“This is the only job I’ve ever had.” Jeff Morgan is no stranger to the agriculture industry. As the third generation at H&R Agri-Power, Morgan’s position in the business feels like destiny to him. “My grandfather started the business and mother and father, of course, were involved in the business. Dad is still involved in the business,” he says. As H&R Agri-Power grew, so did Morgan. As the market evolved, he helped facilitate the evolution of the business.
Throughout his tenure, Morgan has seen his fair share of change. Territories, store locations, machinery badges and brands have all seen significant fluctuation in the past 30 years. From consolidations and acquisitions to tariffs and trade wars, even a crystal ball couldn’t predict the future of ag. For Morgan, however, there is one aspect that doesn’t change.
“This business has changed a lot over time. The one constant is that we’re in a people business.” Morgan doesn’t perceive H&R Agri-Power as a farm equipment business, but as a people business. Throughout the territories he serves, farming practices remain similar, but the people vary from region to region. “There are good people here and everywhere we serve. But I’ve had to adapt,” he says.
Name: Jeff Morgan
Title: Regional Manager for Mayfield, Ky., Union City, Tenn., Newbern, Tenn., Trenton, Tenn., and Brownsville, Tenn., locations
Years at dealership: 34
Role: Overseeing and developing sales territory and training and coaching sales team
Certain customers expect certain things. One region will have different demands than another. Morgan acknowledges these expectations and demands and is able to connect with customers in regions outside of his. “I’m always interested in hearing their story because it’s amazing what some of our farm customers have been able to accomplish through the years,” Morgan says.
Morgan realizes his success through his ability to listen and speak the agriculture language. “I think there’s a gene and a language. I think as farm equipment dealers, we’re pretty easily identified, and I think farmers are pretty easy to identify, too,” he says. By getting on the road and having these conversations, Morgan has been able to develop territories and solve customer problems efficiently. When he is facing a problem with a customer, it’s always related to communication.
“I’m really apprehensive and have some reluctance facing those situations. But invariably, if you just face those head-on, there’s always a good outcome,” he says. “I’ll say we’ve got a 99% success rate when we encounter some of these situations. Sometimes it’s expensive, but it’s good.”
His customer base is relatively small and continues to shrink, so losing a customer isn’t an option. Protecting those relationships can be expensive, but it’s a short-term expense for a long-term investment. “You do the right thing and 99% of the people we do business with recognize when you’re doing the right thing, and they’ll reward you with future business when they see that,” he says.
Although Morgan does look at key metrics to evaluate performance, he focuses on customer satisfaction more than anything else. It’s not easy to measure, so he gets out in front of customers on a daily basis and listens. He may meet with 5 customers in one day and tries to find a common denominator among those customers. “If you’ve got a parts availability issue at this particular location, well, you have to ask. Don’t just let that be their opinion,” he says. “You’ve got to dig in just a little bit deeper and ask more questions as to why they’ve got that opinion about your parts department.” Not only is Morgan measuring customer satisfaction with probing questions, he’s actively solving problems.
“I’m not an air traffic controller. I’m not the kind of manager that wants to sit behind a desk and answer the telephone…”
Every company sets budgets. Not every company sets budgets the same. Morgan sets his sales team’s budget at the beginning of every fiscal year based on volume, margin, new, used and brand and then analyzes monthly sales. For big-ticket items, he’ll tie unit sales to a customer name, since many of those items are planned purchases. That way, whether it’s a stock unit or speculative unit, he has an idea of where it might be sold. The salesperson’s accountability is also a budget measure, he says.
Checking the Box
To track sales efforts, Morgan will use a CRM and a quoting tool. However, he says that doesn’t necessarily tell the whole, or even real, story. “I think that’s a fallacy. These people are smart, and they know you’re looking to see if they check the box. I’m not looking for 5 calls a day. I’m looking for as many quality calls as you can make in a particular time period,” he says.
Morgan’s favorite way to measure success is in the pickup truck. Before getting out of the truck, he’ll ask his salesperson, “What is our mission here today,” and they’ll answer him. When they get back in the truck after the visit, he’ll ask another question: “Were we successful today? Did we accomplish what we intended to accomplish today?” The success isn’t always a sale. “Sometimes, it’s closing a gap. Sometimes, it’s positioning yourself for a future sale,” Morgan says.
Good Coach, Good Team
Morgan enjoys being a coach to his salespeople. He tries to make himself available first and foremost to his sales team. “I’m not an air traffic controller. I’m not the kind of manager that wants to sit behind a desk and answer the telephone,” he says. Morgan is much more comfortable on the front line, engaging with customers and salespeople. He can better support his team being in the field with them and giving feedback following each visit.
“There are different kinds of help out there. Sometimes, it’s features and benefits on equipment. Sometimes, it’s putting the financial package together to complete the deals. Sometimes, it’s just a pat on the back,” he says.
When coaching his sales team, Morgan likes to give extra attention to negotiation skills and the basic rules of finance. His customer base is made up of excellent negotiators and putting an inexperienced salesperson in that situation can be difficult, he says. But, by being up front and honest with his customers, Morgan can turn the conversation from negotiation to problem solving. “If you can talk to a customer and say, ‘Hey, I’m just trying to solve a problem for you. I’ve got to make a little money and I’ve got to treat you fairly. Let’s get that out of the way.’ Then the problem, whether it’s a lease, a deferred payment, or the need to look at an amortization schedule, can be addressed,” he explains.
Morgan finds the basic rules of finance are not instilled into his salespeople when they first walk through the door. Knowing these rules can potentially turn a negotiation battle into a quick solution. “There is a time value to borrowing money. Someone is going to collect that cost of money. But this industry’s gotten pretty creative into making us think that it doesn’t,” he says. Morgan takes plenty of time using his in-field visit with his salespeople to teach them the basic rules of finance.
Morgan realizes the benefit of coaching his salespeople is increased customer satisfaction. That customer satisfaction is based on his team’s ability to solve customer problems. “We’ve got the best of the best when it comes to customers. We deal with farmers and farmers and farmers. How could you pick a better customer base?”