Sunday, September 14, 2014


       On Thursday night, as my son was filling up his water jug before practice, the thing we all never like to see cell phone on the counter took a bath! It is interesting to me to think about the progression I have gone through in my career with communication devices. I went from using a pay phone a few times a day to call in and check messages, to a pager, to the flip phone. I then progressed to the hottest new idea at the time, the Nextel push to talk ( awful coverage!), to my first smart phone, the Blackberry (which I really made me better at my job!).I then progressed to the  multiple versions of smart phones followed by the real high tech IPhone to now  the Droid. With each advancement in technology, I am able to do more from the road, but when they break, I find myself dead in the water. This is due to the realization that with cell phone use, it's hard to know anyone's phone numbers anymore!
       While I can check my messages remotely, the one thing that really became obvious to me on Friday, is how much I use text messaging to communicate with customers. While guys used to comment, "you're like a high school girl" with texting, it is funny how it has become more and more prevalent.  Sure many things can't be taken care of in a quick text, but the lack of interruption and ability to respond when you want, seems to work well in our business. In the end, nothing is better than personal interaction, but just as modes of communication has evolved, so has the way we communicate.


Sunday, August 31, 2014

Ask For The Order

       One of the main principles that is at the core of being successful as a salesperson is a common sense concept of, "asking for the order". It is often overlooked and many times the hardest part of the sales process. Why is this important? As I wrote about last week, it is clear that many clubs have come to crossroads with the condition of their fleet. Downtime and repairs on units are far outweighing the value. Many turf managers have no choice, but to throw that money into the black hole that is a 10 or more year old piece of equipment.
       I know for me, it is not the easiest thing to do, but my advice is GO ASK FOR THE ORDER! Your club officials have line of sight to your expenses. Stick to the facts, and as I have heard  one of the better speakers in the Turf Industry, Sabrina Bladon, state in her talks, " You are talking agronomics and they want economics!" Don't go emotional about how much grief it is causing you, sadly they really don't care....but when you talk about wasting club money (i.e. THEIR MONEY) you hit a nerve. If you use the concept of hours on a mower to miles on a car, it can help to make the picture a little clearer. I use 75 miles to equal one hour on a piece of turf equipment. This is not scientific, but an approximation. I have heard a range for different types of engines and some guestimates, but a comment from a technician the other day about it being an off road vehicle too, makes me feel OK about my number. Then you can add in the multiple operators and being run at full throttle during operation as just some more facts toward your case. The great question is would any person put thousands of repair dollars into a car that had over 300,000 miles. I will go out on a limb and tell you not too many people!
       Then you start thinking "my club has really cut back over the past few years and there is no way they are going to let me get anything"; How do you know if you don't ask? I recently have had three clubs in a similar situation. When the Superintendent took it to their Supervisor, guess what the answer was??? YES! They were told this makes sense and to start the process of acquiring the equipment.
       Save your self the stress of hoping everything makes it through the morning before the shotgun start. Do a little homework on what options are out there and you might be surprised at your sales skills when all you had to do was ask!

Monday, August 25, 2014

It Is Just Time

       It is always interesting to me to see the cycles that run through the market here in Philadelphia that I have been calling on for almost 20 years . I can't remember the last time when a topic has been so often discussed as the need to address an aging equipment fleet. Some clubs have more frequently been using  the option of leasing to catch up and stay current, while other clubs have not begun to lease and are not interested in considering it. Just this past week alone, I was asked numerous times about how do you approach your club managers or officials to make them consider making a large investment. The reality is no matter which supplier you choose, there is a large amount of money involved.
       I really feel this all leads back to 2008 & 2009's economic downturn which resulted in many clubs not continuing their equipment replacement plans. It seems to have caught up to many clubs all at the same time. I am hearing more and more in conversations about units with more than 4000, 5000, even 8,000 and 9,000 plus hours on units. To me, when these units need repair, it is tough to justify putting large amounts of money into something this far into it's life cycle. When your club does not have the capital on hand and leasing is not a road your ownership wants to follow....what options do you have?
       Does your club lease any other equipment (namely golf carts)? Is there an member at your club who works in  leasing to use as an advocate? Have you done your homework unsolicited to see what type of numbers you are looking at if you were able to lease your high usage units vs the continuing increase in your repair and maintenance budget? Is there an opportunity to beat the price increases coming regarding the new Tier 4 products by getting a pre-Tier 4 unit? What does down time really cost you? If your technician had more time to focus on day to day routine service rather than trying to find duck tape, bailing wire and some chewing gum to get the rough unit to just get you through the day how much better a product could you produce? Is off-lease units something you need to consider to bridge the gap? Does the "No Pay 'til May" programs make sense to do something now?
       There are many variables that need to be considered, but a little homework now may go a long way to making your job easier in the future!


Sunday, June 15, 2014

Working Dad

        When I started working at Philadelphia Turf back in 1992, there was another salesmen hired at the same time as me. His name was Bob ( last name withheld to protect the innocent). The reason I mention Bob was I believe he lasted less than 6 months. He had a legendary ending when he went into the owners office, with a paintings falling off the wall door slam ending with our Sales Manager, Tom Drayer, going in after him and telling him to just leave the building....Now maybe his personality was a little high strung, but I truly believe the survival at a new job, with no sales experience, is tied directly to a mentor.
I spent my first few days with some of the veteran sales reps traveling to see how to do the job. The majority of the time was spent with Scott Keener. Scott had the territory next to my original area of Central PA. What we still laugh about today is how he felt me out for a few hours before giving me the real scoop on what was the important parts of the job and how to stay out of trouble.
       That first year and pretty much ever since, Scott has been my sounding board on how to handle situations and those times when I just needed to vent some frustration. The first few years, I would call him almost every night (pre-cell phone) and review what happened that day. I would explain how I handled each situation and he would walk me through what I should have done or did right. What was picked up on by most in the company was how close Scott and I were. Kenny Myers, one of our parts men, stated one day," I just talked to your father and told Scott I just talked to your son". The father-son relationship just stuck.
       A few months ago my 10 year old was by me when I was speaking to Scott and I said " talk to you later Pop.". Pete looked at me and said "who was that?". I answered, "it was Mr. Keener."
I guess it is not the easiest thing to explain to a 10 year old about how someone at your work is known as your Dad.

I am incredibly lucky to still have my own Father around in his 80's to talk to and go to for advice.
I have also been very lucky to have a second father and mentor in Scott and his guidance throughout my career and life has been invaluable!



Saturday, June 7, 2014

Digging In The Dirt

       The past few weeks I have been in numerous discussions regarding using turf sensors. The first time was a few weeks ago, at a breakfast meeting with Bill Brown, Group Vice President from Toro, and some local superintendents . One of the discussions centered around the thought that using sensors were a valuable tool, but the debate was is the cost justified when dollars are tight with the final question being, " Should I buy multiple sensors or a greens mower?". (I voted greens mowers...)
The comments definitely created some discussion of the true value, and in the end, I would say the consensus was that it is helpful, but the only way to really know is to stick a knife in the dirt!
       Then this past week, we had the Toro Precision Sense unit in our area at multiple locations. The Precision Sense is another tool to dial in your programs. The unit measures soil moisture, soil salinity, surface hardness, plant performance, NDVI ( measuring plant density/color/stress) and topography. Really incredible technology!
      As with any new technology, it can not replace the ability to dig in the soil and use your specific experience with your turf.
      In the end it all comes down to one of my favorite Jim Nedin sayings " If you have happy grass, your members will be happy and you will be happy!"

Toro Precision Sense in action

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Monday, May 26, 2014

Radio Silence

       One of the parts of my job that is the toughest is the lost sale. You hope to supply a product at a competitive price that makes it easier for the customer to do their job. As we all know, there are many things involved in the process of purchasing a piece of equipment. Add in multiple units and the leasing variable and things can get very involved. Having an open line of communication and making sure there are no questions left unanswered is the key to earning the business. But as a wiser older salesman once told me, "Every salesman loses sales!". Hopefully, the batting average is better than most hall of famers in baseball, three out of every ten at bats getting a hit!
      One of the hardest tight ropes to walk is how to stay in contact, as the process is playing out, without having a customer look at your name on caller ID and the first thing that comes to mind is, "I am not taking that call." Then you have the dreaded radio silence. If things have gone radio silent, it is almost always," I have not made my final decision," or the dreaded, "we decided to go another direction." OUCH! Like a closer in baseball or a defensive back in football, it is good to have a short memory. That is not the easiest thing to do, especially depending on how much time and effort you have exerted in trying to show you bring value, as much as the product itself. For me, I would prefer the Band-Aid approach and rip it off quickly. It is always appreciated if you fill me in on what questions were left unanswered,and hopefully the next time, I can improve. Sometimes my product was just not the best fit for your operation, but hopefully, not too often!


Sunday, May 18, 2014

Is Cash Still King at Your Club?

    To lease or not to lease, that is often the question. Years ago my wife and I went car shopping and it was just when leasing was becoming more of an option to get a car. After the sales pitch, my wife and I walked out and she said that the leasing option sounded great. I laughed and said that we have it for our customers too and I wasn't so sure.... After lots of work through the years,with people from Toro, like Mike Nesdahl & Jack Asinger, I now understand what is in the stew that makes up a lease payment.
     At that time, leasing was just being introduced into the Turf industry. Now when I say leasing, I am talking about a true lease or fair market value lease, where you turn it back in at the end of term and not a conditional sales contract or $1 buyout. Today leasing is used as much as a straight cash purchase in my market and in warmer parts of the USA with higher hour usage, leasing is even more popular.
       As we all know every club is different. So the big question is why lease vs. purchase? I have the same answer for anyone who ever asks me....It depends on your club! The perception that clubs that are cash poor lease is a misnomer that is not true any longer. I work with some clubs that are classic traditional clubs that money is not an issue and they lease their high usage units. WHY? Because you can get the latest and greatest tools, not tied to capital dollars fluctuating, consistent repair & maintenance budgets and the most equipment for your money.
       Now comes my favorite comment "We are a cash club!". Really?
Do you lease your golf carts???That is different, why I have never been given a good answer!
      My club is never going lease.....not if you don't give them the option by doing your homework on clubs that your facility holds themselves as a measuring stick against and see if they are leasing. Find the board members who work in the financial world, talk to the members who own companies that have equipment fleets and ask questions. What often moves the dial is a member saying, "Why aren't we doing this, when Corcoran Country Club up the street is?"
      If you don't feel comfortable talk about it, I would urge you to get educated about it. If you have a vendor you trust, use him as a resource. I get asked multiple times a year by turf managers to speak to someone at their facility about leasing and they want to know if it is a viable option.
The reality is it all depends on your club!