CMH Services’ Kevin Miller
Kevin Miller, sales manager at Carolina Material Handling Services (Columbia, SC), is a living tribute to the power of networking. At age 20, he was named manager of a Firestone tire shop across the street from Equipment Inc., the Nissan forklift dealer in Jackson, Mississippi. Equipment Inc. salesperson Lon McClaurin was a customer of Miller’s, and eventually recruited him to come work at Equipment Inc. Miller worked a sales territory there for 5 1/2 years, until 2001 when his wife had a career opportunity in South Carolina. “I figured I could sell forklifts anywhere, so I gave 90 days’ notice and trained my replacement.”
That’s when networking came through again. Equipment Inc. contacted CMH Services for him, but at that time there was not an available sales territory. Miller went to work for a company outside the industry. “I have loyalty to the brands I represent, so when I moved, I only spoke to Nissan dealers,” Miller says. After selling construction equipment for about 18 months, Miller was contacted by CMH Services CEO Buddy Smith about returning to the material handling industry. “Within a couple of days, I had a job selling forklifts,” says Miller, who started in June 2003 covering the nine counties surrounding the metropolitan Columbia area. He worked that territory until becoming major accounts manager in January 2005, and then he was named sales manager in July 2005.
As sales manager, Miller is responsible for all new sales, used sales and rentals. “Basically, you could consider me the chief sales officer. I aid all salespeople in their deals by setting prices, structuring all discounts, handling all ordering and buying of equipment, calculating maintenance rates, transferring equipment between branches and handling trade-ins. It’s all part of the day-to-day grind of managing a sales department.”
Communication is critical. Miller, 35, oversees six salespeople, two sales coordinators and a sales administrator, and all must be in the loop. “I also need to communicate regularly with other rental coordinators who don’t directly report to me in order to approve long-term and short-term rental deals.” All six salespeople are older than he is, while the rest of his staff is younger. “Age has never been a factor for me,” Miller says. “I developed the respect of salespeople when I was one of them.”
Miller finds coaching his people and helping them achieve success extremely rewarding. “My goal is to be the worst salesperson in the department,” he says. “I want everybody else to be leaps and bounds ahead of me.” Miller is quick to point out that a good sales manager is only as good as his team. “The manager must be open-minded, respectful of employees and willing to listen, but everyone is in it together. The people you surround yourself with make the difference, without question.”
A Day in the Life
At 5:00 each morning, Miller rises and readies himself for another day. “I’m an early bird,” he says, and the first thing he does is make himself available to salespeople and customers via his BlackBerry. Miller usually only spends Mondays in the office, arriving at 6:45 a.m. to prepare for the slate of weekly telephone meetings with his salespeople. In these meetings, Miller discusses budgeting, forecasts, customers, the previous week’s calls and action plans for the upcoming week. “We talk about their top three goals for each week and how I can help them achieve those goals,” Miller explains. He spends about an hour with each salesperson, and the rest of the day is spent following up with customers. He leaves the office about 5:15 p.m.
Miller spends the remainder of the week on the road. “I’m a firm believer that a sales manager is someone who should be out in the field managing the salespeople.” Therefore, he sets up a rotating schedule about 60 days in advance so that each salesperson knows what days Miller will be riding with them. It takes less than 90 minutes for Miller to travel to most places in the state, so he leaves his home about 6:00 a.m. to meet his salesperson by 7:30. Each salesperson has five or six hard appointments during the day, with prospecting in between. “Sometimes it’s good for customers to see a member of management team because it helps us service the account a little better,” he says.
Following each visit, Miller and the salesperson will deconstruct it. What went well? What could have been done differently? Then they focus on the next appointment and set goals. The last call is typically around 4:00 and will end between 4:30 and 5:00, so Miller usually returns home around 6:30, using the drive time to make follow-up phone calls.
It’s a busy day, but activity is what drives Kevin Miller. “I like having a lot to do, and I love interacting with customers,” he says. Sounds like a perfect fit.