Much has been made of the significant role of sales people in the rental industry during the past several years and rightly so. Sales folks are the driving force of your business and our industry — the rainmakers. The success of a rental business rises and falls on the backs of its sales people.

A balanced cocktail of training, compensation and technology blend together to help the sales people succeed at bringing in new business, maintaining existing customers and providing quality customer service. In the end, the rental industry still boils down to being a relationship-based industry. That is why non-compete agreements are so widespread in the industry. If a sales rep pulls his or her weight, then, hypothetically, if they were to leave their current employer and go to a competitor, then their customers would follow — or so one would think.

What does make a successful sales rep in the rental industry? Is it fleet on rent, rental revenue, or new accounts? Is it working the counter when needed or coming into the office each morning or afternoon? Perhaps it is staying out of the office? Those particular questions need to be answered by a rental business’ management team with solutions that fit within the company’s culture and strategy.

Most sales reps are in the game for two main reasons — money and freedom. The rainmakers of the industry can make things happen from wherever they are, any time of day or night, especially given the technological tools we all use on a daily basis, such as smartphones and laptops. The sales process, however, is still as simple today as it was 20 years ago if you strip away all the noise. The number one rule in rental sales is that you must show up!

Too many reps still do not comprehend this very important rule. The majority of all rentals are done by just showing up because many rental customers do not have a particular rental company or rep that they always call. Even so, we as humans like to do things the easy way and even if we have a favorite rental provider, we may just give someone a shot at a deal simply because they are standing in front of us. Many reps lose out on the chance to rent equipment because they are unorganized or not aggressive enough in their territories. Some reps just should not be in sales because their personalities are a wrong fit for the job. Others underperform because of call reluctance, or run customers off because they are too abrasive or lack the dedication to provide adequate customer service required in today’s market.

Consistency with a well-thought-out plan will dominate any rental market. Who wants to win more? Who is hungrier for the deal? Sales reps need to have passion and know their territories better than anyone else. They must call on everyone from a guy on the side of the road with a shovel to large industrial plants and everything in between. They should make “out-of-the-box” calls to maintenance staffs of hospitals, shopping malls and cemeteries.

The fact is: with all the extra tools sales reps are given, still nothing happens until they get out of the truck and make a sales call. The old adage about the first rep with a piece of equipment on a job — which is almost always temporary power for the office trailer — having an edge over the competition still holds true, and that rep will probably get the first shot at the second piece. However, the quality rep does his or her homework and knows when new projects are starting and who the subcontractors will be ahead of time. Sales reps that are successful are thorough and understand the importance of following up. People just want help to complete their job when they rent a piece of equipment. They want honest, good service and for folks to communicate with them when needed. No iPhone or sales seminar can do that for you. A solid sales rep that understands the value of building relationships and doing what they say they will do, when they say they will do it, is vital to success.

Of course there are some other important aspects of the sales role that go without saying but, at times, some reps need a friendly reminder. Be a professional in all aspects of the word — from your personal hygiene and appearance to your demeanor and manners. Anyone in rental sales has walked into the middle of a meeting in a jobsite office trailer at one time or another by accident. How you handle yourself in that situation may depend on your future success on that site.

On sales calls, do your reps do most of the talking or are they active listeners? Many a sales rep put words in the mouths of their customers and do not know when to be quiet. The art of active listening will get you all the information you need without guessing as long as you learn to ask the right questions.

Even with today’s advanced technology, working a good old fashioned sales plan is still a basic fundamental of the rental business. How is a rep to know which direction to point his truck out of the store’s driveway in the morning? How does he or she know where they will spend their time for the day or week? The secret to success in rental sales is simple: develop an action plan, cover your territory thoroughly and aggressively, be professional, follow up and most importantly … show up. rer

Simple Steps to Professional Sales Success

  1. Show up
  2. Be organized
  3. Work a flexible plan
  4. Be aggressive
  5. Follow up

Daniel McCoy is a business teacher and consultant in Raleigh-Durham, N.C. Previously he had a successful sales and management career in the rental industry.