The hardest part of any sales manager or sales lead’s job is dealing with salespeople. Typically, salespeople are hard to keep between the ditches. However frustrating this might be at times, who would want it any other way? They are trying to make a sale and move to the next sale as fast as they can. So, by nature, they will cut a corner here and there, but everything works out. A salesman once said, “I win some, and I lose some, but I work off of averages, and my average is high.” If you let the training of new sales personnel slip, the bad habits will outweigh the good habits, regardless of how successful the salesperson is. 

I recently hired a new salesperson from our technology department. This department is a great place to mine as much sales talent as possible because the issues and processes technology specialists deal with today are the future of the ag equipment business. My hire is not new to the company, but he is new to sales. While making customer calls and fixing customer issues is not a foreign concept, he’s used to approaching it from a different angle. Instead of being the hero who fixes the issue, he is “just another sales guy trying to sell something.” Moving from support to sales is a hard transition for some to make, but the right person can easily overcome this, especially if they have built relationships with customers in their new territory. 

Let’s go back to bad habits for a minute. Everyone reading this has several members of the sales team who come to mind. The lack of paperwork not getting completed correctly and on time, the lack of call logs and promises everyone else has to deliver. The best thing about all of this — it’s all my fault. I do not have anyone else to blame. 

In most cases, the lack of bench strength is why new salespeople develop bad habits. For the first couple of weeks, the processes are fed through a fire hose, then customer prospecting is forced in and, lastly, how to manage a territory. They get a laptop, a pen, a note pad, a set of truck keys and a reassuring “let me know if you have any questions or run into any issues!” Now a lot of that is tongue and cheek, but that scenario is not that far-fetched. 

“The lack of bench strength is why new salespeople develop bad habits…”

Dealerships spend a tremendous amount of resources recruiting and growing the next generation technician. To lock down the next generation of techs, individuals receive a full scholarship as well as a complete set of tools. One of the biggest profit centers in a dealership is parts and service, and this will become more important as machines become more integrated with technology. Are dealerships applying the same resources to building sales bench strength? 

Like technicians, dealerships need a plan to recruit the local talent in their communities. Every dealership knows one or two students, not from the graduating class but in high school, who might make a difference in their business. Working with and offering opportunities throughout the student’s college career could lead to more than just hiring them. 

Once the dealership has identified a student, offer them the opportunity to job shadow with either a technology specialist or a sales rep. If they find it interesting, then offer them a part-time job after school that extends to working during the summer. When the student leaves for college, if the dealership feels strongly about the student, offer them internships for the summer and work during breaks. Take every opportunity to attend and speak at organizations or classes in which the student is involved. Not only is this helping the student, but it opens more doors to a more extensive and diverse talent pool. Lastly, offering to pay or pay a portion of student loans in exchange for an employment contract will benefit the dealership and the student alike. 

The ag equipment market space requires the same kinds of talent other industries do. The other scary monster looming around the corner is the age of the ag equipment sales staff. The amount of knowledge poised to leave the industry is frightening. Hiring the next generation now and slowly integrating them into the fold will only secure the customer’s next generation relationship. The way the next generation of customer wants to buy and interact with the dealership differs dramatically from the previous generations. Having someone who can connect with the younger customer will only help.