Do you have an effective business plan? As I work with dealers in the commercial marketplace, I like to ask this simple question. When I do, however, many times I get a blank stare from the owner of the business.
Then I dig deeper and keep the questions coming. How do you differentiate your business from your competitors? If I were a customer, why would I want to buy from you and your company? What sets you apart from the other commercial dealers in your marketing area?
Whether your dealership is currently involved in the commercial tire and service market or if you are planning to enter the commercial market, you need a detailed business plan.
You need a plan to provide direction for the company, to provide direction for your sales force and to explain your business proposition to your customers. I think Ben Franklin said it best: “If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail.”
Identify your business
* When you develop your business plan you need to consider the following:
* What types of commercial accounts are located in your trade area?
* What areas of the commercial market can you service professionally?
* Do you have a sales and service team that can attract and maintain customers?
The commercial market is large and diverse. You need to determine which areas you can service properly. The type of tire and service program you offer will vary with the size and type of accounts that are in your area.
It can vary from a local company that has 10 trucks and conducts business within a 50-mile radius to an account that has 100 vehicles and conducts business countrywide. You also could have a local construction company that has a mix of trucks and earthmover equipment.
Each of these accounts has different needs. Which of these customers is your business capable of providing world class tires and service?
One of the first things you need to do is determine the geographical area that you can professionally service. If your dealership is located in a metropolitan area, your target could be a 10-mile radius from your center. If your dealership is in a rural setting, the target area could be 30 miles. The question you need to consider is: Can you and your staff deliver the tire and service needs for the customers in your marketing area in a timely manner?
Identify the customers
Once you have defined the area that you will solicit, you need to identify the customers who are located in that area. There are programs that are available to help dealers identify commercial customers in their markets. These programs can help you with the name, address and the location of the accounts. Several of the programs will identify:
* what the accounts haul,
* how many vehicles (tractors, trucks, trailers) they run,
* the industries they service, and
* contact information.
I mentioned in last October’s Modern Tire Dealer article that commercial tire and service customers are more sophisticated today. They need access to information to help them run their fleets. They don’t want a salesperson to come and sell them tires. They are looking for a salesperson who understands the commercial business and can provide solutions that will assist them in running their fleet more effectively.
The key words are “more effectively.” That could mean different things to different customers.
It could mean helping the customer reduce his operating expenses; or helping the customer with tires and service in his local market or when he is on the road; or helping the customer get the best fuel economy possible; or making certain the customer is maximizing his tire service.
A change in sales philosophy
Your challenge is to make certain you have the sales and service team that truly understands the commercial tire and service business. Their goal should be to help their customers be more effective tomorrow than they are today.
The salesman’s main objective for a sales call has to change from “What can I sell them today?” to “What can I learn about the account that will help them be more effective in the future?” This is a major change in sales philosophy. Your proposition for each customer is based on identifying their needs, wants or goals — and then making sure your team helps them achieve those needs, wants or goals.
It is in the best interest of your organization to develop a detailed business plan utilizing the information provided here. ■
Gerry Maleski opened ComTrain LLC following a 37-year career at Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. ComTrain specializes in training and consulting solutions for commercial tire dealers. Maleski can be reached by phone at (330) 834-9777 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.