By Chad Newsome
National Sales Manager
P.L. Custom Body and Equipment Co., Inc.
With the complexity of emergency response vehicles increasing every year, your next sales representative should become an invaluable resource for you. However, if he is nothing more than an order taker, what does he bring to the table? So the question is, how do you find the right fit? How do you avoid getting the wool pulled over your eyes by a shady character? The three core elements in finding the right person are knowledge, integrity, and personality.
Today’s emergency vehicle purchasers, regardless of department size or organizational proficiency, are very savvy and informed. By the time the sales representative makes his first contact, the purchaser has likely already spent time doing research prior to meeting different vendors. As the purchaser, you should test each sales representative by probing his knowledge base and truly qualify the professional competency of the so-called “specialist.” Customers expect the specialist to be exactly that: a specialist. If the salesperson does not have all, or a significant majority of, the answers to your questions, you would be wise to question his title.
Use your connections with neighboring departments, regional councils, and county associations to gain insight into the various professionals serving your area. Find out who they liked and did not like and ask why. Ask for a reference list from the sales professional of both units similar to the style you are looking for and as a professional reference for the individual as well. Keep notes on what you learn during your survey, and keep them handy when you meet the representative.
Integrity begins with the individual, as does personal responsibility. While I do not believe that all salespeople are liars, I do think that the old 80/20 adage applies. For the 20 percent who are devoid of any ethical or moral fiber, I believe that customers should address questionable behavior head on. As the customer, you really do want to have someone you can trust.
It is interesting to see how colleges and universities across the United States have ramped up new course offerings that integrate and focus on the importance of ethics in business. This trend gained significant momentum after multiple failings in the financial services industry. Events like the collapse of Enron, the Bernie Madoff Ponzi scheme, the bursting of the housing bubble, and so on all led these schools to see that there was a significant need to focus on and develop programs of study on which ethics formed a foundation in the discussion. The emergency vehicle sales industry, as well as the sales industry as a whole, is not immune to these issues.
As the consumer, it is wise to rate certain behaviors when evaluating new salespeople. Do they talk about their competitors? Do they say “trust me,” or “well, to be honest with you …?” These two statements should make your skin crawl. Trust comes with time, as it must be earned. Moreover, if they have to clarify that they are now being honest with you, does that mean that everything else they said previously was a lie? Are they organized? Do they show up on time for meetings? Habitually late people send the message, intentional or not, that their time is more valuable than yours.
This third element, personality, is important in finding the right emergency vehicle sales professional, because you can never discount individual preference. Just as truthful as the adage goes about dating-that there is someone out there for everyone-customers must acknowledge that they have certain preferences for the types of people they want to deal with.
You may have noticed that many dealers now have salespeople who work in pairs or team sell. The idea is to give the customer a chance to naturally gravitate toward one or the other representative while maintaining the product as a separate piece of the puzzle. If there is only one representative, there is a chance that the product will be ignored simply because of personality clashes.
If you find that you love a certain product but, for whatever reason, cannot stand the salesperson, contact the owner of the dealership. The owner just might assign a different representative to assist you. Either way, team sales approaches or individual approaches both rely on making a personal connection with the customer. As the purchaser, the entire purchasing experience can be greatly improved if you find someone who serves as an advocate for you and treats you properly.
Keep Them Honest
Knowledge, integrity, and personality all constitute important qualities in trying to find the right emergency vehicle sales professional for your next purchase. Keep everyone honest and ask for a copy of the notes they take during your meetings. Making sure that there are no misunderstandings between you, your salesperson, or the factory he represents should be welcomed by the representative, not avoided. Once you have found an individual who can promote his product in an intelligent, positive, and friendly manner while looking for ways to meet your stated operational goals, your next purchase experience will be a bit easier. Best of luck!
CHAD NEWSOME is the national sales manager for P.L. Custom Body and Equipment Co., Inc. (PLCB). His role focuses on training of sales personnel, expansion into new territories, and supporting existing dealerships. He started his emergency vehicle sales career in 1991 and has been with PLCB since 2002. He has been involved with EMS since 1986 and currently serves as the PIO for the Clinton (NJ) First Aid & Rescue Squad.