NATIONAL FLEET SALES MANAGER
Raising awareness of the FCA offering and being seen as a credible option are important to the recently appointed national fleet sales manager
The FCA group of brands – Fiat, Alfa Romeo, Jeep, Abarth and Fiat Professional – possess a number of “hidden gems”, according to newly appointed national fleet sales manager Matt Niles. It’s his job to boost their awareness among fleet decision-makers in both the public and private sector.
Niles, who joined FCA in mid-April, is very experienced in automotive financial services and leasing. His appointment coincided with a restructure of the fleet department which saw the fleet sales team brought together as a single operation. Previously it had sat across several divisions.
He describes the restructure as “an exciting opportunity for me and the business” as it brings a more co-ordinated approach to the market and enables the FCA fleet team to present the full portfolio of brands during every conversation.
“There is no conflict between the brands; they complement each other,” says Niles. “It means we can put the message out there with one team rather than have separate brand teams competing against each other.”
The national fleet sales manager role encompasses the corporate, public sector and SME (small-to-medium enterprise) customer teams and staff are expected to work across all three as necessary. It will require some upskilling, says Niles.
“The needs of customers in the three areas are broadly the same, but the conversations are slightly different,” he explains.
He expects to see a number of benefits from the new approach, not least greater consistency in the way FCA handles the market. It will also have benefits for customers.
“We will use the knowledge we get from other sectors and share it,” says Niles. “For example, the public sector is further ahead on the electric discussion so they have experiences that can be shared.”
He adds: “The new structure also fits with our USP – offering a complete fleet solution. We have a view of the entire marketplace together with our multi-brand solution. It fits.”
Niles has spent much of the past four months out in the field talking to a mixture of sectors and businesses and getting their view on the FCA brands. The overwhelming feedback is a lack of awareness about the brands and the models.
“They aren’t always aware of all our models and derivatives; we sometimes take it for granted that they are,” Niles says.
“So the priority is to get in front of more end users. We have access to a great customer base and people are interested in us as a challenger brand, but we have to have the right conversations.”
“We have a professional route to market where we have structured, constructive conversations around finding the right product for the customer, not the other way around”
Current hot topics are the two new van products – the automatic Ducato and the electric Ducato, and electrification of Fiat 500 and Jeep product that comes to market next year. “We also unveiled the Alfa Romeo Tonale which looks stunning!” says Niles.
The automatic Ducato has opened up new markets for the large panel van, such as home delivery and fleets with an environmental requirement, while the electric version, due for launch in 2020, “give us an opportunity to have a fresh conversation – people are intrigued”.
Niles is also keen to understand the sectors where FCA is strongest, where it has the greatest potential for growth, and where its models don’t quite fit.
“It’s early days (for me), so it’s also about what the team needs to improve its abilities,” he adds.
High on the agenda is a desire to offer a ‘premium service’, a phrase used in the press release announcing Niles’ appointment. What does a premium service look like for FCA?
“We have a professional route to market where we have structured, constructive conversations around finding the right product for the customer, not the other way around,” Niles explains.
“We have to add value back to them. We listen to what they are telling us so we can understand the opportunities – it’s a two-way exchange. We have to really understand their needs and concerns so our product fits. We also have to be the benchmark and share our knowledge across our customer base.
“We have to raise our awareness and be seen as a credible option.”
This is the first step, with a measure of success of getting onto more fleet lists. Step two, once a customer is on board, is to secure repeat business. Here, the focus is on relationships, with each member of the team responsible for their own territory and their own customer base.
“We are a brand in the moment, but we have to be clear about our strategy. It’s a medium-term plan to get into corporates, SMEs and public sector and it takes time,” says Niles.
“Our activity levels are good and we have access to the market but the proof will be the conversion of our conversations into sales and then getting repeat business from those customers.
“I’ve been amazed by our product line-up and our customer base, which is very broad. We play in all the sectors so we have the start position and it is now about building from there.”