Introducing our Colleague Alex Kraft
Our new guest writer Alex Kraft Started as an equipment salesperson for Flagler Construction Equipment (Volvo heavy dealer in Florida) in 2004. He worked in various positions at Flagler, ultimately serving as Chief Operating Officer from 2017 to early 2020 when Flagler was sold to Alta Equipment Company. Alex started Heave in July 2020. We at Learning Without Scars are happy to be introducing our new colleague, Alex Kraft.
For new(er) companies, the inevitable question is, ‘what do you do?’. In the simplest sense, Heave connects buyers/renters of heavy equipment with dealer sales reps.
I started my career as a heavy equipment salesperson in Miami. My manager handed me that ‘UCC’ report that showed the customers who had previously bought equipment in my territory for the prior three years. I attended a few brief product training sessions and was put in the field. The old phrase ‘you eat what you kill’ is accurate. Dealers rely on their sales teams to be the marketing department, as there are very few (if any) “leads” provided to salespeople. Days can be lonely and involve a ton of driving. It’s common for heavy equipment salespeople to drive 45k-50k miles annually. Everyone develops a common route through their territory, start at the furthest point and hit every jobsite/customer office on the way back home. Most dealerships will give their reps a target for customer calls or visits per day. Some expect 8 calls per day, for other dealers it may be 12-15 per day. If your revenue numbers lag your peers, the typical advice is, ‘well, make more customer calls!’. The truth is, most calls aren’t productive since they are rarely scheduled: the customer is busy, the customer isn’t there, or the customer doesn’t need any equipment at that time. Yet this is how the industry continues to operate.
I was amazed that still in 2020, customers had to call sales reps every time they wanted to rent or buy a machine. I’ve seen an equipment manager order Uber Eats for lunch, then call 4 different sales reps and leave a voicemail message asking for rental rates and availability. Therefore, customers are typically waiting for information. Heave exists to solve this problem. We are an aggregator website, in the mold of Lending Tree or Thumbtack. Customers come to www.heave.co and specify what they want to rent or purchase. For example, a customer this morning posted a request for quotes to buy a new 11,000-13,500 lb. canopy mini excavator in Princeton, Texas. Every dealer sales rep that has Collin County, Texas received a text message alert for this opportunity. Sales reps can quote this deal directly from their phone. Customers receive notice upon quote submittal, and they can view the quotes all in one place.
One key feature of the Heave platform is how the communication is handled. We understand that customers come to Heave because they want an easier experience that they can control. Therefore, we allow the customer to dictate the next step. Customers choose which sales reps to release their contact information to once they view the quotes. The customer clicks ‘contact sales rep’ and the salesperson receives a text with the customer’s full name, phone number, and email address. They can communicate offline to address any questions or finalize the deal.
Our initial focus since launch in May 2021 was to build a platform where customers begin their equipment search. The long-term plan for Heave is to continue adding services so customers don’t have to visit multiple places for each part of the transaction, simplifying the entire process. This past fall we partnered with Mazo Capital Solutions to offer equipment financing on our site. Next, we see an opportunity to find partners to show our customers instant freight and warranty quotes alongside their machine quotes. What used to take customers or dealers multiple calls, can be brought into one place on www.heave.co in seconds.
In my opinion, one part that is glossed over when discussing technology solutions is what it frees up suppliers to do. Everyone is rightly focused on their product and what it solves, but technology can free up supplier employees to focus their effort on true customer value add activities. For example, as I highlighted above, how much of a salesperson’s time is wasted everyday driving? Those empty miles could be better served proposing fleet solutions or analyzing telematics reports for their key customers. What value is added by taking parts orders over the phone and entering that order into a business system? With an ecommerce parts solution, parts employees could be repurposed to either manage stock levels better, run parts to technicians (reducing repair times), or deliver parts to customers. Predictive analytics could dramatically help service departments prevent catastrophic failures and better help prioritize their technician’s time. To me, that’s what embracing technology can unlock for equipment dealers- what are the menial tasks that eat up our employee’s time, and how can we utilize certain tools to provide a better customer experience?