A Simple Technique to Compete with the Big Boys

Jan. 25, 2016

Every tire dealer in America competes against strong, established, online tire providers. Most independent tire dealers also compete with the largest independent “tires only” retailer in the country, and many compete directly with Sam’s, Costco and other membership warehouse clubs.

I’m going to show you how to cast a little doubt with your customer during your sales presentation, which will cause the customer to pause and consider your point and your advantage. Before I discuss this powerful tip, I’d like to frame my comments with a little story from my past experience.

It’s funny how early training affects both early and long-term results. Because I worked at Parnelli Jones for 22-plus years and condemning the competition was prohibited, I’ve never fallen into that unprofessional habit. However, over the years I’ve found it helpful to cast a little doubt from time to time. When I use a little doubt in a sales presentation, I do so to cause the listener or customer to pause a moment and think about what I’m saying or suggesting. I’m usually trying to make a point, to enhance an advantage that would benefit the customer if they bought from me rather than the competitor.

At Parnelli Jones, we had an all-encompassing tire warranty (Parnelli’s Promise) even before it became popular to do so. I would alert the customer that a competitor did not offer such coverage, and as a result, if their tire became unserviceable due to blah-blah-blah, then they might not enjoy all the benefits we offered. Casting this doubt caused customers to pause and consider my point. Because the Parnelli Promise was full of benefits for the customer, the simple explanation and comparison was usually enough to cause the customer to pause and consider, and then make the correct buying decision.

A promising service

There is no Parnelli Promise today, but any independent tire dealer who offers alignment services has a real opportunity they may not be using to their best advantage. Most membership/warehouse clubs do not offer convenient one-stop alignment services, and neither do online e-tailers, nor America’s largest independent brick-and-mortar retailer. And they’re very successful. However, if you have to compete against them, you might try asking customers, “Why would you ever buy tires from someone who can’t, at least, check your alignment and perform an alignment if you need one?” When a customer is shopping for tires, these large competitors never recommend alignment services in their tire quotes because of their obvious disadvantage in doing so.

The aforementioned competitors do well with their business models. But are they servicing the driving public to the fullest extent? Yes, they can recommend a local shop, but the best deal for the customer is the complete, convenient, one-stop, full-service tire sale which includes, at the very least, an alignment check, and certainly a reset to spec, if necessary.

Doubt-casting questions

Here are a few doubt-casting questions I would be asking if I were quoting and selling tires every day:

“Why would you ever buy tires from someone who can’t check and re-set your alignment?”

“The tire quote you received from ‘Mr. Online Big Guy,’ did that include a free alignment inspection?”

“Does Sam’s Club offer a free alignment check with their tires?”

Knowing independent tire dealers like I do, I know you can come up with some very creative ways to cast a little doubt.

The most important point is, it’s a disservice to sell a customer a set of expensive tires and not consider their alignment needs. The biggest benefit is, most customers understand at some level that properly aligned tires are going to last longer, and tires that are not properly aligned will begin to self-destruct immediately. I’ve used this line a thousand times when selling alignments, “Tires don’t heal. Once an irregular wear pattern starts, it never gets better. Let’s do the alignment today.”

What I’m saying is, I’d cast a little doubt with the customer for their own benefit before rolling over on a tire sale. You need every customer and tire sale you can get; you need happy customers who drive away with a complete deal, and your competitors aren’t going to say a word about your advantage. You need to show your customers that you are still their best choice for the best overall deal.   ?

Wayne Williams is president of ExSell Marketing Inc., a “counter intelligence” firm based in La Habra, Calif. He can be reached at [email protected].

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About the Author

Wayne Williams

Tire retailing expert Wayne Williams was president of ExSell Marketing Inc. and longtime author of MTD’s popular “Counter Intelligence” column.