materials. “BASF makes the raw materials, so we are able to develop unique formulations able to replace entrenched commodity products such as MIBC and diesel as well as other specialty formulations, which is great.”
In an industry where “proof is everything”, Tara has spent many months conducting a range of product trials with clients including Rix’s Creek, Aeris Resources and others in the Hunter Valley. Labour-intensive, time consuming and repetitive, Tara shares that a successful product trial is just the first step in the sales process.
“Before a trial even starts, we’re already out there for over a week, setting up pumps, running dosing lines, cutting hundreds of meters worth of hoses and really getting an arm work out. Then when we’re running a trial, we’re collecting multiple samples, multiple times and repeating these for different coal seams, different dose rates. It’s hard work, you’ve got to be super fit and strong.”
It’s only then- when all the physical work is over, the dosing lines are dismantled and the site is packed up - that Tara said the really hard work truly begins. “We then still have to sell it which I think is the hardest part. You can run trials, you can collect samples, get the best data in the world and graph it, but if you can’t sell it, the customer is not going to buy it and then you’ve wasted a lot of time.”
Luckily for Tara, she enjoys this challenge, and the outcome from last year’s trials have been extremely positive and well-worth the investment. “The customers that we do have at the moment – Rix’s Creek, Aeris Resources along with other customers in the Hunter region - are all really happy with the products. Rix’s Creek particularly have experienced a number of efficiencies since switching to BASF’s Mining Solutions’ frother and collector - they’ve had the experience that we’d love everyone to have.”
Despite the COVID-19 pandemic delaying some trials, the second half of 2020 looks to be busier than ever before for Tara, as trials resume and new customers come onboard, a challenge Tara is very much looking forward to. “Now that we’ve had our first customers commit and we’ve shown that we can outperform our competitors in the same market, we’ve received a lot of interest from other potential customers which is awesome. We’ve opened a whole new door to a different kind of flotation reagents for the mining industry and there are some big opportunities that we’re just starting to see. I think it’s only going to get better.”
For more information about BASF’s Mining Solutions portfolio, visit energy-resources.basf.com/global/en/mining_solutions.html