October 24, 2013
Freightliner has honored its top salespersons with Leland James recognition for the past 10 years, and they’ve gotten pretty accustomed to calling Ron Donze up on stage.
In fact, Donze – who works from Truck Centers Inc. Troy, Ill. location – has been up there all 10 times and holds the distinction as the only Freightliner sales representative to earn recognition each year since its inception.
There’s no special tactics or guerrilla marketing campaigns involved, Donze says. He simply puts himself across the desk – in the buyer’s shoes – when he’s spec’ing a truck to ensure that he’s providing his customer the best, most accurately detailed, product possible.
“You think about what this truck is going to do and how it’s going to be used,” he says. “You’ve got to think where (the customer is) coming from.”
Donze recalled a conversation he had with a regular customer recently who bought a truck from a competitor. When the truck was delivered, the customer saw the kind of value someone like Donze brought to the relationship.
“It didn’t have a radio in it,” he says. “The customer said ‘I don’t look for things like that. You always take care of that stuff.'”
If you don’t find Donze on the sales floor, look on the phone or in the service bay. The 23 year Freightliner veteran says he’s a regular in TCI’s service department, scouring the workshop for customers who may need some help or advice.
“What happened to cause this failure? Is it something where a salesperson could have spec’d the truck better and maybe that failure wouldn’t have happened,” he says of what he analyzes on the idle trucks. “You can’t be afraid to get your hands dirty.”
Donze says he spends 80 percent of his time in the office, quoting upwards of 25 customers a week from a customer base within a 100 mile radius of St. Louis, Mo.
“I don’t go out and solicit new customers like I probably should,” Donze says of a practice he’s says he’s embarrassed of. “They usually come in and find me.”
Many of his customers come from repeat business and customer referrals, which rarely lead to a major fleet order.
“For me to sell 10 trucks at a time, that’s a big sale,” he says. “Mine are all one at a time, or two at a time. That takes a lot of creativity.”
Donze began his career 1969 with International Harvester before moving to GMC and eventually Freightliner in 1990. He says he focuses much of his sales efforts on vocational units because many of his peers don’t see the investment worth their time, preferring to focus on more expensive Class 8 units.
“I grew up with that stuff,” he says. “Being from a rural area, knowing how farm trucks are built, how dump trucks are built, being around that stuff,” he says of his preference for vocational trucks. “I worked on them when I was going to college…Worked in the parts department…I feel that was one of the best training sessions you can ever have is to just be a part of it.”
Regardless of the spec sheet and sticker price, Donze says a salesperson’s willingness to go the extra mile will dictate the kind of success they will enjoy. He says he’s been contacted by customers with a failure, only to grab a replacement component off the shelf, deliver it personally and, in some cases, help them install it.
“Some people appreciate things like that, some don’t,” he says, “but the majority of them don’t forget it.”
Donze says his favorite part of the sales process is spec’ing a truck, adding he appreciates the trust his customers have in him to spec exactly what they need.
“You can get that kind of recognition from your customers, that they trust you with this kind of stuff,” he says. “(My customers) know that 99.9 percent of the time, whatever I do will be correct. Do I make mistakes from time to time? Hell yes I make mistakes, but you learn and you go on.”
Above all, Donze says don’t forget the role you play in helping customers succeed in their businesses.
“People rely on you,” he says. “Just be sensible.”