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Archive for April, 2014

Is there a correlation between GPS reliability and salespeople working on commission?

Wednesday, April 16th, 2014

As the owner of Telemetry Solutions, over the years I have directed various surveys intending to put our finger on the pulse of our customers and our potential customers.  We often ask wildlife biologists what they want but are not getting from telemetry companies making GPS tracking devices for wildlife projects.  The answers vary widely but one of the most common is “reliable equipment.”

That desire for reliable equipment seems reasonable enough to me.  As a satisfied customer told me just today, “….it is expensive equipment so we try to find a product that will fail the least.”   Of course there are many reasons why GPS for wildlife projects don’t work as well as the GPS that was mass produced and resides snuggly inside the controlled environment of your family car but that doesn’t mean that these things can’t be mitigated.

The subject of one of my recent blog posts was how we (I) select what I believe to be customers who have a reasonable chance for success.  Most of the time this is really obvious based on just a few email exchanges.  Today, talking to this customer, she mentioned that in the past she had tried a collar from company X and that the salesperson promised her the moon.   But the collar didn’t deliver.  So what was that sale person’s motivation for taking this approach, that’s what I started to wonder about.  Why promise the moon?  What’s the motivation for that?

Could it be a commission?  I don’t know because I don’t know which company it was and I don’t know how any other company compensates their sales people.  But I can say that we no longer hire salespeople to work on commission, I stopped that a long time ago.  My sales people will earn their wage regardless of whether or not they make any given sale.  Additionally I don’t think it’s fair to the rest of the team anyway that one person……doing one of the easiest jobs…..has the ability to earn so much more than everyone else.  In fact my last sales person left in August 2013 and rather than hire someone new I just slid myself back into that roll.  Maybe it is time to consider another person in the sales position.  And when I do make that decision they will be taught that 1) we will not over promise on performance and 2) the sales person will not run amok in any way, there are boundaries that we operate in and those boundaries  have been established so that our customers have the best result possible and continue being our customers…..which most do.   My job isn’t to sell GPS tracking equipment for wildlife research.  My job is to operate a profitable company that grows and gains strength over the long term.

Wrapping this up…..last night before I left the office I responded to a sales inquiry in which the potential customer clearly defined his project as well as his GPS collar expectations.  I completely understood, he left no question about what he intended and wanted.  So I told him that we can’t meet those expectations and that I doubt any other company can either (this was a performance issue not a features/benefits issue).  His expectations were far beyond reality.  I offered to discuss this with him over the phone and I did this with no intent of selling him anything or changing his expectations.  I just wanted to tell him what I know and how it directly relates to what he is trying to do.  He needs this information.  If someone does take the rather large order for GPS collars that this person is getting ready to tender I hope that the “expectation” conversation takes place first.  Just as we try to learn from our customers the reverse can also be true.  It takes time and it takes thought but it would go a long way toward this reliability issue.



GPS data loggers for wildlife, how far have we come?

Thursday, April 3rd, 2014

I started working with GPS collars for wildlife in 1997, 17 years ago….ouch.  For those of you too young to remember, back then GPS wasn’t nearly as advanced as it is now.  For example, we had the choice to set up the GPS timeout at up to 240 seconds!  GPS timeout is the length of time that a GPS is allowed to remain on before being forced to shut off even if it had not acquired satellites and calculated a position by then.

Really, 240 seconds?  That ate up a lot of battery but it was a choice.  Here is what 17 years have yielded…..our newest GPS product will have a timeout option as low as 10 seconds and can be deployed in such a way that the first 3 days of use will always result in hot starts.  Hot starts occur when a GPS receiver has ephemeris data that allow it to know where the GPS satellites are in the sky.  The result is GPS positions sometimes taking as little as 1 second to calculate.  Normally to have hot starts one needs to keep the GPS receiving turning on very frequently.  But this is no longer strictly true.  With a new feature we are including in our FLR II GPS data logger you will be able to deploy with 3 days worth of ephemeris data stored in the GPS data logger.

I have sort of mixed my topics here……there is much more to be said about the 10 second GPS timeout that does not really relate to the ephemeris data but I think I’ll save it for a future post.  For now suffice it to say that we are going to have some very long battery life estimates for GPS devices that weigh in the single digits and part of this will be due to the fact that we are able to use the 10 second GPS timeout when before it would have been much more difficult.