Alex Berg, President and CEO of Triple E Equipment, went from founding the company in 2013 to landing Triple E Equipment on the Inc. 5000 list at #928 in 2018. Now with 21 full time employees, Triple E Equipment is one of the fastest growing brands in the construction equipment industry.
Gearflow sat with Berg to discuss his philosophy on growing a company, his approach to sales, and what being “customer-first” means to him.
1. Understand the Context or Get Someone Who Does
Berg grew up in the demolition business. His grandfather, father, and uncle all had demolition businesses. Ever since he can remember, Berg had been around equipment. After graduating from the University of Central Florida, Berg worked for his father at Berg Demolition.
There Berg gained a deep understanding of the demolition business and the three elements that contractors care about: safety, profitability, and efficiency.
He came across the SHERPA Mini-loader, a product from The Netherlands yet to be introduced in the US at the time, and knew it could help people.
“With this product, I decided that I can truly help other contractors save money, be safer, and be more efficient.”
Berg moved away from the contracting business towards the end of 2013 to start Triple E Equipment and eventually closed the doors of the contracting business altogether. He hired his first employee the summer of 2016 and now has a team of 21 and growing.
Berg has engrained his customer-first philosophy into his team, culture, and ultimately the Triple E brand. However, many businesses boast the same claim. Berg shared with me the four ways he defines “customer-first”
2. It’s Not About You, It’s About Your Customer
Berg is passionate about the equipment he sells and will always stand behind their product. However, he notes that this passion often creates a trap for many entrepreneurs, sellers, and marketers.
“Too many are product-first sellers. They lead with features, specs, capabilities, price, etc.
Nobody wants to be sold. Instead, you need to put yourself in the mind of your customer to identify their pains. Then, you identify where and if your product fits.”
This is reminiscent of the adage, sell the hole not the drill. But Berg’s philosophy goes far beyond solution selling. Berg believes it starts with Problem Market Fit. “We are really customer focused, and sell a niche product” says Berg
“It’s not something everyone needs or wants, and that’s alright. We really try to understand each demolition contractor and their business, how they are doing their projects, and if my equipment can truly help them. We only want them to spend their money on something that will make them better at what they do.
At the end of the day, if you cannot help them move the needle on what they care about, what are you really doing?”
3. What Keeps Your Customer Up At Night?
Berg emphasizes the importance of understanding your customer’s needs and trains his staff to worry about the customer first.
However, Berg doesn’t stop at the customer’s needs as a whole. He looks at the differences in priorities each role within the customer’s organization has as it relates to his product.
“As a business owner in the contractor industry, you care about three things: how profitable, efficient, and safe can your job be.
However, if you’re a Project Manager you probably don’t care about the profitability. Your primary job is how efficient and safe you can get the job done.
Each stakeholder values the benefits of his equipment differently because their job performance is measured differently. Berg has grown his company by having a deep understanding of each of those pains and providing a product that can deliver on each of them accordingly.
4. The Customer Isn’t Always Right
Most organizations equate a customer-first mentality to the customer is always right.
However, Berg disagrees.
Berg likens Triple E’s success to their deep understanding of their target market and relationships they have built within it, even if that means turning away business.
“What we have been able to do is only sell our product to people we know are going to need it and be successful with it.
If someone really loves our product but we know they aren’t going to use it in the right application, we actively steer them away from it and instead recommend a different product that will better fit their needs.
We have been able to get to where we are because we remain so hyper-focused on the right customer for our product.”
On the flip side, when the right customer doesn’t initially see the value Triple E brings, Berg emphasizes the importance of maintaining those relationships.
“If they don’t see the value right way, that’s ok, but you stay in touch because deep down you know that your equipment helps that customer.”
5. Your Customers Are Your Best Sales People
Not surprisingly, recommendations from peers is the most credible form of advertising among consumers. According to Nielsen, 83% say they trust the recommendations of friends.
In Berg’s case, this is a number he has taken to heart. In fact, 93% of Triple E Equipment’s customers said that they would recommend their product to a friend. This number is unheard of.
“You only get that type of referral business if you do your due diligence on how customers use your product and if it really solves a need for them. This is especially important because the construction industry is very small. Typically, once you’re in it, you stay in it.
Therefore, when we work with 15 different demo contractors in Illinois, for example, the rest of the market and surrounding markets will eventually know of us. We are confident we are truly helping those 15 businesses and people like to talk about partners that really help.
If you have a good name and a good product, expansion can come easy.”
Expansion, of course, is not easy.
But when you know exactly who your customer is, what keeps them up at night, and you have a product that solves those pains, then expansion becomes a whole lot easier.