If my records are correct, 2021 will be my 54th year of creating customer solutions in our industry, not including the ten years before working in agriculture. Decades of experience tell me that some things never change. The content of this article parallels others written over the years for FordPros. Today, we have more technology resources to utilize than we can ever learn, fully understand or utilize for “building worthwhile connections” in a pandemic environment. Research and implement any of the new technical resources to produce the desired outcome and worthwhile connections. Trade shows, one of my favorite mediums to initiate the building of strong connections are operating for the moment in a virtual environment, but that will end somewhere in the future allowing the creation of in person connections. Until the inperson trade shows can continue, technology will be utilized as needed – never straying far from the decades of successful experiences used to build worthwhile connections.
As I enter the eleventh year writing articles for Ford Pros, continuing my retirement and working part time for The Knapheide Manufacturing Company, one of the most productive and enjoyable areas in building worthwhile connections is when I reply to the “Contact Us” inquiry’s Knapheide receives daily from it’s website. Whether the customer looking for images of a discontinued product from thirty-five years ago or a fleet manager needing advice on spec’ing a complicated service truck for a municipal water and sewer department, a few “old school” techniques continue to build the worthwhile connections. Timely phone calls, thanking them for the inquiry, utilizing assistive language for obtaining a full understanding of the customer’s needs and of course, providing a timely solution all contribute to success. Customers still enjoy talking to someone rather than leaving a voicemail when they have a specific need. Let us examine three proven philosophies that have worked so well over half a century.
Passion to make your customers successful must remain at the top of your list.

Passion, utilized by myself through the decades, includes intensity, desire, going the extra mile and the joy of creating WOWs are all required to make you and your customers successful. Top performing customer solution providers become top performing sales persons. When you create the needed solution, the customer order is the natural step.
Extensive Product Knowledge is required. One must know how your products satisfy customer’s needs. For those of you with limited experience in the trades, this will be your toughest learning curve.

Product Knowledge –

  1. Understanding not only your complete product line, but also what each will do for the goals and objectives of your customers. Reducing costs per mile, accurate inventory to insure 100% completion on a service call while not overloading the service vehicle with excess parts; improving efficiencies by taking only three steps to your tools on a Knapheide KUV versus eleven steps to access your tools in a conventional van are just a few areas to understand for your HVACR customers. Every customer served with your products require product knowledge of their industry to make them successful.
  2. Understanding the industries in which your customer is operating. One of the main points used in decades of Knapheide sales training is to create your presentation for the target audience. How can you create a solution if you do not know the industry? One of the best ways to learn is to “walk a mile in their shoes” or ride with a technician making service calls or deliveries. This may take “getting grease under your fingernails” frequently used to describe someone that immerses themselves into their work. Try it, as you will be amazed at how much you will learn about applying your products to the environment.
  3. Understanding and being able to explain the long-term value provided by your products is becoming more and more of a requirement for all customers. Successful customers take great pride in the appearance of their vehicles, at the job site and on the road, want them to look good for the long haul as well as perform well in their work environment. How well do you understand and present these features on your vehicle as well as the product installed on the cab chassis for a specific application?

Perseverance to create timely solutions within your area of expertise.
Perseverance – “When you push yourself to work through challenges – the ability to keep doing something in spite of obstacles – inspire perseverance by experiencing failure.” My favorite is experiencing failure – one learns a great deal about the environment in which they failed, instantly learning what not to do the next time. Just last week, I broke off the end of a pressurized water pipe on which I was replacing a twenty-eight year-old non-functioning and corroded water valve. Trying to hold back 60 pounds of water pressure with my thumb, experiencing very cold water all over the facility and myself while simultaneously shouting for help to turn off the water is another definition of perseverance. Help arrived after a few “high volume voice requests”. I will not do that again as I now understand what I did wrong.

Continue broadening your horizons, you will be glad you did. As Henry Ford quoted on page 40 in the famous Edison and Ford Quote Book:

“If you think you can
or think you can’t,
you’re right.”