Back to the basics

Jan. 24, 2013

One side says increasing taxes is the answer. The other side says cutting spending is the answer. Neither side has shown any respect for the other.

Both the Democrats and the Republicans dangled us over a fiscal cliff throughout December. We didn’t go over — or did we? Who knows?

Will ObamaCare be revised? Will the tax code be reformed? Will your business survive all these uncertainties?

Of course it will! And there’s plenty of help  available to you if you need it.

From Sun Tzu, author of “The Art of War” in 500 B.C. (trust me, it’s appropriate) to the late Zig Ziegler, there are enough useful business manifestos and how-to books to keep your business afloat and prospering for generations to come. Ultimately, they all boil down to one thing: the basics of selling.

What are the steps to a successful sale? To find out, I called our good friend John Gamauf and asked him.

Gamauf has the credentials. Back in 1969, he was a retail sales manager for the former Firestone Tire & Rubber Co. By the time he retired in 2008, he was president of Bridgestone Firestone consumer tire sales for North America (and a vice president of Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations LLC, to boot). In 2011, he was inducted into the Tire Industry Hall of Fame.

“It’s a confusing time for dealers out there, John,” I said.

“I like that,” he responded. “Times like this are good for the industry. When there is confusion, people won’t be out buying cars. They will spend money taking care of their cars. I’d rather have the tougher time.”

I had heard John speak about selling on a number of occasions. “How many steps are there, John?” I asked.

“I was taught the five steps of selling since the day I started in 1969,” he said. “It all starts with a friendly greeting.”

1. Friendly greeting. “I asked people what their names were and introduced myself. If I was on the phone or with a customer, I would still say ‘I’ll be with you in a minute.’ At least that way, they would feel acknowledged.”

2. Get out to the car. “The first two are very similar. You don’t always see the customer drive in, but if you do, meet him at his car. Shake his hand. Maybe you see a Cleveland Indians bumper sticker on the car and strike up a conversation about the team. I always thought it was important to build a relationship with customers before we talked about tires. I also had a tire gauge ready to check tire pressure.”

3. Qualifying the customer. “Before I could recommend a tire for the customer’s car, I had to ask him questions. ‘Have you noticed anything about your current tires? How long are you keeping your car? How many miles a year do you drive? Do you drive in the snow? Do you have a spare?’ The answers help you qualify the customer.”

4. Sell the features and benefits of your product. “That’s when you walk back into the showroom with the customer. Most of the tires sold are sold on the showroom floor. Show him the tire and tell him not only about the features, but also about the benefits.

“Always start with the best tire in the good-better-best scenario. If you start at the bottom, there is no where to go. And never second-guess a customer.”

5. Ask for the order. “This is the last, most important step,” he said. “Sometimes a salesman will go through the first four steps with ease but then wait for the customer to decide. That’s a mistake. You can’t be afraid to ask for the order. Bottom line. you have to be aggressive.

“You can ask him, ‘How will you be paying for this? Are you a preferred customer? You’re not? All you need to do is sign up for our credit card, 90 days same as cash, at no cost to you. And you get a free oil change. We sell a lot of tires here, but we also do a lot of service.’

“You are trying to make the customer feel special and keep them coming back.

“You don’t let the customer say ‘Let me think about it.’ If he wants to shop around, fine, but be prepared for that. I used to take that customer to a room filled with POP material so he could shop from my store. With computers today, you can check all the prices from the counter.”

Gamauf said that a dealer should be careful not to let the computer do all the selling. “It almost gets too impersonal, because he never gets to see the tire. Just remember: People buy from people.”

Here’s one more tip from Gamauf. In “The Best Damn Sales Book Ever” by Warren Greshes, he writes this testimonial: “A great read! Warren says it all in a way that’s not only easy to understand, but even easier to implement. No need to ever read another book on this subject.”    ■

If you have any questions or comments, please email me at [email protected].

About the Author

Bob Ulrich

Bob Ulrich was named Modern Tire Dealer editor in August 2000 and retired in January 2020. He joined the magazine in 1985 as assistant editor, and had been responsible for gathering statistical information for MTD's "Facts Issue" since 1993. He won numerous awards for editorial and feature writing, including five gold medals from the International Automotive Media Association. Bob earned a B.A. in English literature from Ohio Northern University and has a law degree from the University of Akron.