Good customer service and dependability are still the top qualities consumers look for when choosing who to do business with. The basic principles — like treating your customers how you would like to be treated or making sure they feel like you’ve listened to their requests or concerns — haven’t changed all that much decade in and decade out.
Quick response time, especially in the agriculture industry, is another quality customers value: when parts are needed or machines break down, producers need immediate attention so that they can get going again during the limited growing season. Customers also respect those salespeople who do what they say they are going to do.
However, in order for your salespeople, dealer network or sales reps to provide the service customers want, they need effective support from you, their sales manager or director. At Meridian, I was a regional sales manager for 10 years, and I’ve been the director of sales for the past five years. As a manager for more than 15 years, I’ve learned you must effectively support your team or dealer network in order for them to be able to provide stellar customer service.
Here’s what I mean by support:
- Good communication is essential. Part of that is understanding what forms of communication your team members value. For example, some individuals may require face-to-face conversations and meetings, while others would prefer phone calls. Some salespeople may value emails and texts over in-person visits or calls. The point is, it’s important to know what types of interactions your salespeople need to feel connected to you and the business. And keep those lines of communication open.
- When you start a conversation, you must be an active listener. Your sales reps need to feel they’ve been heard, that you understand what they’ve said and their point of view. From there, conversations can open up and go anywhere. If you’re not listening, you don’t even get to that point. With all the means of communication available to us, and the frequency with which we use them, you may feel like you’re communicating all the time, but if you’re not listening, you’re not really communicating.
- Information about product lines, orders or anything your dealers or salespeople need to do their jobs, including services you supply, must be accurate and provided in a timely manner.
- As we get busier, and it seems everyone is busier these days, the tendency is to fire off a quick email or text. Keep in mind if you’re communicating in these ways, there’s a chance your message can be misconstrued. If in doubt, make a phone call or drop in for a visit if you feel the context or your message has been misinterpreted.
- Make yourself accessible. Be available to take care of the needs of your salesforce or dealer network. Sometimes that means being available on weekends or in the evenings; whatever the situation, your salespeople should know you’re willing to go the extra mile for them. Let them know you’re there to make their lives easier, not harder.
- Make your expectations clear and don’t assume your sales reps know what those expectations are.
- Keep in constant communication with your salespeople when they are expecting something from you so that they know you are working on getting them what they need. Even a quick text or email will be a signal that you haven’t forgotten about them. Then, in turn, your sales reps can keep their own customers up to date on orders, parts, etc.
- Build your sales reps’ confidence and create a team environment where they know you all have to work together to succeed.
- Build trust with your salespeople. This doesn’t happen overnight but is such an important part of your relationships and ultimately your business. Follow through with your promises and make time to develop good relationships with your people. Strengthen that trust factor with regular contact. And, finally, treat others how you’d like to be treated.
- Let your salespeople know you must be profitable to keep the doors open. If you are profitable, your dealers or sales reps will be profitable and, in turn, their customers will be profitable.
- Provide training for those salespeople who need it. For some, being a sales rep comes naturally, while others may need time and resources to meet their potential in that role.
Supporting your sales team, dealer network, or sales reps in this way will maximize your business success. Also, the salesforce you’re supporting in these ways will then support their customers in a similar manner.
And customer service based on good communication, an understanding of an individual’s needs, active listening, providing accurate and timely information and services, being accessible and building strong relationships based on trust will continue to increase your customer base and expand your business’ growth.