By Gregory Taylor, Taylor'ed Strategic Solutions LLC
Why do today’s equipment dealers need to fundamentally evolve to, embrace and implement the changes needed to the outdated relationship model and roles of “dealer” and “customer?” In an environment of accelerating demographic changes, and with the fast paced, continually evolving, marketplace, changes can be difficult, and the answers may not appear readily obvious.
Asked another way, how does your business compete for, with and in a new age of “need it now” customers and marketplace demographic changes? Are all customers clients? Or are all clients customers? Which would you rather serve … a customer or a client? Now that I’ve got your head spinning, let me help you think through these questions and, more important, why I believe the answers to be critical in this competitive environment.
The answers to my questions could be as shortsighted as some of the equipment company “marketing-speak, suggestions” such as, “Better Dealer Channel Rationalization” or a “Product Supply and Demand Optimization Study” or more “Customer Relationship Meetings” … or, it could be as simple as “Client Service,” “Client Information” or” Client Service Training” and “Client-Specific Parts Inventory.”
Okay, let’s not get too technical about this and I would never think that I know more about service than you and your employees know, especially about how to treat your clients. CLIENTS?
“Wait a minute,” you might be thinking. “Did you just call my customers … Clients?”... “Who said I have clients?” “Maybe you have “Clients,” but I have customers!” “Don’t talk about my customers as a client! That’s the way lawyers talk about their customers!”
Actually, that conversation hasn’t happened to me. Yet. But I know it has been thought about by no less than your competitors and possibly, your potential “clients.” The belabored point that I’m trying to make is that the relationship between dealers and customers continues to evolve, but it is that very relationship evolution that is necessary for both to prosper. While not to be meant as a vocabulary exercise, it would probably be wise to consider how your “customer relations” activities fit with the mindset of the “customer” who sees himself as the “client” in your relationship.
Just semantics, you may say. Customer, client, what difference does that make if I still get the sale? That may be true, if you allow a sales interaction to be simply about the transaction, rather than a sales relationship. As many of you already realize, the value of a relationship should never be measured by the dollars and cents of the transaction alone. That would be a really short-term view and a “hope and a prayer” strategy for your ongoing business with the customer and your business.
Please don’t misunderstand. This isn’t about semantics; it’s about solutions. According to Dictionary.com, a “client” is a “person or group that uses professional advice or services.” Dictionary.com defines a “dealer” as a “person who buys and sells articles without altering their condition; a trader or merchant, especially a wholesaler.”
Which of these two definitions are you? Which one matches the image and approach of your business, and which one would you want to be seen as, especially from the people who are looking for more than just a bill of sale from the afore mentioned “wholesaler?”
I know, hearing the word “client” in certain instances engenders a courtroom with a judge and jury seated, and a nervous defendant hoping his court appointed lawyer will pull off a miracle. And the afore mentioned definition of “dealer” could be brought up in a far worse context!
But the proper context and definition of a “client relationship,” for me is “my trusted source of solutions.” Earn that title and you are no longer just the dealer, the seller or even the equipment dealership. You are the client’s solution source!
The whole reason that I prefer “client” to “customer” is the implied depth of the value of the relationship. A client relationship is more than just a walk-in transaction for goods and services. A client relationship is a mutually arrived at relationship; built through consistency, mutual trust and dedication to mutual success.
One last point, to this discussion of embracing a client relationship mentality, would be the ongoing need for communication. Many dealers have regular communication channels to their customers, with stock images of products and sales programs, all of which are useful for delivering nice photos of products and latest news on the product brand and promotions. These have their purpose, but can be a waste of time and money if that is the extent of your connection with the client. In a client mentality, the client should have all confidence that if there were to be a promotion or opportunity to improve his or her operation, you should be the immediate source of that solution.
Can your business make the change? Can your business evolve from the transactional to the clientele model? The investment in building your organization to create and serve clients instead of customers could make all the difference for your future.
If you would like to discuss this topic further or learn more about shaping your business for the future of our industry or just have a conversation about how to get started on upgrading your organization, please go to my website: www.tayloredstrategicssolutions.llc, or contact me at 847-207-4047
Customers browse, need help, but sometimes won’t ask for something.
Clients are well informed about their decisions, they order, pick up or have information delivered directly ahead of time to be best informed on their decision points. They research independently, but will ask for clarification or confirmation. Be prepared for both and you will succeed.
Which do you want in your dealership, customers or clients? The answer, of course, is both, but which do you prioritize and, more importantly, how do you help the “customer” become that client that both of you want them to be?
The real question here is which provider are you … the transactional or the relational. The answer to that will, most likely, determine your future.
Want to know simple ways to start a client-based relationship with your, soon to be, former customers? See me after the meeting.
Gregory Taylor has been engaged in agriculture since childhood. Grew up on a family farm raising traditional row crops along with beef cattle and horses. Graduated with business management degree from Samford University in Birmingham, Ala. He worked in equipment financial services with the then New Holland Credit Co. and worked to become the VP of North America financial services for the merged CNH Capital, with full responsibility for all agricultural equipment dealers. During his career he assisted with expansion of CNH's financial services footprint into Brazil, and also helped improve credit performance for a sister company, Iveco, in Italy. Additionally he worked for Agribank, the Farm Credit bank headquartered in St. Paul, Minn., overseeing special projects and government affairs. Currently engages with equipment dealers through Taylor'ed Strategic Solutions LLC. and through speaking engagements.