WHAT CAN A SALESPERSON DO FOR YOUR COMPANY? 2006
The answer to that question varies. Some owners attribute their company’s success, growth and valuable customer relationships to a sales force. Others believe that they can count on their solid reputation and simple word of mouth to keep their fleet out of the yard and on the job.
Terry Craiglow, President of Buckeye Concrete Pumping, Middleton, OH, firmly believes in a dedicated sales team – as long as they are capable of more than just racking up expenses and offering a firm handshake. “No matter what they’re hired for, all of our employees are cross-trained to be able to handle all of the responsibilities involved in this business. We all sell in our own way,“ he says.
Family owned and operated, ACPA member Buckeye is the largest pumping operation in the Cincinnati area servicing the residential, heavy highway and light to medium industrial markets. Craiglow ensures all of his employees maintain a caring, professional attitude, no matter what their position. “We take a team approach,” he says. “Whether it’s promoting the service, helping the customer solve application issues or pumping the concrete, every individual here has the expertise and training necessary to make sure each job gets done right, and that the customers – new and old - are happy.”
Craiglow incorporated his business in 1983 and quickly built a loyal customer list. After rapidly expanding his fleet to seven Schwing truck-mounted concrete pumps, he recognized the need to promote Buckeye’s versatile capabilities and services if the company was to continue to grow.
“With over 20 years of service under our belt, the majority of our current business consists of return customers,” says Craiglow. “But it’s the balance that requires the attention of a salesperson.”
Terry’s son, Joshua, was put in charge of generating business for the pumping service. Researching Dodge Reports and attending bids for upcoming jobs in the local area, the younger Craiglow is responsible for presenting the benefits of adopting Buckeye’s services to the industry’s key decision makers.
“He knows this business as well as I do, and he understands that it’s evolving,” says Terry Craiglow. “When Buckeye first started, it was easy enough to walk into a contractor’s office, buy them lunch and seal the deal. Now, the job supers and managers are responsible for hiring outside contractors and maintaining profitability on behalf of their company. It takes attention and persistence to keep that business, and Joshua makes sure we’re always their first consideration on the big jobs.”
Joshua is also responsible for calling on whom Craiglow refers to as “their best sales force” - the area’s ready-mix suppliers. “We make their job easier, and maintaining a healthy business relationship encourages them to promote concrete pumping in general. It’s important that Joshua checks in with them consistently and makes sure we’re keeping up our end of the deal.”
In addition to sales calls, Joshua also runs quality control on the larger projects, and has a habit of popping in on each one of Buckeye’s operators at random. During these visits, he assesses overall job site safety and operator dress, and handles any questions or concerns the customer may have.
“This industry has grown from a strictly production-oriented business to involve more of the customer service issues,” says Craiglow. “Joshua helps me make sure we’re meeting our clients’ needs on both sides.”
Despite a lengthy list of responsibilities, Joshua is certainly not immune from Buckeye’s “team approach” philosophy. As a last resort, Joshua is required to step in as an operator when necessary.
“I’m the last man out,” says Craiglow, “And Josh goes out right before me. He has a busy schedule and daily responsibilities that are critical to the success of this company, but I’ll put him in a pump when we need him.”
With a current fleet of 15 concrete pumps, Craiglow says that kind of employee versatility keeps the equipment busy and the area’s project owners happy. “It’s a matter of efficiency. We avoid the snaffoos that come along with operators being unavailable or ill. And vice versa - I will send an operator to handle any customer service issues that arise when Joshua’s unavailable to us.”
Craiglow has confidence that most of his employees can determine and explain exactly what’s right for each customer’s application. “When customers discover that they’re not only speaking to a salesperson, but an operator and a sales application engineer, they don’t feel like they’re being sold,” says Craiglow. “They’re talking to an expert. And when they recognize that we use Schwing products, they can have complete peace of mind that the job will get done right and on time.
“When each individual can handle every aspect of this business in my absence, it’s absolutely priceless. Needless to say, I’m comfortable enough to take the time and focus on other aspects of the business.”
In addition to cutting the checks for employees of the pumping service, Craiglow works full-time as the head salesman for Buckeye’s Schwing dealership division.
“When a prospective owner is looking to invest in a concrete pump, they want to hear the pitch from someone who owns and operates the same equipment,” he says. “They value my opinions because they’re based on experience. And Schwing has always been a great company to purchase from, and work with on the dealership side. I have confidence in the equipment and that shines through when I’m working with prospective owners.”
The same goes for selling the pumping services. “When customers discover that they’re not only speaking to a salesperson, but an operator and a sales application engineer, they don’t feel like they’re being sold,” says Craiglow. “They’re talking to an expert. And when they recognize that we use Schwing products, they can have complete peace of mind that the job will get done right and on time.”
The Cincinnati area has experienced a dramatic rise in the number of pumping services in the last few years, but it’s of apparently no concern to Craiglow. “We’ve seen about eight other firms move in on this area. But I have to admit, we’re still forced to turn down work from time to time.”