“If there’s one thing I’ve learnt from being an agricultural sales rep,” says Matt Hooper, “it’s never to trust a farmer’s dog. They’re either going to bite you or jump up at your clean trousers!” OK, now we know that Matt is not your average agricultural salesman…
Instead of starting his career as a junior member of the sales team, Matt followed his agricultural machinery course at Hartpury College by joining T H WHITE in 2009 as an apprentice technician in the workshop at Toddington. There, he spent six years focused mainly on the New Holland tractor range as well as supporting Andrew Collier with the installation and maintenance of PLM and GPS equipment in its early days.
It was the depth of knowledge of agricultural machinery that Matt gained during his workshop years that gave him an excellent grounding for moving into sales. “A sales position became available at Toddington and I was inspired by the challenge of trying something new,” he says. “I had a good rapport with many Toddington customers who knew me through the workshop and I had a good understanding of the product, so it seemed like a natural progression. I had a passion for the product and the area I’d be covering, which also helped.”
Matt was a ‘natural’ in the sales role, but there was a nagging wanderlust tugging at him. “I have family in Australia and I’ve visited frequently since the age of 14 so I just had to ‘scratch the itch’ and try living out there.” And so that was that Matt upped sticks at the start of 2018 to try life down under, but he kept faith with his career in agricultural machinery.
“While living in Australia I worked for CNH focusing on the development of the service business, which meant carrying out business reviews with CNH dealers and helping them to develop business to improve their efficiencies. I knew this was a fantastic opportunity to learn new skills which I was confident would help in my career when I returned to the UK.”
And return he did, rejoining the Toddington sales team, working with most of T H WHITE’s brands, but with specialist knowledge of New Holland, Manitou and Kuhn. “Without a doubt the main benefit of my workshop experience is the product knowledge I gained. Knowing how mechanical systems work on any machine when trying to sell it is a huge benefit. It also means I can advise a customer on what machine would suit them best for the job they are trying to achieve. There’s far more to the role than just completing a sale, with the increased level of technology in our product range and multiple options for customers to choose from, I’d like to think of myself as a machinery consultant as well as a salesman.
“Inevitably it’s the big ticket items that always get us excited and it’s great to see the big machinery leaving the yard, whether it’s a combine or a large tractor. I have to say though, it’s the sales – regardless of how big or small they might be – with a new customer that give me the most satisfaction. Knowing you’ve gained someone’s trust and they have chosen to have a deal with you over somebody else they might normally deal with, is a proud moment. In this job, nothing happens overnight, it’s about commitment and relationships, although being £1 or £2 cheaper can help!”
A lot has changed in the industry since Matt first joined T H WHITE in 2009, not least the advances in farming technology. “GPS and Precision Land Management are now sold with a large percentage of our tractors. Telematics are also becoming more popular, giving us the ability to monitor customers’ machines and potentially diagnose faults from the depot before making any visits to farm. This is a huge step forward as it means customers experience reduced downtime which will increase their productivity.
“In my opinion the future will see even more changes. Farmers are looking at various ways to help reduce costs and increase yields which will affect the way we work as a dealership. We will adapt to support them in the best way possible, whether it’s with innovative machinery and technology, or enhanced service and aftersales support. The thing we always aim to make unique about T H WHITE is to give customers the security and support of dealing with a large company without losing the face-to-face interaction and personal touches you might get from a small business.”
As you will have gathered, Matt is a busy guy, but he still finds time for travelling to see new places as well as snowboarding, shooting and motorsport. “More than anything, I count myself very fortunate in having a job I really enjoy,” says Matt. “It just goes to show how an apprenticeship can be the perfect start to a successful career in agriculture!”
You can contact Matt Hooper on 07824 607087. If you know someone who would like to consider an apprenticeship with T H WHITE, you can find all the necessary information at www.thwhite.co.uk/apprenticeships.