How to engage fleets in-person and with internal and third-party data

Spend any time with a fleet today and it immediately becomes clear how much they value their dealer partners. With the speed of logistics increasing every day, carriers need partners who can keep up with the pace of their business.

For dealers, this expectation is both heartening and terrifying. Turning customers and accounts into business partners is a worthy goal for any company, yet with business booming and more fleets eager for assistance, dealers are scrambling to find the best method for keeping up with every business relying on them.

“Everything we do is geared around serving our customers and making it easier for them to do the things they have to do,” says Dean Martin, president of sales at AMG Peterbilt. “It keeps us busy.”

The most popular method of keeping track of customer needs in the dealer channel remains regular interaction. There’s no better way of understanding exactly what a customer wants than sitting down and having a conversation, Martin says.

At AMG, Martin says his salespeople “don’t have a chair” in their offices because he expects them to be in the field spending time with customers. Martin says even though the trucking industry is becoming more data driven “people still buy from people.” Customers want to work with dealers who value their business enough to check in with them regularly and proactively assure they are providing the service they need.

He adds time spent in a customer’s facility learning about its equipment, customers, routes and loads pays off immediately when it’s time for that customer to buy a new truck. If customers know a dealer is aware of their requirements, they know they can trust the dealer to get them the right equipment, Martin says.

“The sale is made before you even get there,” he says.

Spending time in the field also is valuable when it comes to acquiring information about a customer’s growth plans or longer-term business plans, says Mike Maudlin, vice president at Maudlin International.

“Here in central Florida there is a lot of new construction going on. We have customers building larger buildings and planning to grow,” he says. “Some of that you can see from the road. To know more, we really have to go in and talk with them.”

But while time in the field remains the most valuable method for adding context to customer decisions, it’s hardly the only way to monitor their needs. Dealers can evaluate their own sales data to better understand the services customers require. This is particularly useful in parts and service, where proactive monitoring of customer buying trends can help dealers develop specials and customizable service packages to market to them.

Brian Murphy says that tactic has been used at Bruckner Truck Sales for years.

Murphy, the company’s vice president of sales, says his sales team has access to all customer purchasing information and is strongly encouraged to use parts and service data as a foundation for its sales calls. Murphy says he wants his sales associates to identify and address service trends for customers before a downtime event occurs.

The value of this approach is self-evident. Customers are universally appreciative of any service a dealer provides that eliminates an unscheduled service event, Murphy says, and each positive experience strengthens the bond between the two parties.

“Sales sells the first truck; parts and service sell the rest,” he says.

Finally, there’s the option of monitoring customers with third-party data. Martin, Maudlin and Murphy each note their companies use publicly available vehicle population and registration data to better understand the scope of their customers’ operations. Maudlin says his team finds this data particularly valuable as background when interacting with a new customer.

There are other data sources available to the dealer community, too.

RigDig Business Intelligence from Randall-Reilly (publisher of Successful Dealer) provides dealers with customer information on their assets, purchasing trends, terminal locations, areas of operation, CSA vehicle maintenance scores and more. The subscription service offers more than 200 fields of data and enables dealers to create customizable reports for any segment of current or prospective customers.

Murphy says RigDig’s Web ID feature is quickly becoming a favorite of Bruckner Truck Sales. Web ID tracks customer visits to the Bruckner Truck Sales website and funnels that data into the RigDig platform. Website visits that can be traced to a prospective customer are then synced to their fleet profile within RigDig, providing Bruckner with a snapshot of the customer’s business it can use to engage them.

At least that’s the plan, Murphy says. He says Bruckner is working to create an outbound call center that will use RigDig’s leads when prospecting.

“Right now, we are capturing and recording that information. When we get into outbound mode, that’s when we will move our marketing to the next level,” he says.