Retail Service

Offering choices and winning customers

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Offering choices and winning customers

In the retail tire market, the “best/better/good” selling method has been around for many years. In today’s competitive tire and auto repair business, best/better/good is still the best way to build trust and qualify the retail customer.

One reason to offer options is that studies show women make a majority of the tire buying and automotive repair decisions for their households — and women like options. Want proof? Just visit your local mall and look at the options for perfume, women’s shoes, purses and clothing. To me, there seems to be more options for women than men.

Today, there is a plethora of options available for female and male consumers to satisfy all tastes. There are many good reasons for offering options. When you offer three price points (choices), many customers decide to negotiate (in their mind) the three choices instead of negotiating (with you) on a single tire and a price. This can eliminate price haggling with some customers and increase trust.

‘Buyers are liars’

”If I am only given one option it smells fishy, but if I am given options I usually go to the middle.” — Shawna Wade, a tire consumer in Tennessee

I have heard this sentiment echoed in at least 45 states in the last six years while offering retail training courses to tire dealers. During my travels, virtually every dealer agrees that 50% of their customers are not telling the truth when they say they want a cheap tire. A dealer in Brooklyn, N.Y., told me the number was closer to 75%. I also heard dealers in New Jersey, Seattle and the Miami area say that “buyers are liars.” What it really boils down to is people want to feel good about their buying decisions.

Offer choices, build trust

Did you know that approximately 67% of consumers do not know which tire brand they need or want when they enter your showroom?

I recently worked about 50 days behind the counter at a tire dealership that has six locations in east Tennessee. Each location can see as many as 75 cars and mount 125 to 150 tires per day.

In my behind-the-counter experience, at least half of the remaining 33% of customers can be swayed into the best choice as long as you have presented them options.

Next, it is vital that a tire dealer offer options that fit the customer’s needs. However, many independent dealers cave-in to consumer demand when customers say, “Give me a price on the cheapest tire you have.” This causes the dealer to leave money on the table; maybe they would have gladly paid extra if they had been given options along with some product information.

Usually, the customer is trying to decide what to pay and will use the request for the least expensive option out of a lack of trust or fear of paying too much for an expensive tire. Most sales associates can build trust by offering choices. For example, if a dealer displays six different tires in his showroom, but only offers the customer one tire and one price, the customer will wonder, “Why am I being given only one option?” Furthermore, you are indirectly telling the customer to buy this tire or leave the showroom. Many customers feel more pressure if they have been given only one choice.

Dealers who immediately bow to the customer’s demands and offer a quote on only the cheap tire will usually end up answering this question afterward: “Is it a good tire?” Maybe what the customer really wanted was a safe tire.

Perhaps the quote given on the least-expensive tire was as much as $100 to $200 less than the customer spent on his last set of tires. This not only raises a quality issue in his mind, but also shows you that he was willing to pay more the last time.

I remember being at a retail tire store in the metro Nashville area a few years ago when a gentleman driving a Lexus pulled into the parking lot. Out of curiosity, I followed the salesperson out to the car to witness the interaction.

When I arrived at the car, I noticed the tread was OK — it was less than half worn. The Lexus owner stated that he was tired of hearing tire noise and wanted a new set of tires. I helped him choose a set of premium tires and I gave him my business card and told him to call me if he had any issues with them. I never heard from this customer.

Why not? First of all, he drove in with the wrong tires on his Lexus, and we made certain he got the correct quality product. Secondly, he did not go back to the dealer who had sold him the wrong tires. He now realizes he has a new tire dealer, one who took time with him, explained the product, offered him choices — and won him over.

Building a quality reputation

Dealers can build their individual brand by offering premium tires to every customer, every time, period.

Notice I did not say sell premium tires to every customer. My point is simple. If a consumer remembers you offering a premium tire and has a bad experience with the less expensive option they purchased, then they will never blame you for their bad tire experience (like the Lexus owner blamed his former dealer).

If you fail to mention a premium option at least three times and the customer buys a “cheap” tire, most of the time they will convince themselves that any problems they have with their tires are your fault.

In summary, the tire dealers who offer best/better/good options will earn their customers’ trust more often than when they only offer one option.

Plus, in the decision-making process, the human brain is accustomed to going to the middle. “Better” is at least higher quality than “good.” Selling the customer the “best” tire is up to you. Consider that your option.    ■

Mike Townsend has 26 years of sales experience, with seven in the tire industry. He was employed by a large distributor and global manufacturer. As a Six Sigma black belt and professional trainer, Townsend says he “has witnessed every scenario and heard every objection in the retail tire environment across every state in the U.S.” For more information, call (865) 318-4588 or email him at



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