Retail

4 Steps to Close the Sale, and the Question No One Is Asking Your Customers

Posted on December 22, 2016
Bill Hagerty (left), a former tire store owner from Escondido, Calif., who now offers tire forensics services, won a tablet following the “Improving Sales and Profits” seminar led by Karl Stearns, president of KMS Marketing Solutions (right).
Bill Hagerty (left), a former tire store owner from Escondido, Calif., who now offers tire forensics services, won a tablet following the “Improving Sales and Profits” seminar led by Karl Stearns, president of KMS Marketing Solutions (right).

“How can I help you?” That question is the time-proven first step in engaging a customer in a conversation that will lead to a sale. Or is it?

If your people are asking this question when they approach a customer, they’ve likely lost the sale, according to Karl Stearns, president of KMS Marketing Solutions.

“Asking how you can help lets the customer control the conversation,” Stearns told dealers during “Improving Sales and Profits,” a Tire Industry Association-sponsored educational session held during the Global Tire Expo portion of the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) Show in early November.

Sales people should be asking customers: “What brought you here today?” But Stearns says no one asks that question.

“If you demonstrate to customers that you are actually concerned about why they are there to do business with you instead of just taking an order from them, you are going to find your relationship with those customers will get very strong,” he said. “They will come back to you before they think of going anywhere else.”

He followed up with a question for dealers: “Wouldn’t you like to know why they chose your store?”

The FUD factor

Stearns explained that everything taking place at the sales counter comes down to an interaction between two people. “You have to think about what’s going on in this whole process. Marketers call it FUD: fear, uncertainty, and doubt.”

Fear of a tire failure may have pushed the customer to a tire store. “They are uncertain your store is the best place to go. They may doubt the person they are dealing with. You have all of this going on in a person’s head while they are trying to transact business with you. Your counterperson is dealing with the same things while they interact with your customer,” said Stearns.

“You may think this is a friendly transaction. For the most part it is. But don’t ever underestimate the fact that every customer that comes through the door has all kinds of doubts about doing business with you,” he said.

The PIPA process

To help overcome customers’ doubts and uncover their real need, Stearns advises a four-step approach to sales: present, interview, propose and adjust, or PIPA.

In the “present” step, the sales person and customer get to know each other. The sales person checks the store’s records and acknowledges the customer has been there before by mentioning a previous service date and the service performed. This interaction is the first step to establishing a conversation that uncovers the customer’s real need, according to Stearns.

Without the “interview” step, a dealer misses opportunities to sell other products and services. “Nine times out of 10, your customers don’t know about all the things that you sell. Once they’re made aware of it, they have an opportunity to do business with you.”

Stearns said the interview process takes 30 seconds to a minute. When a customer says he came to the store because he needs to replace a tire, the salesperson needs to ask what is happening with the car.

The customer may say he feels a vibration. “Now they are starting to give up all the information you need, and you find out there’s a lot you can do to help them,” said Stearns.

The customer may say he wants to make sure the car is mechanically sound before a vacation. “You may have things in your store that you could sell them for the trip. This interview process is so critical to uncover what the customer really needs.”

The third step is for the salesperson to “propose” what he or she can do for the customer. “You may have a bunch of things you want your customer to be aware of, and they may say they don’t want to spend money on that. It’s a negotiation,” said Stearns.

The negotiation leads to the fourth step, which is to “adjust” what’s been offered and reach an agreement.

“Rather than the customer coming in to buy four tires, you’ve been able to offer a lot of other suggestions that are beneficial to them. But you don’t get to that point unless you spend the majority of your time in the interview process,” said Stearns.

The organizers of the SEMA Show and Global Tire Expo also arranged for a marketing expert to share insights with tire dealers at this year’s event. For MTD’s coverage of the marketing seminar, new products and other SEMA Show activities, see our story online and in the December digital or print edition, beginning on page 22.

Related Topics: 2016 Global Tire Expo, 2016 SEMA Show, Bill Hagerty, Karl Stearns, sales training

Comments ( 0 )
More Stories
Bobby Hendry from 31 Inc. was from one of 80-plus vendors at the Tire Factory trade show. Here he talks to Mike Fleming, equipment supply manager for the dealer group, and Marc Thompson from Point S Everett in Everett, Wash.
News

Point S Rebranding Exceeds Expectations in the U.S., and Points to More Growth

Tire Factory Inc. members have rebranded the vast majority of their 206 stores to the Point S banner at a breakneck pace. And leaders of the Oregon-based cooperative are unveiling new programs with two big hopes: the momentum of current members continues, and more independent tire dealers join their network.

News

Cooper Enjoys a Full-Year Income-to-Sales Ratio of 8.5%

Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. posted net income of $69.3 million on net sales of $783.9 million for its fourth quarter ended Dec. 31, 2016. That compares to income of $59.2 million on sales of $775.5 million for the same period in 2015.

ATV has added 6 stores to its network of American Tire Depot stores in California.
News

ATV Opens 6 American Tire Depot Stores

ATV Inc. has acquired six stores in the greater Los Angeles metro area. The purchase expands ATV's network of American Tire Depot stores to 98 outlets, all in California.

News

MATDA Joins TIA's Social Media Platform

The Mid-America Tire Dealers Association (MATDA) has joined the social media content platform developed by the Tire Industry Association (TIA) and the Automotive Marketing Foundation (AMF).

News

Toyo’s Net Tire Sales Drop 6.7% in 2016

Toyo Tire & Rubber Co. Ltd. reported a net loss of 12.3 billion yen on net sales of 381.6 billion yen for its fiscal year ended Dec. 31, 2016. That compares to net income of 1.6 billion yen on net sales of 407.8 billion yen for fiscal 2015.

News

Feb. 15 Webinar: Take 1 Hour to Learn Why Customers Buy

An upcoming free webinar, "Commitments: Understanding Customer Buying Decisions," will help improve your retail selling experience. It will be held today, Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2017, starting at 2 p.m. ET (11 a.m. PT), and last an hour.

News

Michelin’s Net Income Rises 43% in 2016

Margins on consumer tires helped boost Groupe Michelin’s net income 43% in 2016. Michelin posted net income of 1.7 billion euros on net sales of 20.9 billion euros for its fiscal year ended Dec. 31, 2016. That compares to income of 1.2 billion euros on sales of nearly 21.2 billion euros for fiscal 2015.

Michelin is donating $10,000 to help families in Mexico on behalf of its BFGoodrich Tire brand.
News

After Big Wins in Baja, BFGoodrich Brand Gives Back

The BFGoodrich tire brand developed its off-road identity four decades ago in the Baja peninsula in Mexico. Now Michelin North America Inc. is recognizing the region's importance with a $10,000 donation.

Be the First to Know

Get the latest news and most popular articles from MTD delivered straight to your inbox. Stay on top of the tire industry and don't miss a thing!