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Training, such as MHEDA's boot camp, can help, she said. A boot camp scheduled for Sept. 14-15 went on, but members didn't fly. They drove to Dayton, Ohio, some from as far away as Charlotte, North Carolina.
When sales plummet, companies have no choice but to consider and sometimes implement lay-offs.
"Many members have had to downsize - one of the most unfortunate consequences of a down economy," Richards said. "Why not seize this as an ideal opportunity to grow and cultivate existing employees by further developing top performers and key people?"
Options include traditional seminars and distance learning available through MHEDA.
"The lift truck business in general needs to somehow band together and increase everyone's profit margin. How that occurs I'm not too sure," Caldwell said. "The whole dilemma is there are more and more people sitting behind computers selling something they know nothing about. Dealers need to better train their people so they can learn to sell at a profit. There are so many give-away artists."
Sales has turned into order taking, he believes. He lived on a straight commission before he started his own company, which he found a great incentive. "You have to sell them or you don't get paid," he said.
Computers have taken up more and more of his time, said Caldwell, who says he is a "diehard lift truck salesman who hasn't become computer literate" but will.
E-mailing photos of trucks to prospective clients takes a lot of time, he said. "I spend most of my time on dead-ends." Caldwell prefers human contact where he shares details about a given machine, but he gets more requests for written condition reports.
"Ninety percent of our sales go to our customer base that we've sold to before," Caldwell said.
This is a time to reinforce those contacts with customers, Richards said.
"MHEDA members are resilient. When times are tough, they work harder. When they face uncertainty, they look for opportunity. Many of their customers have adopted a 'wait and see' attitude. So members figure out how to strengthen those relationships knowing that the customer will have a choice when they do decide to buy - and chances are they won't go looking elsewhere if customer loyalty has truly been established," Richards said.
America needs material handling equipment.
"Lift trucks are an integral part of America. There are more lift trucks sold in the United States per capita than anywhere else in the world. When I started selling lift trucks in the mid 1970s," there were four or five companies in the industry and only two major competitors, Caldwell said.
Now, competition has sliced market share, he said.
"The global economy has revolutionized the lift truck industry," Caldwell said.
And the cost of machines has gone down.
"In 25 years, prices have decreased by 25 percent," he said. Prices have plummeted in the last six months.
"Prices have been falling all this year," he said. Used lift truck prices have stayed about the same, he said."We are making history and everyone is facing the future with uncertainty," Richards said.
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