When Briggs Equipment UK launched its own finance company, BE Finance, to help customers fund its products, it was vital its sales team quickly acquired the knowledge and skills to weave the extra benefits into their story.
Material handling equipment is vital for many UK companies, the majority of which need funding for this business-critical investment. Some 85% of the fork lift trucks used in the UK, for example, are contract hired, and it is likely that the remainder are purchased using some form of finance. So if a supplier could also provide a tailored financial service, it would deliver real flexibility for its customers, drive finance product innovation, and create a key point of differentiation in the highly competitive materials handling equipment marketplace.
This was the catalyst behind fork lift truck supplier Briggs Equipment UK launching BE Finance. “We saw it as an opportunity to create something unique in the marketplace,” explains the company’s Asset Financing Manager, Ruth Thurstance. “We wanted to provide innovative solutions to meet our customers’ individual product and finance needs, which is not possible through vendors.”
Taking it to market effectively was critical to the success of this strategy was. The Briggs sales team were already highly knowledgeable and adept at selling the company’s products, however they lacked the specific skills to sell finance. Chief Finance Officer Pete Jones, now Briggs’ Managing Director, called on Cathy Bennett at Vertical Sales to fill this talent gap, not only due to her proven track record with sales training, but also because of her thorough understanding and extensive experience of capital asset funding.
“I’d worked for several years in the sector with Lombard, and Pete explained he brought me in because he wanted a sales-oriented approach rather than just giving the team product knowledge,” says Cathy. “He was keen to get them selling using the finance product USPs, to present a professional finance service and use it as a tool to broaden customer engagement.”
Cathy developed a programme tailored to Briggs’ key business needs to provide the sales team with finance-specific training so they could engage with new and existing customers with the same assurance, professionalism and expertise on finance as they do for fork lift trucks.
First, she gained an understanding of the current skill and knowledge levels of the sales team individually together with the critical gaps in order to target the programme more accurately. She also worked closely with the BE Finance team to marry market and product insight and sales training together perfectly, and then build this into the entire fork lift truck selling process.
“This enabled the team to weave finance into the sales conversation right from the start to strengthen the overall story, gain an early understanding of the customer’s financial needs and present a truly flexible, industry-specific and integrated service,” says Cathy.
Feedback from the sales team post programme was really positive, with 90% of delegates saying it had met their objectives. “The course content was very interesting, and it has increased my understanding of what’s financially important from the customer’s perspective,” said one team member, while another enjoyed “learning how flexible Briggs can be with its finance solutions” – these are typical examples of feedback from Briggs sales team.
“The sales team responded really well to the training,” says Ruth. “It has strengthened their confidence and given them new skills that have enabled them to sell more effectively and efficiently. It has developed key questioning techniques on the finance side that have made them realise that they were missing out on information previously that is critical to the product sales process, because funding is so important. It has also given the team a greater understanding of customer needs and how Briggs can meet them.”
Meanwhile, the deal structuring and negotiation training Cathy introduced has been a huge benefit, allowing Briggs to be far more competitive with monthly finance rates, a key customer focus, without eroding margins.
These new skills and knowledge have given the sales force the opportunity to speak to people at different levels across a business – particularly buyers and decision makers in more senior positions.
“We’ve had a very positive reaction from both new and existing customers, with several saying they would use us again because of BE Finance,” Ruth continues. “We’ve been participating in business we wouldn’t have been before the training. One of our sales managers told me recently that he had got through to the next round in a tender process as a direct result of BE Finance. We also have better visibility and understanding of the margins, which I believe is helping us negotiate better deals; for our customers as well as us.”
By training its sales team to drill down into both the product and finance needs of individual customers and tailor specific solutions, Briggs now presents a more unique comprehensive offer that is better equipped to solve any funding problems, making its fork lift trucks more accessible and affordable, strengthening existing and forging new customer relationships.
“Our training objectives have definitely been met,” says Ruth. “In fact, we’ve now embedded the finance sales training into our product sales process, which Cathy has also helped us with.”