Marv Adkins knows raw talent when he sees it.
The personality shines. The excitement is apparent.
But that alone will not make for a successful career as a construction equipment salesman.
Over the last 10 years, it’s been Adkins’ primary responsibility to help salespeople at Case learn the tricks of the trade and transform into successes. And he’s been the right person to learn from.
Adkins, who has been employed by Case since 1970, has seen construction equipment sales evolve from an industry in which personal relationships were king to a marketplace in which the customers know just about as much about the equipment as the salesman.
But now, Case salesmen have to look elsewhere for advice. Adkins has retired.
Adkins was exposed to equipment early in life on his family’s North Carolina peanut farm. While he worked mostly with peanut threshers and tractors, he said that lifestyle created the groundwork for the career in which he would spend his professional life.
After earning an economics degree from North Carolina State University and a stint in the U.S. Marine Corps, Adkins joined Case in 1970 as the district manager for Virginia, West Virginia and eastern Tennessee.
Adkins describes the equipment world of 36 years ago as “a very tough industry.” A salesman had to clock long hours and spend a lot of personal time with customers to ensure a sale.
“It was almost like you lived with them,” he said.
But once the chasm between potential customer and salesman was sealed, a lifetime relationship usually began.
“They were loyal and a friend for life,” Adkins said. “I still see people who I’ve dealt with for many years and we still talk about the old times.”
From there, he experienced a whirlwind of job titles and home offices. He was marketing and sales promotion manager for a handful of northeast states from the Syracuse, NY, office; field sales manager out of Indianapolis; and area sales manager out of Charlotte.
And that was just the first decade.
A string of promotions took him to Atlanta, but he eventually found his way back to Charlotte and his current position.
Adkins said most of the people who make purchasing decisions at contractors today aren’t the ones who are out in the field operating machines. Their days are kept busy ensuring progress in an industry wrought with strict laws and regulations.
But they’re also spending more time on the Internet, thoroughly researching all of their equipment options and come to a meeting with a salesman with a strong awareness of what’s in the marketplace.
Company owners and equipment managers, Adkins said, usually have a very good idea about what they want and know the strengths and weaknesses of the machines.
In order to adapt to this new breed of customers, he said salesmen have had to change their major focus from product knowledge to providing solutions that satisfy the customers’ needs .
When going into a meeting, which is rarely held at the dealership anymore, a salesman must be committed to the brand, his company and the customer all at once.
“Most of all, you’ve got to sell the total package and convince them that this is the best that he can get,” Adkins said.
A successful salesman, he said, has to be totally committed to his work and must be confident with his skills.
And now, as Adkins looks forward to a lifestyle in which he’ll spend more time with fishing gear than excavators, he said he’ll miss aspects of the job — especially his interaction with the sales staff and “seeing the progression they make from raw talent to a professional salesperson.”
He estimates that he’s trained 1,000 sales personnel.
“It makes you feel good that, maybe, you contributed to their success,” he said. “Likewise, there are numerous men and women who have gone on to successful careers with our competitors, so I assume we added recognized employee value along the way.”