By Ron Dahlhaus
General Parts Group LLC, New Jersey
Chances are that if you are a reading this article, you have encountered the art of the deal: The never-ending sales negotiation between buyer and seller where the lowest price gets the sale. In no industry is this way of doing business more prevalent than the troubled auto industry, where the “Best Price” advertising and the lowest cost per vehicle are the only ways these dealers sell their wares. Take a good hard look at the state of “that” industry and at what we are all becoming.
Taking lessons from Big Brother and selling us right down the river alongside them is not where you want to be.
How many times a day are we frustrated or convinced (you make the right emotional call here) that we need to sell at a lower price to match or beat the competition? Is it that we need to drop prices in order to make more sales, or that we need to find a cheaper line just to compete with the competition?
This is an every-hour, every-day occurrence in the average counter professional’s day. However, we all want to make more money as inflation drives the cost of everything up.
Insurance, housing, food, gasoline all go up, while our salaries stay the same. We are not public servants for whom salary increases are a given. Two to 5 percent salary increases are the norm. We however are not “given” anything. We need to earn our increases. But how do you do so when all we want to do is sell cheaper? How can we make more money under these circumstances? Easy, I say. Provide and sell value.
“Sell value.” Great, but what the heck is value, you might ask? Start by getting your co-workers together and write down what you do better than your competition.
Do you deliver faster, do you offer machine shop services, do you have a better inventory, can your customers buy online from you? The next step is to provide external events that others cannot provide because they are selling based on price only. When was the last time you offered a true training class?
When was the last time you held an open house, a tool event or a car show? It’s as simple as using your parking lot as a car show or as elaborate as a full-blown open house with vendors, exhibitors and giveaways. If you want to be more than a low-cost provider, you must deliver more than the next guy or you are no better.
Today’s training classes offer an excellent opportunity to show that you are much more interested in your customers’ business survival beyond the sale. Start out doing two events a year, maybe one late winter, one in the fall.
You must charge a nominal fee, maybe an incentive for more part sales could work, but offer nothing more at this event than the training class and a light dinner or snack.
Do not make the mistake of attempting to sell a product at the event. Your customer will see right through this and will never return. Make sure the topic is relevant, such as new advances in hybrid technology, brake electronics, or getting more from scan tools. Many manufacturers offer training courses for a fee, while some are free. At the end of a three-hour evening training event, make sure the technician comes away with a workbook and a certificate to put on his wall.
A nice touch would be a letter letting them know how proud you are of them. You and your workers need to sell this event as a value. Over time, these types of events will make you the supplier of choice, as the good customers will surely recognize the value beyond an extra dollar for an air filter.
Getting behind value selling is a business lifestyle change. In the beginning, the feeling that this just is not working would make it easy to convert back to the “Race to the Bottom” way of selling.
Get every staff member, owner, manager, counter staff, stock person and driver behind the mindset that “telling” your story is the only way for this to succeed. Thinking of new ways to provide value, provide an event or provide an extra service is the next challenge.
Making sure everyone knows what you do is the easy part, because you’ve already done it.
Racing to the bottom in terms of price is a race to death and we surely do not want to be in the second row of the court that Chrysler and GM have just returned from.