Father’s Day caused me to stop and reflect, maybe more than usual, about my father and his selling skills, as well as the great values he instilled in my siblings and me. My dad, Gene Miller, and my uncle, Charlie Miller were two of my heroes when it came to business. Uncle Charlie was an International Harvester dealer in McLeansboro, Ill., and both were salesmen, the kind you seldom see anymore.

One spring in the late 1960s, they sold more than 50 high horsepower tractors when the new “56” series units came out. As a young boy, I remember all those tractors stacked together in a large barn behind the dealership waiting to be delivered.

Much can still be gained from those memories because my dad and uncle were big on long-term, “patient” selling. They took the time to understand their customers’ needs and what they cared about, and their customers grew to love and trust them. I don’t use that word “love” lightly. It’s those kinds of relationships dealers need to nurture with today’s rural lifestyle customer.

How do we develop long-term, patient selling? By doing just that, being patient. But first you need to get away from “this month-itis.” This is my own made-up word, but every dealer I know under- stands exactly what it means.

“They took the time
to understand their customers’ needs and
what they cared about ...”

We put so much emphasis on “hitting the numbers” this month that we forget to look long term. No doubt, a sense of urgency is needed in sales, but we must do some things every week that are aimed at making a longer term, positive effect.

When I spend a day on the farm, I always get a lot done and feel a sense of accomplishment at the end of the day.

However, I always make a point of asking myself, “What have I accomplished that will last into the future?”

In other words, mowing the grass is needed every week, but building a fence or a swing set for the grand-daughter, repairing a barn, or other things produce good, long-term consequences. It’s the same in selling.

Are you just dealing with the “this month-itis” issues, or are you laying the groundwork for future sales?

This would include things such as:

  • Calling on a new person in the community.
  • Attending worthwhile organizational events like chamber functions, fair boards, county leadership committees, and other community service organizations that fuel good long-term relationships that could turn into eventual sales.
  • Calling on past customers to assess their current needs.


Dealer Takeaways
  • Do what is needed for this month, but don’t devote all your time to it.
  • Self-evaluate every week. Ask yourself: What did I do for the future, in terms of patient, long-term selling?

Doing these types of things make you a valuable member of the community, give you a greater sense of satisfaction that you are contributing in a larger way, and always lead to good long-term relationships. This, in turn, will always lead to future sales if we are diligent and patient.

Friendships and relationships are not accomplished overnight. We must be genuine, helpful and concerned for others. I love to listen to the great motivational speaker Zig Ziglar, and as he has said many times, “You can get anything in life you want, if you just help enough other people get what they want.” Not bad words to live by.