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Our Race To The Bottom or Maybe The End...
By Ron Dahlhaus
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. 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 is the only way these dealers sold their wares. Well, my friends take 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? 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 counterman’s or service writer’s day! However, we all want to make more money as everything goes up. Insurance, housing, food, gas, etc..all costs go up, except our salaries… right! We are not a public servant where salary increases are a given. Two to five 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, and for less money. How can we make more money? Easy, I say. Provide and sell, and show our value!
Value, sell value..but what the heck is value you ask? Start by getting your coworkers 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? Next step is to provide external events that others cannot provide because they are selling price only. When was the last time you offered a true training class? When is the last time you held an Open House, a Trade Show, a Tool Event or a Car Show? 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, i.e. Hybrid Technology, Brake Electronics, Mode$06, Getting More from Your Scan Tool, etc. Many manufacturers offer Training Courses for fee, some are free, and at the end of this usually 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 events and the others mentioned above will make you the supplier of choice, as the good customers will surely recognize the value beyond an extra $1.00 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. Getting every staff member, owner, manager, counter staff, stock person and drivers behind the mindset and “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. Then making sure everyone knows what you do is the easy part, because you have done it!
Value Selling is the way the Neiman Marcus’ and Snap On sell their wares. Racing to the Bottom is the 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!
Contact me at (973) 462-6010 or Ron.Dahlhaus@samuelsinc.com for further information.