Business insight: Walk the talk
Everybody knows how good it feels when someone who made a commitment to you follows through and does what they said they would do. So rings the opposite — the bad vibes and potential disappointment you feel when there’s no call back or follow-up — a promise unkept. With employees and dealer managers being stretched to work harder than ever today, it is crucial to keep in mind the power of following through on commitments. This principle starts at the top with dealer owners and senior managers.
Challenges: Any employee today in the fast pace of business has to make commitments, promises and deadlines to both other employees in the dealership as well as to customers. There is no way to conduct business without commitments. However, the key is to manage those commitments by keeping in place a consistent set of principles to do what you (and everyone else in your organization) say you’re going to do.
SalesMinded solutions: Here are some key strategies to be a master at follow-up and follow-through:
1. The golden rule: Do unto others — keep squarely in mind that there is always pain for the other party when you don’t make the follow-up phone call, miss the deadline with no communication, and “forget” to finish a key task. Every customer knows the feeling of edginess when their car or truck sits in the shop with no word on when it will be ready — as they stare at the clock. That makes them edgy about spending their money, too.
2. The store’s reputation is the promises of employees: Promises of owners to managers. Managers to store staff. Service supervisors to techs in the bay. Sellers to buyers. No ad can ever compete — good or bad — with the power of keeping promises. The customer who tells his neighbor, “Yes, down at ABC Tire Store, they did exactly what they told me they would do... and right on time,” is a walking ad for your store — absolutely invaluable.
3. The leaders set the tone: The natural tendency of a store employee who is pouring in the hours on the floor or in the service bay is to watch the boss — potentially looking for little ways to take short-cuts. That’s natural. An employee will mirror his manager in attitudes and work habits. If a manager is tight to his or her word and promises, then the employee tends to follow. Unfortunately, the opposite is true. The employee also will mirror weak follow-through that will directly affect your customers. Be a model to set the tone of good habits for others.
4. The competitive edge: Today’s economy is ruthlessly competitive. Every tire sale and service dollar is precious. As a leader of an independent tire and service dealership, do everything you can to maximize profits through advertising, smart buying, and great selection — but also know that a customer will come back and refer you when you and your team do exactly what you said you would do — what, how and when. Then there also is a whole new level of excellence available, too, when someone on your store team does above what is expected (more than promised).
5. The “triggers” to load up: “I forgot.” Sorry, that won’t work today. People don’t care if we forgot. They care if we did what they wanted and when we said we’d do it. Use, teach and require that every possible device and tool is used to ensure follow-up on commitments by your team to each other and to customers. That includes electronic reminders on a screen or phone, reminder notes in a planner, sticky notes in key places, whiteboards with scheduled commitments/deadlines, readily accessible phone numbers on the job ticket and in the POS system, and constant updates with other employees to hold each other accountable to follow through. The will to record details in writing (or with key strokes) and then follow-up without hesitation on those details always drives the ability to keep promises. Don’t trust your memory — it’s too stressful!
A cornerstone of your store’s reputation — and yours personally — is always whether you do what you say you’ll do. And it’s tough today to be sharp and consistent as you follow-up, follow-through, and finish off the promise. But the immeasurable value is always worth it, and you’ll be the dealer who creates a stampede of customers. ■
Doug Trenary, president of Doug Trenary’s Fast-Track Inc., is an award-winning author, speaker, and teacher who has helped companies of multiple sizes, including independent tire dealerships, increase sales and productivity since 1985. His book, “The SalesMind,” focuses on how to establish strong positions with yourself, your buyers, and your time. For more information on his work, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (404) 262-3339.