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Commercial challenges: Answers to 4 key questions will help you survive

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Commercial challenges: Answers to 4 key questions will help you survive

Is your company keeping up with the changes in the commercial tire industry? Wow! That’s a great question. If you look around the industry, you’ll notice several trends that are taking place. One of the most significant is the disappearance of the small commercial dealer.

The small dealers are being gobbled up by the large regional commercial dealers. You might think, “Yes, I see that happening, but it hasn’t had an effect on me.” But will it in the future?

These large regional commercial dealers have a ton of resources. They use those resources to make certain their sales forces are armed with all the latest selling tools and techniques. They really emphasize training.

If I was in the commercial tire business, the question I would have to ask myself is, “How have I positioned my company to offset these challenges?”

The answer to that question can be found in the answers to this series of questions:

  1. How good are we at what we do?
  2. Do we have the capabilities to service our customers properly?
  3. How good are our capabilities?
  4. What is our reputation in the marketplace?

I know it is important for you to answer these questions. However, if I went in to your market and asked commercial accounts about your business, how would they respond? It is all about the customer’s perception of your business. It’s their perception that counts.

How good are you at what you do?

Do you have the reputation as the quality provider of tires and service in your market? That doesn’t mean you are the highest priced tire and service provider. It means if I sent a vehicle to your location for tires or service, the work would be performed in a timely and professional manner. And it would be done properly the first time. The same goes for a road call.

Professionalism extends beyond the actual work. Do your salespeople, service technicians, even your trucks and equipment represent your business the way you want them to?

Do you have the capability to service your customers?    

The answer to this question starts with the location. Is your location easy to access? Is your location clean, neat and well organized?

Envision yourself as a customer who is looking at your facility for the first time. Do the building and property present the image you want? Take a look at the sales area and the service department. Do they present the image you want?

Also, you need to evaluate all the employees who interact with customers. What will customers experience when they encounter your staff?

How good are your capabilities?

There are new regulations, new products and new procedures that you encounter on a daily basis. Have you and your staff stayed up-to-date with all the changes? When was the last time anyone from your location attended a formal training program? Or read a book on sales techniques, or were trained on new products or programs? How are they keeping pace with the updated systems and technology in the commercial arena?

The bottom line question is this: Do you and your staff have the training and ability to compete in today’s commercial market?

What is your reputation in the market?

Are you going out and talking to your customers on a regular basis? I don’t mean a customer with whom you already have a great relationship. I mean all of your customers.

How about those customers who were doing business with you two years ago but haven’t bought anything in the last year? Don’t be afraid to talk with them about it: “I noticed that you were doing business with me two years ago but you haven’t bought anything lately. Can you tell me why?”

After you ask the question, stop talking and start taking notes. Don’t become defensive. If you ask the question, you have to be prepared for the answer. If there are reasons customers aren’t buying from you, identify the issues and develop a game plan that will correct any perceived weaknesses.

In conclusion, if your goal is to compete in today’s highly competitive commercial market, you have to take a hard look at your business model. What worked 20 years ago will not work in today’s business world. Ask yourself, “Is it time to rethink my business strategy?”   ■

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 gerrymaleski@yahoo.com.

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