May 2019

Your company is facing stiff competition from a competitor that is importing your brand from a foreign country. It seems to be the exact same product as yours, and now you learn that the warranty is valid as well. For some reason, they are able to import equipment and provide services for less than you can.

They are aggressive in the marketplace with reduced prices, and are calling on customers who have been loyal to your company for many years. You have already lost some key customers to them. Your salespeople regularly get beaten up on price. Sales are slipping and your sales team is complaining, but they have no answers. There is a sense that the market is no longer there, and some even believe your company will eventually be run out of the market.

You know better. You know there are many opportunities out there, but your salespeople have become gun-shy and are no longer following up on leads, even hot ones. It is time for drastic action.

How would you handle this situation?

April 2019 Submissions

I would have had a conversation with my high performing sales people prior to this meeting to give them a heads up of what I was doing, why it was important and than explain to them the importance of everyone following the same instructions.  I would also explain how they would be helping me by not fighting the process because when others see a high performer follow suit easily the rest follow as well.

Justin H
Gettysburg, SD


If this salesman is really his top seller, then there really shouldn’t be a need to see his records.  If he’s successful and good for the company’s image, leave him alone.  Top sellers usually are difficult to deal with on some level because they are confident and know their worth.  The salesman likely thinks that suddenly his sales manager doesn’t trust him.  He is also not a fan of ‘busy work’ because it doesn’t make him any money.  At the same time I understand the sales manager’s desire to keep his finger on the pulse of his customer base.  He needs to take his top salesman aside and explain to him that it’s not his performance that he is concerned with but he needs him to adhere to the same policies as the rest of the team so there isn’t a perceived unfair bias toward him.  The sales manager needs to stroke his ego by suggesting he show the under-performing salesman how its done and turn in a big call log at the end of each week.

Jon M
Pecatonica, IL


The manager must sell his idea to his people. Tell them how and why they will be better off if this plan will be adopted. Otherwise the plan is doomed before he even starts to implement it.

Saulius S
Lithuania


This situation could be flipped on its head potentially and use it to lift the ego of this salesman. You could tell him that by doing a report it could help the rest of the sales team to get to his level if they used his approach to the job. A possible win-win if he bites and his weekly activities help the other salespeople improve.

Craig B
Bedale, UK


I would suspend him for a week, then see if he came to his senses.

Rex W
Fortville, IN


“Make me” with a lot of questions without having the details. But so many times policies like that are implanted as a blanket policy when 80% of the salesmen are doing a great job but the management is too spineless to deal with the 20% that are the slackers. I have seen this time and time again. It’s a fact that top performing employees like and prefer clear, concise job descriptions, guidelines and expectations without being micromanaged. But if you want to destroy a top performing employee then implement a policy that gets in his way. Personally if you don’t trust your salesman enough without such micromanagement you have one of two things wrong: A, you have the wrong salesman, or B, you have the wrong sales manager that has not trained his team properly. Top performing employees are no different than a top performing race car. You need to keep the gas tank full of high octane gas, clean air filters, the best tires etc. You never see the race cars’ owners or sponsors shoot the tires or shoot a hole in the gas tank, but managers do it to employees all the time. And that is exactly what the manager did to this salesman; he shot another hole in his bucket. That manager obviously didn’t read the book “How Full is Your Bucket?”

Urias M
McPherson, KS


Don’t tell me what until you have told me why, and if you can’t convince me with the why then rethink the what…together. If you have to mandate something, then you usually have not done enough of the why or got the what completely wrong.

Danny L
Otago & Southland, NZ


Manager should have got input from staff rather than just telling everyone they need weekly plans.

Andrew F
Cambridge, NZ


Had a situation like this with a service manager. He was a key person in the group and were changing reporting requirements. I invited him out of the office for coffee and as calmly as possible I explained why we were asking hi to do something different, not necessarily more but different, as the company was making changes that the market was driving. I made it clear that it was not a reflection on him, and we were going forward with the changes, with or without him. I stressed all employees had to make changes; he was not singled out but if he did not get on board he was gone. Tough, but the company was prepared to “choose who you lose”. He grumbled, complained to anyone who would listen and quit in a week going to a competitor. The other employees stepped up and closed the gap and within a month were able to compensate for his absence. It turned out that he was thought of as a “key” man but in reality, he was a damper on others due to his overbearing nature. We survived and thrived and within 8 months he left the job he went to. I heard via the grapevine that he could not adapt to the new organization and was in continuous conflict about doing things his way.

Glenn S
Calgary, AB


From experience I can tell you that at first making a weekly plan seems unnecessary especially to a top performing salesperson! However in due time if he wants to do more, it will be a necessary step to be organized etc. as well as much more likely to do a task of it is written down! Sometimes the best move is no move at all here for the sales manager! If the rest of the staff takes to this action of making a weekly report in due time, salesman will see the benefits taking shape from others and give it a try him/herself!

Craig B
Ontario, Canada


So much is missing in this scenario. What is the sales performance month over month? Is this a top performer being selfish with his or her time or a low performer attempting to hide? Does the sales manager desk jockey his role or does he ride with his reps and understands the account manager’s approach? Need more information but if it’s a top performer then this is a management issue and if it’s a low performer this is a remediation opportunity.

Richard A
San Diego, CA

April 2019

“I don’t care! You can fire me, but I will not tell anyone where I’m going or what I’m doing!”

This bitter outburst came as a result of a sales manager asking his salespeople to submit their weekly plan. This was the first step in developing a reporting system for his sales team.

The salesperson was serious too. He was the company’s best salesperson. Because he is so well-known and very well-liked by the customers, he is also featured in their advertising.

The sales manager knew he had a problem. If this salesperson refused, the other salespeople would feel unfairly treated if they had to complete the reports. He could see his plan fading away like a morning fog.

This salesperson is normally not that aggressive, although he has been difficult to manage in the past.

If you were the sales manager, what would you do?

March 2019 Submissions

Regarding the sales problem, the father is likely looking for his son to start taking over. As the salesperson who had had a relationship with the father, I would talk with him the same as I had before and would ask what he has found the best way of communicating with the son to be. If the father was in agreement, I would send the son the quote by email as requested. After two days I would call to confirm that the quote had been received and would ask if him or his father have any additional questions about the equipment or the quote as it was presented.

Annalyn G
Coaldale, AB


Email quote, then visit farm next day to do follow up good chance son might have questions and dad might not have seen quote yet.  Dad probably is still big player in purchase as he will write cheque most likely.

Tys VanG.
Embro, ON


Step 1: Send the quote via email to Frank & Sean as requested

Step 2: Try to have a conversation with only Frank and ask him why he thinks Sean reacted the way he did.  Sean’s reaction is probably just a symptom of a much deeper problem.  Perhaps Sean and Frank don’t see eye to eye on this particular purchase.

Step 3: Depending on what you find out from conversation with Frank, take steps to develop a relationship with Sean, regardless of the history. It seems as if he will be the decision maker for the foreseeable future. If Gordon wants their business, he must figure out what makes Sean tick.

Step 4: Be patient

Step 5: Think outside the box. Come up with different valid business reason, besides the tractor purchase, and visit/call/email Frank & Sean. Hopefully the tractor purchase will come up.

Tyler H
Mesa, WA


Had a customer situation like this. Visited that farm many times once Junior would send a text about something. His dad hated texting so I knew they weren’t together, great time to call on the man that still ran the operation. Email Junior the quote too,they will figure it out every time.

Tim N
Leesburg, GA


Put together a plan and take action to build relationships with the next generation of every client he values. Through this plan he should seek to understand the who of the next generation what’s important to them and how best to communicate value; but also the current decision making dynamics and when those dynamics might change.

Brian K
Madison, WI


After being in the business for 45 years now, my experience tells me Gordon needs to deliver quote in person to explain ALL the purchase options including finance options. I would email Sean explaining that his business is very important to me & he deserves my best efforts & time to help him get the right piece of equipment, to help him reach his goals. Gordon needs to build an strong relationship with Sean. Show him that he really cares about their business.

Jerry

March 2019

The Sales team just had a meeting talking about dealing with the next generation of customers who were taking over the farm. They were, as a group, brainstorming on how to deal with them.

Just then, Frank and Sean, a local farmer and his son, entered the branch looking for a piece of equipment and asked for Gordon, a long-time salesman of this farming operation. They had been interested in a new tractor over the last while and were talking about it and what the operation needed. It was now time to make the purchase and they had stopped in to ask for a quote. “Just email it to me and I will look it over.” Sean said quickly. “When should I follow up with you?” asked Gordon. Frank, the father, started to say something, but Sean cut him off saying, “Don’t bother. If we want it, we’ll get in touch with you” as he headed out the door. Gordon looked at his friend and long-term customer Frank with disbelief.

What would your next steps be?

February 2019 Submissions

I would advise to visit with the service department along with Joe to see what exactly is wrong with the machine.  If the service department is swamped and  Eddie obviously has the knowledge to either repair or maybe advise a young technician thru repairing the machine.   If needed, get a loaner machine to the customer, if possible.   Make it a positive situation for the customer…

Scott H


Fix it yourself if service is not available.

Bevan


Given the prices combines are selling for and gravity of the situation – combine broke down during harvest and the Service Department backlogged, Eddie must find a way to get the customer back to combining his crop ASAP.
Eddie should consult with Service Management to see if a scheduled job could be juggled to allow a tech to fix the combine. If that’s not doable, Eddie should go to the customer’s farm and attempt to fix the problem. Obviously Eddie doesn’t want to revert to being a tech and miss out on potential sales, so doing the repairs is last resort. Great customer service often requires going the extra mile in situations like this.

Mike M


Eddie should listen. Hear him out. Eliminate one variable where the customer doesn’t fee listened to. Next, let Joe know that he understands his urgency and explain his game plan. Let him know that the best option is that they get the combine into the shop for repair asap. If that’s not an option, Eddie should let him know that he’ll look at it himself, or at least start working on it until a professional tech can take over for him. Definitely an opportunity to listen, not be defensive and find out what the customer really needs to be satisfied.

Gary J


Arrange an immediate meeting between customer, sales rep, and service manager in an office or conference room and talk through the problem and how dealership is going to tackle it…assure customer that between sales dept. and service dept. that customers’ combine will be given high priority…see if loaner is available…see how soon combine tech will be available…update dealer principal on situation and ask him to be in on meeting if available

Pat N


I am assuming there is no loaner available first off? I am thinking Eddie calmly ask the customer politely to come back to the service department with him and sit down with the service manager in his office and have a quick chat and  both the customer and the service manager are extremely busy and mentions to both them and  he will keep it brief , he assures the customer between the three of them that a solution can be found and all people at the dealership understand the importance to get him back combining as soon as possible  . Eddie ask calmly of the customer if could explain the problem to both him and the service manager, so they are both clear on the issue(s). Eddie ask the service manager what his thoughts were on the problem and what would be the earliest he could have a tech out to fix it as he knew they were swamped! After hearing the answer from the service manager Eddie asks the customer calmly if that would be acceptable.  If it is not, he asks both the service manager and the customer if it would be acceptable to both them if Eddie to go out and diagnose and start repairs start repairs and/or be able to fix it considering his service background? And quietly wait for the customers response before proceeding any further with the conversation!

Dennis P


I would tell the customer that i will work with the service department and together we will come up with a solution to solve the problem. That way you are still trying to help him out but he will realize that you are not ignoring him.

Skyler B


To really be objective, and what would be most beneficial to the customer would be to call and set up an appointment with a shrink for the customer because he has an attitude problem that needs fixing more than his machine does.  Not that I have a lot of confidence in shrinks, because I don’t, but the point is, that is the area this man needs fixed most. HOWEVER, to get to answering on the level we in business are looking for, since Eddie does have service experience, I’d recommend he look at the combine and see what he can do to fix it.  The customer would feel he is not being brushed off, but taken seriously by Eddie, and it would shield the overworked service department from more work, or at least maybe the problem could be identified so that if they were needed to do the actual fixing, they could jump directly to fixing it and save themselves time on the diagnostic steps.

Gary F


Eddie should offer the customer a Coke or cup of coffee in his office while he goes and asked for a favor from the repair team. Worst case, he gets the customer a loaner. While there is always some friction between sales and service in any field, I believe the salesperson should take the lead in solving all customer problems.

Warren B


If  Eddie has no other urgent matters that afternoon, best go see if he can solve the problem himself. He has experience and if he tells the service department  his plan maybe they will lend him a service truck .He can win both parties if he can pull this off Customer and overloaded service dep.

Tys


I would find out what the problem is, it may be something that Eddie could help with, if it turned out to be something more serious, work WITH the service team to get it sorted ASAP This will require a good relationship between the the Sales & Service departments, in my eyes this is a key to having a high performing dealership and is where a lot of dealerships are struggling.  In my eyes a salesman going out and at least trying to get his customer moving again shows he values the customer and any reasonable customer would appreciate the time the salesman puts in. That’s my take anyway.

Ben P


Having now been on both sides of this type of situation. Reassuring the customer that we as a team will get to the bottom of and resolve the problem. The main thing is to not to allow them to feel as they are not important while not overwhelming the service department. As team and working together we can accomplish anything.

Darren C


First things first – identify the problem. Is it simple or complex? If it’s simple give him a solution or go fix it. If it is over your head offer comfort in regards to the issue – I understand the issue but need additional advice on what it will take to repair. Let’s go talk to the service manager. Often times if it is dire there is a willingness to give urgency – especially in a case of a loyal customer. If your Service Manager is seasoned he will see this and respond in the same manner. If not then you might better have a plan B – such as a loaner. I have and continue to ride both sides of this fence. Empathy and a willingness to listen are a great foundation. Offering advice and/or a solution is key. If they are reasonable there is always a solution. I have sold, I have serviced, and I have been in both situations. Almost every time the final verdict has insinuated a life long trust and customer when treated as such.

Gary R


I would offer to help Joe the best I could.  I would ask him to tell me specifically what the issue was. If it was beyond my scope, I would ask a service tech when they could be available.

Jacquie W


I have worked in the AG industry for 19 years and as a former service manager, dealing with customers is not always easy. The best thing for Eddie to do is bring the customer to the service department and introduce them. Next, find out the availability to get a technician working on Joe’s combine or at least to inspect and see what the true repair is. Helping Joe through this time of need may not seem like much but in the customers eyes it shows that you care and customers tend to stick to dealerships and representatives from that dealership that show they care.

Sam R


Customer expectations are paramount, a seasoned dealership will have seen this scenario a few times over. You need to have many tools in your tool box to respond to these issues. Properly stocked parts for the season, back up units as required and a defined process at the dealership to addressed these issues. Customers gain confidence when a dealership can react accordingly

Mark H


I would pull the service manager in and the three of us work together to come to a quick solution that gets the customer going again. Each part of the dealership needs to move in the same direction to be successful.

Neil F


Its interesting that no one suggested to collaborate with the service department (service manager) first and diagnose the issue. In my experience this has proven to be both effective and efficient. Service can then prioritize the issue especially since Eddie has a service background. And Eddie can head out with possible parts, tools and maybe another service person. The most valuable lesson here is the sales person, Eddie in the case, needs to own the problem and customer relationship to the end regardless who repairs the combine. To often the sales person passes the problem on or is quick to try to up sell.

Paul S


Unfortunately Eddie is no longer in a position to make a decision on behalf of the service department. Work within his perimeters to best satisfy the customer, possibly lend him a used combine until his is repaired. However, the dealership has professionals in the service department who are better equipped to deal with a situation like this and Joe can rest assured that they will resolve his issue as quickly as possible. Walk Joe to the service department, introduce him and oversee that everything is resolved to the customers satisfaction.

Alexander L


Keep in contact with workshop, get overalls on and get the machine working again. You are all part of the same team

Craig W


I’d calm him down by loading a truck up with a nicer machine on the lot and drive straight to his farm. Return trip brings the broken one back in. Give him the weekend to combine with nicer machine and trade him into it on Monday morning after he sees you have gone the extra mile and care about him. Physically fixing the machine it shouldn’t be on the table

Matt K


I would go fix the combine get the guy going and use this story as a sales pitch… But also use the situation as an example for management to make sure they organize the service department so sales get done too

Laurent L

February 2019

Eddie has been a salesperson for a few years. The transition from his previous role in the service department has been a tough one. He has been selling more and more and is determined to not be a “typical sales person”.

Joe bought a combine from Eddie at his local dealership during the summer. In the middle of combining season on a Friday afternoon, Joe comes storming into the dealership. He confronts Eddie and tells him, “That combine you sold me broke down and I want it fixed now!” Eddie knows that the service department is swamped. He responds, “Let me see who I can find to help you.” Joe blows up and demands, “I bought this combine from you…what are YOU going to do about it?” Eddie sees that he has two choices: one, let Joe deal with a service department that is booked up or two, see if he can fix it himself.

What would you advise Eddie to do?