A new piece of iron is quite the investment, so the equipment buying process should not be taken lightly. Thankfully, contractors can rely on equipment dealers to help along the way and ensure they find the right machine for their needs and budget.
“In today’s age of Internet shopping and instant quotes, engaging a dealer through the entire specification, buying and ownership process can not only save you a lot of money but ultimately make you look like a hero by buying the best product available — with the best terms and having the best service to back you up in case something goes wrong,” says Bryce Puckett, Texas Division Rental Manager for Kirby-Smith Machinery Inc.
Equipment dealers are a valuable resource before, during and after a sale. By partnering with a dealer, a customer can benefit from the technical expertise they offer when looking for a machine to purchase. Throughout a sale or rental, a dealer can discuss financing options, as well as keep a customer abreast to the status of his or her machine and its expected delivery.
“A dealer has direct factory communication enabling greater delivery timing visibility,” says Puckett. “Also, a dealer is typically required to do a pre-delivery inspection before any unit is purchased or rented — ensuring all units are delivered up to factory specs and condition.”
One of the biggest advantages of working with an equipment dealer comes after the transaction in the form of after-sale support. Although a customer is leaving the dealer lot with a machine, he or she is never alone in the ownership process.
“Dealers support the customer through preventative maintenance reminders, scheduled repairs and rental machines to reduce downtime,” says Drew DeLaney, General Manager of Beard Equipment.
Puckett adds, “The dealer really shines here. By providing service through factory-trained technicians and parts inventory availability, a dealer is the most likely choice to keep your new, high-tech machine up and running.”
When the time comes for potential buyers or renters to select a dealer, it’s important for them to do their homework. Both Puckett and DeLaney agree that checking out a dealer’s service department and its capabilities are crucial.
“The No. 1 thing to do is ‘go in the back door,’” says Puckett. “By finding out what the service department is like, how many people they have [and if they are trained on your type of machine] will tell you a lot about your expected uptime in the future if you choose to purchase from them.”
A dealer also needs to be personable and easy to communicate with. There are plenty of dealers out there waiting to do business, so a customer needs to find the right one for his or her needs. “The dealer needs to be easy to do business with, says DeLaney. “Rental needs rarely have long lead time and customers have many choices of dealers to work with.”
When cultivating a good relationship between customer and dealer, both DeLaney and Puckett agree that communication is key. By being open with a dealer, a customer can expect the same honesty in return.
“Dealers and customers both appreciate open and honest communication,” says DeLaney. “A good relationship is based on trust and understanding each other’s needs and opportunities. Communication is how these relationships are created.”
By maintaining open lines of communication, the customer can reap the benefits of what the dealer has to offer. The dealer’s knowledge and assistance will ultimately add value to a customer’s bottom line.
“A dealer has a lot to offer either through innovative financing, specialty factory engineering expertise and factory-trained staff,” says Puckett. “If engaged properly, a dealership can be your No. 1 advocate and source of information in your equipment buying, owning or renting process.”
It’s important to nurture the business relationship between customer and dealer. Puckett mentions that customers should give dealers a bigger view of what they’re working on so they can better assist them and meet their needs.
“Engage the salesman, sales manager, service manager and/or branch manager,” says Puckett. “Many dealership personnel have some background in the construction industry, but inviting salesmen and other dealer points of contact out to projects is always a good way to give them a little idea of what you are facing on a day-to-day basis.”
Unfortunately at some point or another, equipment may fail and will need some TLC. Maintaining calm interaction with an equipment dealer will help get the situation remedied and get the machine back on the job faster.
“Everyone makes mistakes at one time or another and as a dealer, we are always willing to admit our mistakes and deal with consequences,” says DeLaney. “When customers do the same, we work that much harder for them because having a relationship based on honesty is very valuable to both parties.”
Since the salesperson won’t be the one fixing the issue, Puckett suggests that customers become acquainted with the service staff as well. This will allow an equipment owner to be comfortable with the people working on the machine.
“Many times an initial call to the salesman that helped initiate the transaction will result in a follow-up call by a service manager to get the situation rectified,” says Puckett. “If at all possible before the sales transaction is consummated, make sure you are introduced to the service staff. They can be your best friend.”
Keep in Touch
Beyond assisting in the sale or rental of equipment, dealers look to keep their customers in the loop about new machines and technologies that are introduced to the market. Communication is key once again in maintaining a healthy partnership and social media has played a great role in helping dealers reach out to their customers.
“In today’s world, our manufacturers and our company communicate with customers in more ways than ever before,” explains DeLaney. “We are always talking about new technology, productivity or downtime improvements — anything that can create value for a customer. We communicate these improvements through our website, e-newsletter, Facebook updates, Twitter and other social media outlets. Plus, we have the sales professionals that visit with our customers every day.”
Puckett mentions that in addition to e-mail blasts and its website, Kirby-Smith engages its customers in training sessions that highlight new equipment and technology. He’s also an advocate for social media, pointing out that it’s a good way for customers to get quick updates on new machine advancements.
“There’s the occasional training session or seminar where dealers will invite in customers for training or education on new techniques, technologies or even new product introductions,” he says.
The relationship between an equipment dealer and customer is an important one and should be based in trust and open communication. By working together, the pair can succeed in finding the right machine for the job and the best fit for everyone involved.
Pam Kleineke is Associate Editor of Utility Contractor.