Let’s face it, inventory turnover has been a problem for us all over the last few years. As the market changed, it’s been difficult to make adjustments to how we stock new machines and how we buy used machines as fast as the market moved. This has created a turnover problem that’s plagued North American farm equipment dealers everywhere. You are not alone.
Another thing we all have in common is that we all want a higher turn ratio. But, nobody likes being the bad guy. If you have to “crack a whip” to get it, you won’t get it for long and you certainly won’t be able to get there as quickly as you want or keep your people over the long term.
In this article, we’re going to cover how you can accomplish that goal of achieving a higher turnover without being the bad guy and at the end I have a counter-intuitive bonus template that will help you speed up the process of creating that turnover driven sales team you’ve been dreaming about.
One of the biggest challenges in improving our turnover is breaking old habits and creating new behaviors in our sales team that encourage a high turnover in a slow market. Creating new habits or breaking old ones is hard. I used to always hear it takes 21 days to create a new habit. New research suggests it’s closer to 60 days. We’re all creatures of habit and sometimes, even when we know what we need to do, it’s not easy to make those changes. It’s kind of like trying to lose weight around the holidays. You have to give yourself certain boundaries, reinforcement and incentives to make those behavior changes.
When we’re trying to lose weight we always have to set certain boundaries. Sometimes we’re not going to eat anything high in carbs. Sometimes we’re not going to eat any sugars. Sometimes we’re counting calories. We set those boundaries so there are clear rules that will keep us out of trouble. We have to do the same with managing our sales team. You have to establish clear rules that everyone knows if you want to be successful. What those rules should be will vary from one organization to another but some examples would be only allowing a certain number of one product in inventory at any time. Another might be that anything older than a certain age has to have a home before you trade for it. Maybe you have rules about certain brands or machines that aren’t popular in your area. The important thing is that everyone knows what the boundaries are. You may assume that people know your boundaries, but one thing I learn over and over is that it’s a mistake to assume people know something. If you haven’t made it abundantly clear what you want them to know, most of them probably don’t know it.
Reinforcement is one of the places many of us fail when we’re trying to lose weight. We start out super motivated and ready to be healthy and thin, but after a few weeks we start to lose that motivation. The desire to eat that peach cobbler starts to outweigh the desire to be healthy. That’s why we need reinforcement. We need to remember why we wanted to make a change in the first place. The same holds true for sales management. One way to do it is through regular training with your team where the need for a high turnover is reinforced every time. Another would be to regularly send out articles that identify the problems with low turnover. Even a bulletin board where everyone can see it that shows where you’ve been and where you’re going can be enough motivation to reinforce the need for change.
Incentives are another great way to keep on track. Millions of people incentivize themselves with a cheat day once a week when they’re trying to lose weight. When I was at my healthiest, I would give myself incentives like a new running watch if I hit a certain goal or maybe a new pair of running shoes. It’s the same way when you manage your sales teams. Incentives can serve as a great motivator to make rapid change. We’ve experimented with several different kinds of incentives, but the one that has easily been the most effective for us is a “fast turn” bonus grid system based on when our used machines got sold. It incentivizes pre-sells and getting units off the yard as quickly as possible. Incentives don’t always have to be monetary either. Recognition always serves as a great motivator. If you’re making a big deal about it when they sell units faster, they are going to want that feeling of accomplishment again. Some businesses use things like trips, activities and vacation days effectively as well. Determine what works for you and what will motivate your team and start experimenting. The only further advice I’ll give is to stay away from negative incentives. You’ll have a lot more long term success with the carrot than the stick.
The Big Picture
Creating change in your sales team will take some effort on your part and it doesn’t happen overnight, but it doesn’t have to be hard or take forever either. If you are diligent about doing the things that change habits, you can be successful. Start by setting boundaries for how you’re going to do business. Don’t forget to reinforce what you’re trying to do and why you’re trying to do it. Finally, don’t be afraid to experiment with different incentives if you want to speed up change. Those incentives will get people’s attention and really help keep them focused if it’s the right incentive. Oh, and good luck on your diet too!