As busy construction business owners know, it's not always easy to reach your sales representative when you need them. Astec Industries never wanted their customers to experience that.
Starting June 1, 2020, the company restructured their sales team in order to better serve their customers, while also being able to offer them expanded customer service.
"We restructured the Astec team in order to be closer to our customers," Chris Frost, Group Vice President – Sales & Marketing –Integrated Process Solutions at Astec Industries says. "With this change, our customers will have one point of contact covering all our brands instead of multiple sales contacts."
A united sales team now represents Astec Inc., Heatec, RexCon, Power Flame, CON-E-CO and BMH Systems brands all under one umbrella. The new sales structure will be matrix-based instead of hierarchy based with three Group Sales Directors leading three regional sales teams in the United
States. With this change, sales representatives will be able to work with each customer to offer solutions from all brand categories instead of just one.
"With our old sales system, Astec had 16 to 18 companies and each had their own structure and management," Richard Draheim, Regional Sales Director from the Central Region says. "With the new sales structure, we have more of a team concept where we have sales managers that cover the entire capital equipment side and sales managers that cover all the parts lines. This means our customers will be dealing with only two teams, one for capital and one for parts where in the past they would have been dealing with maybe six or seven teams for all the brands."
As a result, Astec customers will now work with the same people for multiple product lines, which benefits all involved.
"We reduced some territories a bit with this change and which allows our team to see their customers more often," Frost says. "We want to be able to see customers every month or two to make sure they have everything they need and to keep the conversation going."
Jack Priest, Regional Sales Director for the East Region, agrees.
"In the past, we had one guy that was a specialist in one product line and he covered a large territory. For some, they covered eight or nine states," he says. "Now, we've reduced the footprint of the territories and given them more product lines to sell. The customer now just has one point of contact for all of our product lines and the sales rep will also have more opportunities to see that customer. In the end, we will give the customer better customer service, because we'll be able to build better relationships with them."
What it boils down to is efficiency, Eddie Van Zyl, Regional Sales Director for the West Region says.
"With this change we can give our customers a better response and quicker response time as well in terms of what they're looking for, and helping them solve problems. This will help them be more efficient and cost effective in their business.
"This business is about relationships and building these relationships with our customers," Van Zyl continues. "They have a lot of confidence in Astec because we make premium products and with all brands under one umbrella they know that they can get a good product without going elsewhere."
Education is Key to Success
With this change comes added product lines for each sales representative and Astec wants to ensure all of their members are given the tools they need to learn these products so they can fully represent them to customers.
"The primary goal for any sales manager is educating your sales team and supporting them in their role out in the field," Priest says. "Normally, we would have had plenty of time to spend with each other in the field training and doing some hands-on work but with COVID, we've had to do all that training through Microsoft Teams. They have been learning a lot but the real benefit will be when they can really get out and see customers and learn how to apply their product knowledge to the issues the customers are facing on the job."
The Astec team will call on product experts for each brand to answer any complex questions that may arise.
"Fortunately the sales team came from these brands so most of them are very strong in at least one of those products," Draheim says. "So what we need to do is train them on the products they may not be as familiar with and we are doing that through comprehensive training programs with all teams."
Parts On Demand
The Astec parts department has always been second to none and this change will roll out the seamless replacement parts experience to all brands.
"We have over six facilities now for parts and this change is going to allow for synergies and best practices between all sites," Larry Johnston Group Director, Parts – Integrated Process Solutions Group says. "We are currently looking at back office structure and how we can better use our employees to concentrate on certain parts of the business so that we can grow sales and better serve our customers.”
In the long run, customers may be able to call in to one customer service line to order parts for all brands instead of the six separate lines that exist now.
"We want to have one identifiable number that will make it easy for the customers to order parts and be taken care of right away," Johnston says. "That's something we're working towards."
Johnston says the ultimate goal in streamlining the parts process is to create total confidence for the customer.
"We want them to know that now they don't have to wonder who to call if they need something," he says. "They don't have to call one number for asphalt and one for concrete. They can call one parts department and be able to be taken care of."
The parts department is currently working on integrating all systems into one so all representatives have visibility to all available assets across the brands. This will allow parts to be shipped from locations closest to where the customer needs them to further streamline the process making the ordering process 100% seamless.
The sales team will also now have one point of contact to reach should they have any issues.
"I'll be the guy that they know they can go to, to take care of their product no matter what they have," Johnston says. "They have always requested one point of contact so they knew they were calling the right person. Now they know that they've got that one guy for parts that they can call if they have any issue or any kind of thing that they need taken care of or if they want to work out some deals."
Now that customers will have one point of contact, Astec representatives will play a larger part in helping them grow their business.
"If a customer is used to seeing their representative for the asphalt side, but they also have a concrete division, they might not have known we have Rexcon, CON-E-CO & BMH to serve that side of their business," Frost says. "Before, they would probably have waited to call somebody else but now our representatives can better service all of their needs with our full product line in their tool belt."
And the relationship between Astec and their customers will grow even faster because of this.
"We have a lot of customers who do asphalt and concrete work and by having a sales representative that is able to work with both products, relationships will go deeper now that they only need to work with one salesperson for all their needs,” Van Zyl says.
While these changes should immediately benefit Astec customers, the company is also expecting long term advantages as well.
"A good sales representative is always looking for what's down the road for their customers," Priest says. "Being able to call on customers more often helps a salesman get to know the operation and anticipate future needs. It strengthens the partnership we have with them and we can truly help them achieve their goals for success.
"We didn't change our structure just for the sake of change," he continues. "We really tried to look at it and see how we could have better coverage in the field and have more customer relationships. We are really trying to narrow our scope for our guys, make sure we are taking better care of the customer."
These changes will also help customers experience a more streamlined sales and service process from start to finish which will only help their business grow faster.
"I think the customers will see the benefit of this change right away," Van Zyl says. "We're here to help our customers be more productive and cost effective and we have the equipment and support to do that. We want to help them take their businesses to the next level."
At the end of the day, customer satisfaction is the #1 goal.
"We want to be here to make sure the customer is taken care of," Johnston says. "We are definitely customer focused and will stay that way. Any decision we make in the future will be focused on, how will it benefit our customer? What will this change do to help them and to make sure that they're taken care of? Everything we do is based on our customers."