Reeling in tire sales
There is no escaping, once you are in the tire business, you’re pursued by the tire paparazzi. Neighbors, friends and family are constantly asking about tires; you are at a restaurant, the grocery store, watering your front yard, you can’t get away from it.
Sometimes, when I can’t spend as much time with them as I’d like, I refer these pesky people to a well-done dealer’s website for reference. However, they are usually relentless. Why? Because we have what they want: Personalized, professional service.
My paparazzi think I know more about tires than I do. I certainly know enough, but it’s the personal service and attention that seals the deal every time. I’m a value-added salesman, and when I’m approached by my paparazzi, I know that price is important, but I leave the price quote until last. I always start and end with value. People approach me because they are also looking for a deal, an insider deal; usually they are looking for a good price on a good tire.
Add value to every sale! Add value at every point! Open with value! Close with value!
Value sets the hook!
There is constant tension between customer orientation and profit orientation. Understanding your orientation and the customer’s orientation makes the question of “When to discount?” more clear during the sales presentation. Because I am an added-value type person, I naturally use a value-added sales approach. This works for me and my paparazzi because it’s perceived as genuine, which it is. I always attempt to frame the sales presentation in value.
I firmly believe that a sales presentation framed in value yields better profit for the seller and better value for the buyer. If the conversation is only about the price of the product or about the other guy’s price, sooner than later you’ll be making a price concession. Giving in on price often seems like defeat or loss, but there are options. When the value-added approach is not gaining traction (pun intended), you have fallback options.
• Offer alternatives. I’m assuming that when you are offering a value-added product, it has a better profit margin than a lower-priced item. So, if the conversation becomes all about price, you should offer a lower-priced alternative. There is a skill to selling down. Offering a product or service with less value must also be done skillfully. The lower-priced product must not be condemned as inferior, but only sold as a lower priced product.
• Clearly verify. Before dropping the price or offering a lower-priced alternative, verify the customer’s needs as you make another attempt at selling a better value product. Also, verify competitor pricing and your customer’s claims. As you know, not all customers tell the truth exactly the same way.
• Verify your actual cost(s). “Low gross is better than no gross,” as the old saying goes. Shaving margin is necessary in today’s Internet environment with emboldened consumers. Profit is profit only if you collect it. I’ve always felt that at the end of a good sales-and-margin day, a little extra GP helps the bottom line; of course, the same is true on a poor sales day. Smaller profit dollars are still profit dollars.
• Give a concession, gain a concession. Another famous saying is, “Get the greenbacks, not the comebacks.” I understand the mind set; often a customer promises to come back, but doesn’t. I like to gain a concession when I give a concession. When I give a price concession, often the customer feels somehow obligated to reward me. I take advantage of the moment to ask the customer for future business. If you work in a store on a daily basis and you work this technique, you’ll be surprised at the number of customers who return and remind you.
As sales professionals, we often feel beat up over pricing. In the next few months, I plan to reveal some pricing strategies that, when applied consistently and appropriately, will increase both sales and margins.
Let me leave you with this. Last week my neighbor (paparazzi), who drives an Audi Crossover with 21-inch tires, asked me about replacing her tires. She had heard they were “super expensive.”
I looked at her tires and assured her they were fine for now. By telling her not to worry, I set the hook with my comment. I let her know of several manufacturers that have her size tires on special all the time. You could see the tension drain out of her face. Hook set! ■
Wayne Williams is president of ExSell Marketing Inc., a “counter intelligence” firm based in La Habra, Calif. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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