10 Sales Smashers: Avoid These Common Missteps to Ensure Solid Sales Growth and Content Customers - Tire Review Magazine

10 Sales Smashers: Avoid These Common Missteps to Ensure Solid Sales Growth and Content Customers

Retail business can be brutal. A tire dealer can spend countless hours contemplating broad business strategy, making sure each facet of the business is in line with overall profitability goals.

But you don’t sell to a plan. You have to deal with real customers who, by their nature, are fickle, demanding and unforgiving.

No matter how carefully you’ve plotted out your strategy, and no matter how good your intentions, one misstep can ruin a lifetime of potential sales, just as one little sneeze quickly turns into one major head cold.

To help prevent your business from catching a bad “cold,” we’ve outlined 10 common missteps that often result in unhappy customers and lost sales.

One: Hire Bad Apples

Do your employees show up whenever they feel like it? Do they have bad attitudes? Consider reevaluating your hiring practices. Don’t hire someone just because you need a warm body. Make sure that person can adequately do the job, and make sure they’re customer savvy.

Like it or not, most instances of high absenteeism, poor productivity and bad attitudes can be traced right back to bad hiring decisions.

Poor hiring creates a domino effect that ultimately results in higher employee turnover and profit loss. How? By tarnishing your reputation, thanks to poor quality work, sloppy workmanship and a bad attitude.

And a bad reputation is hard to overcome. The efforts and finances required to counteract a bad image are, by some estimates, at least 10 times those needed to establish a positive image.

To make a good hiring decision, first make a list of knowledge, skills, personal characteristics and attitudes that the job requires and then determine how to evaluate each candidate. Once you find a candidate, make sure you conduct a background check and call a couple of references.

Two: Don’t Tell Anyone

Simply put, if you don’t advertise, people won’t know you exist. Think you can’t afford to advertise? Relax. There are many ways to promote your dealership on a limited budget.

First, consider networking. Attend meetings, conferences or other get-togethers at which you can meet other business people. This can put you in direct touch with potential customers and with people who can refer customers to you.

Second, consider asking current customers for referrals, and offer an incentive if their referral turns into a legitimate customer. Circulate your business cards. Leave them on counters in neighborhood stores and replenish them when they are gone. You can even create a cross-marketing program; steer customers to nearby, non-competing businesses, and ask those businesses to send customers your way.

Give free talks to local groups. Offer a brief educational session at your dealership or at the local library on topics such as tire pressure maintenance, basic vehicle maintenance, tire selection tips, or any other issue you think would interest consumers. Present yourself as an expert, and announce your session by sending a press release to the local newspaper.

Three: Say ‘No’ to Training

Comebacks are profit killers. You know that. But do you know why you have comebacks? Are your techs doing the job right? If not, why not?

Consider that comebacks may be caused by a lack of proper training. With the constant changes in automobile design, tires, accessories and equipment, it’s vital to educate your techs properly. And, with NHTSA’s TPMS (tire pressure monitoring system) mandate, technician training is even more vital these days. There are plenty of training resources available. It’s up to you to find and use them.

Your non-technician employees need training, too. Make sure you teach your front-desk employees how to answer the phone properly and how to be attentive to customers.

Four: Hate Your Customers

Everyone who enters your showroom – young, old, male or female – must be treated with respect. The 22-year-old who walks into your shop just might be an enthusiast – a “tuner” – who plans on buying a set of $2,000 custom wheels. But you won’t get that far in the process if you don’t treat him or her with respect.

And most of the women who come into your shop may make all of the decisions concerning the family vehicles. According to the Women’s Board of the Car Care Council, close to 85% of American women are responsible for the maintenance of their vehicles, and women make up 65% of the entire customer base for automotive repair and service centers. Unfortunately, 80% of women customers are not satisfied with the service and repairs they receive, and 89% feel they are treated differently because of their gender, according to the Car Care Council. Show your women customers that you are different.

Five: Disregard the Little Things

Sometimes, it all comes down to the little things – providing customers with rides to and from work, free coffee or bottled water for those who wait, clean restrooms and waiting areas, up-to-date magazines and daily newspapers, and toys for kids.

And, if you tell a customer his or her car will be ready by 4 p.m., it should be ready at 4 p.m. Be reasonable in estimating how long a job will take. If it looks like it will be later than stated, call the customer immediately.

Always under-promise and over-deliver. Customers hate surprises, but are delighted when you go “above and beyond” to help them. The devil truly is in the details…but so are the sales.

Six: Worship the Status Quo

To stay ahead in business, you have to keep moving. Keep an eye on the competition, and continually reevaluate your business practices. How can you better differentiate yourself from your competitors? Does your product offering still match your market requirements? Is your dealership keeping up with the changing needs of customers?

If you need to make a change, do it. And do it now. The only constant is change, and many businesses have failed because they refused to change with the market or the times.

Seven: Scrimp on Wages

Finding qualified help these days is a big problem for independent tire dealers. So once you find good help, you’ve got to keep it. One of the best ways to keep well-trained technicians and sales people is to keep them financially happy.

How can you determine if you’re paying people fairly? Consider taking a look at the Occupational Outlook Handbook published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This guide profiles hundreds of jobs in the U.S. and can help you set pay levels that are comparable to other businesses in your area.

And, consider financial incentives for good work. If employees understand that bonuses will be given based on performance, they’ll work harder to earn the extra money.

Eight: Customers? Who Cares?

It goes without saying that you should get to know your customers. After all, to succeed and grow, you have to take your cues from them. How do they want to be treated? What delights them? They’ll tell you, if you ask.

However, some dealers still have the attitude that if they’ve seen one customer, they’ve seen them all. So they treat all customers the same – cookie cutter customer service.

Every customer – fleet manager, landscaping company owner, businessperson, outdoor adventurer, auto enthusiast or mom with three kids – has different needs and concerns. It’s vital to get to know the individual needs of each customer. Ask questions and listen. Be an observer.

Customers will be impressed that you took the time to understand their unique situations. And tailoring your sales pitch to their specific needs is sure to boost your selling power. After all, the quality or value of your product or service doesn’t mean a thing if it doesn’t solve a problem for your customer.

Nine: Isolate Yourself

As an independent tire dealer, you’ve got at least one major advantage over the big-box retailers – that hometown, personal touch. If you really want to boost sales, leverage your smallness.

One of the best ways to do this is through community service. A few ideas: collecting and delivering clothes or food for the homeless, hosting or sponsoring a fundraising dinner, starting an apprenticeship program or donating your services to the needy.

Or, sponsor a high school sports team or offer to give car care talks at drivers’ education classes. Paying attention to your local community positions your business as one that really cares. And caring and concern is not something the big retailers are generally known for. Use that to your advantage.

Ten: Lie to Yourself

By pinpointing your business’ weaknesses, you can develop a specific list of changes that you can work at making over time. But, to do this right, you must be brutally honest.

Look at your company – inside and out – and determine what you don’t do well. Maybe your product offering is too narrow. Perhaps you don’t have a good system for finding new sales opportunities. You can’t eliminate your weaknesses until you first identify them.

Also, be sure to identify all of the opportunities and challenges your business is likely to face in the coming years. Develop a plan to meet and overcome those challenges.

Bottom line: You’ve worked hard to nurture and grow your business. Don’t let a misstep – no matter how insignificant it seems – sabotage your efforts.

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