Many dealers selling heavy equipment today struggle to educate customers and get orders for one reason: they don’t have modern sales calculators to help them run the numbers.
In business to business sales, the final argument will always be “the numbers.” Contractors (buying and renting construction equipment) and farmers (buying and renting farm and agricultural equipment) NEED to know such things as:
- What’s my ROI (basic and operational)?
- What’s the difference if I rent v. buy?
- How much will it cost to run this thing 40 hours a week?
- What kind of profit can I expect to generate, given this price per ton?
Without this essential data, how is a buyer supposed to make an informed decision?
It stands to reason that such a critical sales-empowering process would be given its due, served by iterations, innovations and investments over time, yielding a rising arc of technological achievement. After all, in heavy equipment sales, dealers are THE customer’s point of contact, so no one is in greater need for fast and capable sales calculators than they are.
Unfortunately, the truth is far less inspiring. Most times, when calculators are even used, it’s in the form of a clunky Excel spreadsheet tucked away on Bob’s laptop, little used and nearly impossible for others to access. When dealer reps do try to use it, it’s clumsy – and so no one wants to show it to customers.
It’s a massive and painful disconnect.
What is needed is a new framework, methods, and best practices to release the untapped promise of calculators to accelerate dealer sales velocity.
The modern Sales Calculator – Give Dealers the Tools to Help Buyers
What if I told you that by implementing a different kind of calculator program, you could:
- Increase sales velocity
- Change your customer’s perception of your dealers
- Elevate dealer education to make your entire dealer sales network more informed and effective
- Increase brand loyalty when it comes to the buyers of your equipment, even to create a sustainable dealer growth model so that no matter how quickly you’re adding new dealers to your sales network, you can manage it and handle it without all the stress and headaches that you face today.
How Sales Calculators Helped a Major Trucking Manufacturer
In 2010 we helped Freightliner to execute their vision for a mobile digital sales tool that would help the entire dealer sales network become the best-informed and most effective in the industry.
The Freightliner Sales Tool (FST) revolutionized the way trucks are sold. It offered a simple, visual and interactive way for dealers to get and share information about their trucks, offering a way to explore the interior cab of the truck as well as its full range of features and benefits.
But one of the biggest “a-ha” moments came with the deployment of the real cost of ownership (RCO) calculator. It helped them sell more trucks. It was one of the most effective tools in their arsenal. But why?
Freightliner makes top-quality trucks. Fleet owners and owner-operators want to buy them, but their upfront cost is high.
However, the extraordinary fuel economy and low cost of maintenance when demonstrated proves that you will spend less on the truck over its lifespan. But seeing is believing. The calculator did its job in a uniquely compelling way – it let the buyers see for themselves just how much they would save over time. And it worked.
The reason was clear: it supported a key argument the dealer was making.
More calculators of all kinds – finance, ROI, rent vs. buy
Over the past decade we launched a wide range of calculators for trucking and heavy equipment clients, including but not limited to:
- Total cost of ownership (TCO)
- Real cost of ownership (RCO)
- Extended coverage
- Maintenance cost comparison
- ROI (basic and operational)
The many business benefits of Sales Calculators
Sales calculators have many benefits to the manufacturer, dealer and customer. One of the biggest and most direct positive impacts is increasing sales velocity by reducing the length of sales cycles.
Sales velocity increases when the length of the sales cycle decreases. Once a customer comes to the dealership and begins talking with the dealer, questions come up. Even experienced dealers can’t answer ALL questions on the spot.
So, the dealer says something like “let me get you an answer on that and call you back.”
Unfortunately, it can stretch into hours, days, even weeks while they call around and look for the information. Ultimately, by being able to run the numbers, the most important thing to the business buyer quickly, even on the spot and share that information with the buyer, the length of the sales cycle will be dramatically reduced.
Manufacturers are not helping their dealers – but they should
Many manufacturers today don’t provide calculators to their dealers. If anything, they provide key data and numbers so that dealers have some basic information. For the relatively few who go beyond that, usually it’s a simple Excel calculator. Nothing fancy.
“These calculators were never built to share with anyone externally. We use it in the back office to get an idea of a few things but honestly, I would feel embarrassed to show it to a customer. But hey, I’m no expert. Also, it’s a pain because the calculator is only on Bob’s computer. Come to think of it, where is Bob….oh, he’s on vacation? Know when he’ll be back?”
The problems with the old way of doing calculators are many:
- It’s hard for dealers to access.
- It’s difficult to update for the manufacturer.
- Nobody really trusts the numbers.
- It’s all dependent upon Bob and it requires training. If you want to create a second Bob, then you need to go through the training and nobody’s really confident using it. And the ultimate result is it just doesn’t get used very much at all.
- Maybe Bob uses it, but nobody else really wants to touch it.
Modern Sales Calculators Can do the Heavy Lifting
We know the importance of running numbers for a business buyer of heavy equipment. Imagine a future in which we’re not shackled to the current reality of weak and ineffective spreadsheet calculators.
Imagine if you could have a web-based or mobile app calculator that every dealer could access.
What if those dealers could pick it up and use it with almost no training at all? To reduce friction to using it.
And what if it was a good customer experience? What if it was great for answering questions live and then sending follow-up afterwards?
“Oh, would you like me to share the numbers on rent versus buy? Would you like to see how much profit you can make per week If you operate it for 40 hours a week? Oh, only 20 hours a week? Great. Let’s rerun the numbers. Here you go. I can share that with you if you like.”
Ultimately, it’s so easy that everyone in the dealer network is going to want to use it. Be proud to show it to customers because it reflects the same kind of commitment that your brand makes to the product quality. And this is a way of reinforcing that.
How do calculators support everyone through the buyer’s journey?
This framework aligns the customer dealer and manufacturer in multiple ways and truly demonstrates the power and capability of well-used sales calculators. Let’s consider the customer perspective.
The customer wants to know the ROI on a piece of equipment, so that various different types of equipment can be compared head to head. The customer is going to be very impressed if the dealer can answer these questions quickly.
How do sales calculators help the dealer?
Well, the dealer wants the customer to make a purchase with the dealer. We’re looking to make it easier for them to educate the customer. And so what’s the dealer going to say if this program is successful?
We want to make it easy to manage the information behind the calculator. If the calculator is very hard to update and difficult to manage, then it’s simply not going to be a long-lived application or web app.
We want the customer to be able to make an informed buying decision. And even if the customer isn’t buying your equipment, if your dealer can provide information that makes it easier for the customer to make a decision there’s loyalty that is in gendered there, they’re going to trust us.
Who is the expert?
The dealer is not seen as the expert by the buyer, and that’s a problem.
So how do calculators help?
The customer’s main goal is to solve a problem – and thus to see if your product can help them do it. And so it’s vitally important to make it easy for the customer to learn about your product and reach a buying decision faster and to build loyalty and become a repeat customer.
Only 25% of buyers choose the same brand time after time.
So what about the dealer?
If we want to make it easier for the customer to make an informed decision and a purchase, what do we want the dealer to be able to do well with the dealer? Clearly, it’s all about being able to answer those questions faster and with more authority.
The relational and informational sides of sales
There’s the relational on the informational side, the relational side is all about the buyer. It’s focused on their problems, how we can solve it’s a little bit like a consultative sale, but it’s really about being focused on what’s going to help them get the information on site as well.
We want to make it easier for the dealer to be able to focus on the relational side and provide them with greater support on the informational side of the sale. And so we must make it easy to do what well for the dealer to educate and engage the buyer.
And if you provide them with good sales calculators they can communicate with customers in a way that is education and supports the buying process.
Improve Dealer Training and Manage Network Growth
And an even bigger bonus is that if your company is going through growth, if you are adding new dealers to your sales network, then by having sales calculators like this, you can greatly enhance your ability to scale up your network.
The information customers require will change over time. The problem of continuous improvement comes down to analytics. As Drucker said, you can’t improve what you don’t measure. Analytics are required.
How do sales calculators help equipment manufacturers?
We must make it easy for the manufacturer to give accurate and powerful tools.
For the manufacturer to provide informational support, it means they just make it easy to update numbers as often as necessary with ease for all of this to work, the numbers have to be current and accurate.
Best practices for sales calculator program development
So in summary, what are best practice calculator programs and what are the best practices that drive them?
What are the things that we know in terms of principles that we need to follow to have an effective calculator program, regardless of the ultimate implementation?
- Apply the 80/20 Rule – Start small. Focus on the high-impact items. Start with one calculator. Less is more. Don’t try to boil the ocean.
- Quick and easy for dealers – dealer should be able to get any available answer and run the numbers within 1 minute.
- No training required. If you hand this URL or a mobile app to one of your dealers, they really need to be able to just pick it up and start using it.
- Establish analytics and feedback loops – monitor usage and adoption over time, because that is truly how you’re going to measure the effectiveness of the program. Otherwise you’re falling into the field of dreams where you build it and you think it’s great. And then nobody comes and use it.
- Implement continuous improvement practices – establish metrics and then schedule review periods on a regular basis.
Monthly: user level analytics, adoption, proactive dealer feedback
Quarterly: sales correlations, aggregate dealer feedback via survey
Annually: calculator updates / changes, add/retire calculators, communication at dealer meeting
But the important takeaway from the best practices is that the outcomes, the measurements of customer experience, and increases in sales and sales velocity are always going to be more important than following hard and fast rules.
It’s the principles and the best practices here that can help you to generate the value, regardless of whether you’re creating a web app, a mobile app, or even if you’re just trying to extend your Excel calculator spreadsheet..
An Easy Button for Manufacturers to Deploy Easy Calculators on Mobile
As you look at your options for potentially rolling out a calculator program, there is an easy button.
We’ve taken a lot of those best practices and learnings and put them into our dealer sales enablement platform called BAM!, which offers a single source of truth for your dealers so that they can always have the information at their fingertips. Faster access to information shortens the sales cycle time and increases their sales velocity.
We want that dealer to be able to answer it. Yes, yes, of course the dealer should know off the top of their head. Most of the answers that they’re going to be, you know, to the questions that they’re going to be asked, but there will be times when they don’t and when they don’t, we want them to be able to get those answers in under a minute. So whether it’s product information, marketing, whatever it is simply being a click or two away.
Calculators don’t have to be extremely expensive.
They don’t have to take a long time to implement. In fact, they can be rolled out pretty quickly.
And they can be extremely easy to use.
And that’s why we built the BAM! – to create a platform that could be a single repository instantly accessible via mobile app for the dealer.
The result? All of the information needed to support customers in their buying cycle.