We Want the World and We Want It Now

April 1, 2005
We want the world and we want it now. Fans of the rock group The Doors might know that line, and those who were around in the '60s might remember Jim

“We want the world and we want it now.”

Fans of the rock group “The Doors” might know that line, and those who were around in the '60s might remember Jim Morrison shouting it on record or in concert.

Morrison probably had something different in mind, but that seems to be the refrain of contractors when they want equipment these days. We live in an amped-up culture where people expect and demand instant gratification.

While advance planning is an important part of business ownership, when it comes to obtaining the equipment customers need for their jobs, they want the world and they want it now and if your rental company isn't ready to provide it immediately then undoubtedly somebody else will.

In the RER 100 Roundtable, which you can access online at www.rermag.com, top executives from seven major RER 100 companies all talked about this trend and the critical need to be able to react quickly to very challenging requests and demands. It is also a recurring theme mentioned by many people interviewed by Brandey Smith and Erin Chapman for this month's cover story on rental sales staff. The way business is done in this frenetic decade, everything is speeded up. The reality is we have to adjust to it or get left standing in the dust.

Participants in the Roundtable and interviewees of our story on sales also continually came back to the importance of relationships. Yes, we have more sophisticated means of communication in this electronic age, but relationships are still primary and ultimately are more important than rates, fancy Web sites or clever marketing schemes. Competitive rates, high-quality equipment, and responsive service are always going to be important, as is the ability to market a company in an eye-catching and intelligent way. But the relationship still is critical. The salesperson who can spend an engaging hour with a customer — and return to visit those same customers again and again — has a great advantage over those who lack this capability.

Another factor Roundtable participants talked about was the degree of consolidation among their customers. Fewer companies are taking on more jobs. As companies diversify and do business over continually larger areas, rental companies need to enhance communication with customers in larger areas as well as far-flung branches. More and more, salespeople are using laptop computers, Blackberry wireless units and handheld computers for communication, with customers and with their own companies.

As the scale of work gets larger, the factors referred to earlier become even more important. Speed of communication becomes all the more critical when contractors have jobs in multiple areas. On any given day, there could be breakdowns or sudden needs arising at several jobsites, in multiple neighborhoods, towns, cities or states.

In the Roundtable, Charles Snyder, NationsRent's executive vice president of fleet and asset management, points out that as much as his company would like customers to forecast their equipment needs well, other than certain segments such as large cranes and concrete-pumping equipment, they tend not to, believing, essentially, that “whatever they need will be there when they're ready for it, and they have a list of companies to call when they're ready and they don't call until they're ready.”

All the more, that relationship becomes more essential and how much easier that contractor's job becomes when he has somebody on the rental end he knows he can count on. The salesperson is usually the key point of contact, the person whose cell phone number is in the contractor's speed dial, the person he can call and wake up in the middle of the night and know will get out of bed and take care of business.

Not only will that salesperson get out of bed in an emergency, but if he's really doing his job, he'll prevent some of those emergencies from occurring. Of course, equipment breaks down in the middle of the night, but rental companies can prevent many breakdowns by preventive maintenance. In the same way, a smart salesperson will look at a job and think ahead about what a customer might need. As Larry Workman, president of Chicagoland aerial rental specialist Illini Hi-Reach, says in this month's cover story: “We'll solve problems before he knows he has them.”

Figuring out your customer's problem before he even knows he has a problem, and coming up with a way to solve it — that's a good way of doing business. It demands getting up very early in the morning. But people in the rental business are used to that.