Develop New Business with Your Frontline Staff

Everything is different today. The economic climate has forced all of us to alter our business plans, budgets, forecasts, staffing strategies, resources—you name it. Every expert has a different opinion, and you don’t know who to listen to or what to believe. Well, believe me, when things turn around, I want you to be ready. I don’t know when that will happen, but it’s likely to happen to us at different times. Just like you, I am optimistic and hopeful.

As business picks up, you want your staff focused on customers and closing sales. You’re asking them to do more with less, and you may even have different people answering the phone and servicing customers than you have had in the past.

With 80 percent or more of your business originating with your frontline, these individuals—who handle most of your transactional business and process most of the inquiries regarding rentals, parts, and service—truly drive your bottom line. It’s the person who is answering the phone and greeting visitors who can make that great first impression that wows your customer. Just think about how important that position is in the success of your business.

Too often the clients we work with put just anyone in that position and do little, if anything, to train them. They know the phone is being answered and if they get few complaints, they assume everything must be fine. Sometimes the person in that position has been with the company for so long that managers and supervisors just accept less than exceptional customer service.

That’s not good enough, especially now, when every single piece of business is so important. With the mission of developing new business and riding a recovery, your frontline team needs to be on board with your sales and customer service culture and become part of your competitive advantage. Here are some proven tips and must-dos to keep in mind when building and developing your frontline.

Bring forth the passion and excitement in servicing your customers

It starts with the greeting and continues throughout the entire transaction. Customers must feel welcome. They want to do business with people who make them comfortable, which is often reflected in the tone.

Being at work up to 10 hours a day, it can be easy to lose some of your passion, but it is critical to have that consistent upbeat excitement throughout the day. That positive energy is contagious and will impact your customers as well as other employees.

Know the right questions to ask

Part of being a good salesperson is asking the right questions. These key questions help build relationships and give the customer confidence that you can service his or her needs. For example, a key relationship-building question is asking for the caller’s name. Get this information early in the call so you can use it throughout the conversation. How can you build a relationship if you don’t even know the caller’s or company’s name?

Other key questions may apply to the technical or operational aspects of the transaction. For a rental call, they might include, “Where are you working?” and “What type of job are you doing?” Take interest in the caller by asking smart, relevant questions that will help you serve him or her better. Review these questions with your frontline.

Make certain your frontline is focused on the sale

There is a lot of “order-taking” out there. Frontline staff is just waiting for the customer to say, “Okay, let’s do it.” However, you can be proactive by simply asking for the sale. The best time to ask is after you quote the price. For example, “We do have that part available, and the cost is $118. May I go ahead and reserve it for you?”

The best way to increase your sales is to ask for business. No one has to be aggressive or pushy. It is just asking for a commitment, and the worst the customer can say is no.

Reevaluate your training plan

Great service does not happen by accident. When you are hiring entry-level employees, they must be trained. In the equipment industry, much of that training is focused on operational and technical issues—teaching employees how to use the computer, operate equipment, read parts books, and more. However, little time is spent on customer service and sales skills.

Make certain your frontline is comfortable with your standards and sales processes—don’t assume they have these skills. Keep in mind that customers will evaluate their experience on more than the equipment you carry and parts you sell.

Provide ongoing coaching and development

Training needs to be more than an event. To build a culture and truly impact skills, there needs to be training reinforcement. Many of our clients ask us to conduct mystery shopper calls as a tool for measurement and coaching. We also provide continuous training opportunities with classroom and webinar sessions. These programs help keep the skills top of mind and help management with ongoing employee development.

Don’t underestimate the value of your frontline staff to the success of your business. Invest in them, and your return on investment will be clear with an increase in revenues and better relationships with your customers.

About the Author: 

Barry Himmel

Barry Himmel is a senior vice president for Signature Worldwide, a Dublin, Ohio-based company offering sales and customer service training, marketing, and mystery shopping services for the equipment rental industry. For more information, call (800) 398-0518 or visit www.signatureworldwide.com.