Human Hub

A sales coordinator is the oil to an engine of a rental company — the store just wouldn't run without such a critical component. The job description includes almost every function of a rental center — the rental coordinator must truly be a jack-of-all-rental-center-trades — including: answering phones; recommending appropriate equipment; taking orders; handling customers at the counter and over the phone (sometimes simultaneously); billing; fuel logs; store accounting functions; will-call customers; loading and unloading of equipment; coordinating deliveries and pickups; troubleshooting broken equipment over the phone; picking up parts; service calls; and sometimes even deliveries themselves.

“I think it's the hub of our business,” says Bob Kendall, CEO and president of Seattle-based Star Rentals. “When the phone rings it's most often a customer. How we handle that customer is essential to the success of our business.”

An outside salesperson may have been calling on an account for more than a year when that person finally decides to bring his or her business to a rental company, for example. If the rental coordinator doesn't treat them right and provide top-notch customer service, all those sales calls were for naught.

The sales coordinator, in many ways, puts a face on the company and supplies its image. Important qualities for them to possess include a positive attitude, good communication skills and exceptional organizational skills. And since the role of a sales coordinator often requires giving direction to others in the company, respect from coworkers also comes in handy.

“The position is very important to the success, financially, of the company,” says Chuck Button, owner of Button's Rent-It, Royal Oak, Mich. “Proper implementation of customer policy promotes repeat rental.”

Button also recommends an engaging personality and the ability and willingness to learn as qualities to seek out in a rental coordinator. An ability to successfully multitask is also valuable.

“There are usually many things going on at one time so they have to be able to juggle them all and solve problems at the same time,” says Kendall. “They are problem solvers.” It's not uncommon to have a customer on the phone, one at the counter, a driver to contend with, and something else to manage simultaneously.

Coordinator training

Sales/rental coordinators are often promoted from within a rental company from another position such as driver, warehouse person or yard person. These employees already have an important understanding of the inner workings of the business and the branch manager can select someone internally with qualities befitting the sales coordinator role. In fact, many sales coordinators promoted from other roles go on to achieve the role of branch manager.

Training for counter personnel, who recommend equipment to customers on a daily basis, should be ongoing. At Kendall's Star Rentals, internal sales coordinators meet quarterly to discuss any problems that have arisen and how to handle them if they come up again down the road. Appropriate telephone etiquette and roleplaying practice with difficult counter situations are also addressed.

Scheduling an appearance by an equipment supplier to help expand product knowledge is also a beneficial training method. New equipment lines, attachments and products, of course, are often added to rental fleets. It's important to make sure sales coordinators understand how to operate new equipment and for what applications they are intended.

A lot can be discovered, too, by calling your own store or branches to see how they are answering the phone. Chances are that if they sound harried when they pick up, that they will be harried when they take care of the customers as well. Owners should call in every so often to monitor how the phones are being answered.

Professional training and phone monitoring services are also available. A St. George, Utah-based training company called ContactPoint establishes customized programs to improve communications between employees and customers by regularly monitoring a phone call of the sales coordinators and then following up with personalized training based on that call to support the communication goals of that company. Coaches conduct regular one-on-one feedback sessions with the monitored employee to review recorded performance and reinforce key training principles. The coach points out both what the employee did right and what can be done better. At the end of the call, the employee sets a goal for him or herself as to what needs to be improved upon for next time. Calls are available online for both the employee and management to review and coaches meet with the management staff to evaluate recordings and select skills to emphasize in training.

“A little bit of training and follow-up goes a long ways,” says Jeremiah Wilson, CEO of ContactPoint. “When employees build relationships and get to know who they're talking to, they will get that business 76 percent more often than when they don't.”

Several RER 100 rental companies, including Sunbelt Rentals, Ahern Rentals, Diamond Rental and All Star Rents, are using ContactPoint's monitoring service and experiencing revenue growth as a result, Wilson says.

One of the most important things a sales coordinator can do in the first communication with a customer is to find out as much as possible about the job for which the equipment is needed.

“When your focus is on the job you will get more up-sales, you will gather enough information to determine opportunities for outside sales representatives; you will ensure the best piece of equipment to complete the customer's job; you will demonstrate your knowledge; you will best tailor benefits to the customer's needs; and you will come across as the expert,” Wilson says.

Sales coordinators at Button's Rent-It are trained to help customers get the equipment they need to successfully and efficiently complete a job. “The customer comes to them with a problem or project and expects to be given a solution or a path to completion of the project,” Button says.

“You need to grab that phone, pick it up and say, ‘I want to know what your job is so I can fit the equipment on my yard to your needs,’ explains Wilson. “You really will become the driver, you will be in control and you will come across as the expert. That all leads to more money, more loyalty and more job satisfaction.”

Understanding the business and its customers

Having sales coordinators who truly understand the customers and the differences between contractors and do-it-yourselfers is invaluable. Most professional contractors have been in the construction business for many years and, therefore, have a vast knowledge of equipment and its applications. Some may even be offended by simple questions, says Colin Linn, sales coordinator at Star Rentals' Tacoma, Wash., branch.

The key is to establish a relationship and build trust with these customers. In time, contractors are likely to share details of their jobs with you automatically. Many times the sales coordinator will be able to recommend equipment recently added to the fleet or even a unit that could accomplish a job more efficiently than what the contractor has ordered.

“Sometimes what they are trying to order is not what they need,” says Ron McClure, Star Rentals branch manager, Bellevue, Wash. “It's the job of the rental coordinator to match the want and the need.”

Do-it-yourself customers are more likely to rely on the sales coordinator to recommend the equipment best suited for a job. Asking the right questions and learning the details of the project will lead to a positive rental experience, instill confidence in your rental company and, most likely, result in a repeat customer.

“As a successful counter person I can anticipate and analyze what each and every customer is looking for from me — this is the key in exceeding the customer's expectations of me,” says Linn. Knowing how to communicate with each customer on a case-by-case basis is a talent that the sales coordinator will gain through relationship building with customers and over time with experience.

Well-trained coordinators who know the impact of the decisions made at the counter can both save the rental company money as well as add to its revenue — and the impact can be measured daily.

“Logistics play a key role in the efficiency of an equipment rental operation,” says Linn. “Trucks must be efficiently loaded and dispatched to ensure maximum utilization of the equipment on hand. Deliveries must be coordinated with returns as well as transporting equipment from store to store throughout the company to make sure that the right equipment is always where it needs to be. All invoicing must be precise to ensure proper billing for the customers and also to ensure that all equipment is accounted for as it moves between the maintenance shops and jobsites.”

Flawlessly balancing the challenges of customer service with the constant demands and logistics of the rental counter, and making it look effortless, is the mark of a great counter person.

“The sales coordinator is the hub of our business,” says Kendall. “Doing the job properly certainly lends itself to the store and the company being successful.”

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