Customers Value Their Time

Alex Kraft
Mar 29, 2022

“No one will buy a $250,000 machine online”! “But this is a relationship business!” I’ve heard those 2 comments repeatedly. First, Ritchie Brothers and Bidadoo have sold Billions (with a ‘B’) of equipment online, as-is where is. The crowd that clings to those two statements are missing the greater point: the shift towards online transactions is due to customers placing more value on their time than ever before. Why fly to an auction site when I can bid or buy the machine online without any interruption on my daily routine? I was reminded of this the other day when I was speaking with a construction contractor who owns his company. His insight is incredibly relevant since he started his career as an equipment salesperson and therefore knows both sides of the supplier/consumer dynamic personally. When we were discussing the growing influence of technology in the equipment industry, he mentioned to me:

“As a salesperson I was trained to call on customers in person every day. Now that I’m on the other side, I’m always squeezed for time. We’re trying to grow our business. I’m out trying to land jobs for our people. I don’t have time to meet sales reps for a beer or go to dinner. It’s nothing personal… If I’m not in the office or on one of our jobsites, I want to be with my family.”.

This is a common refrain. It can be difficult to look at something through another person’s eyes, especially when it impacts you. But think about your customers and how many different vendors are trying to build that same relationship. For example, there are OEM dealers, independent dealers, rental houses, and service providers (auction companies, tire vendors, freight companies) all competing for that customer’s attention. My contractor friend told me that he is called on by 30+ different vendors in a normal month. This was incredibly eye opening for me, because I assumed that it was just our dealership and our two biggest competitors that were calling on my friend.

There are positive and negative aspects of technology and its effects on our culture. I am amazed to see how many people will order a Starbucks coffee online to avoid the possibility of a five-minute wait. One could argue technology has made us impatient and has created some real first world problems. But there’s clearly a disconnect between construction customers and their vendors with how they want to interact. Customers are working on jobsites coordinating and managing large teams against tight timelines and budgets. Yet, equipment dealers encourage and push their sales teams to continue showing up unannounced on jobsites or offices with no real agenda other than ‘do you need anything?’ How is this productive and still part of the daily routine in 2022?

I’m not suggesting that customers don’t want salespeople to exist. The difference is customers want dealer salespeople when they want/need them. This is the definition of the ‘on-demand’ economy. It’s possible to build relationships with people while relying more on digital experiences to communicate. If dealers embraced these tools, their sales teams could be more prepared to serve their customers. Smart business is about listening to customers, and those that ignore this reality will probably create openings for their competitors that didn’t exist before.