Here we are in the final quarter of 2014 and again we are all saying how fast the year has flown by. Many dealers have reported that their OTR tire businesses are up this year compared to last year, which is excellent news.
But I also hear the same familiar comment: finding and retaining good OTR tire sales and service people is very difficult, and that makes it hard to maximize on the actual potential the market has to offer.
I’ve heard that refrain for years, and, yes, finding good OTR people is and will continue to be a challenge, which is why training is more important today than ever before.
Training cannot be looked at as an expense but as an asset for the future.
When I am out talking to dealers and their salespeople, I am always asked about what OTR training can be provided to help grow their knowledge and awareness. And they don’t want training on a specific product line, but about applications, preventive maintenance and site analysis to maximize tire performance. The same holds true on the service side, where training is even more critical today due to the limited selection of qualified service people from which to choose.
At the same time, it is vitally important to know that the training being provided is actually teaching the person the correct ways to safely work on an OTR tire.
Many times the new person will be assigned to work side-by-side with a more experienced service person at the dealership, using that time to learn all he can before going out on his own.
In this scenario, though, was the new person trained properly, or did he learn bad habits from your more experienced tech? This is when you need to find a certified OTR training program, such as the one offered by TIA.
Learning to Sell
First, let’s discuss training the OTR tire sales person. There are many training opportunities for the sales person to attend; many manufacturers have a training school to teach the basics needed to understand industry codes, compounds, applications and doing a site analysis.
This is a good start, but taking what was learned in classroom out to the field – and applying that knowledge – is where it gets more difficult.
I have made many calls with sales people, both new and experienced. Working with the experienced sales person is a great way to learn something new, plus when the opportunity presents itself, I find it fun and challenging to teach them something new. After all, we can all learn something new no matter how experienced we think we are.
Where I feel my knowledge and sales experience has the best potential to help an individual is with the newer OTR tire sales person. The new sales people are like a sponge: they want to be successful, but sometimes they are unsure as to how to properly approach the customer or are afraid that they will be asked a difficult question – such as what tire they’d recommend for a specific application – and not have an answer, let alone the right answer.
This is where an experienced manufacturer representative or another associate at the dealership can make a big difference. They can become that new sales person’s mentor, allowing you to help grow them into a knowledgeable and credible OTR sales person over time. ‘Book’ training is good and provides the essentials a sales person needs and serves as a reference to research a customer question. But actually making customer calls is where the sales person learns to apply what they have learned. The real world is the best way to grow their confidence, and help them walk and talk OTR tires.
When making a cold call or stopping in on an existing customer, it’s rewarding to walk a new sales person through the process. When that first order comes in because of their follow up and focus on what the customer was looking for, the sale person’s enthusiasm is fantastic. That gives them confidence in both the OTR tire or service they are selling but also in themself.
Selling is not as easy as it looks or as taught in a classroom. It takes time to build up a solid customer base, which is key to a positive return on your monthly sales numbers and commissions. After all, each of us needs to stay motivated, no matter how much experience you have. Helping others grow in the OTR tire sales business will keep even the most experienced sale person focused on basics to earn the customer’s business.
Next, let’s discuss training for the OTR tire service person. Many times, they are the one who will bring that customer back to you because of the service they provided – or their poor efforts will drive a customer away. The good service people can provide to the sales person a lot of valuable information on the customer and potential future requirements for tires and/or service.
Training these service people on the proper way to handle an OTR tire in the field is very important, but don’t forget that these often unheralded teammates can be a great asset in the sales process. Teaching them more about the products offered and sold will also help to increase the dealer’s overall bottom line.
Recently I had the opportunity to talk with Matt White, who is the director of tire service for TIA, and he explained that the need for OTR service training has never been greater. Many years back (and it’s been updated numerous times), TIA published its “200 Level: Basic Earth- mover Tire Service Training Program.” White says this training program “provides the minimum skills and safety guidelines for the service person.”
The program includes a three-hour video featuring 15 different modules that cover the basic safety guidelines for servicing OTR tires, wheels and rims in the field. There is also a 200-plus-page workbook with pictures and step-by-step procedures. When service people successfully complete the entire course and pass the final exam, they will then receive a TIA Certificate of Completion. I know many service people who have received certification, and they often ask if there is a refresher course planned.
White says that there is a hands-on OTR training program that he has put together for TIA, which he feels takes the training to the next level with actual participation by the student. Currently, demand for the OTR tire-training program has been extremely high and he is trying to accommodate as many of the requests as possible.
“The need for certified training is extremely high,” White says, “since there are so many new people getting into the business.” For more information on the training programs offered by the TIA, be sure to visit their website at tireindustry.org.
In addition to OTR tire training, TIA offers an ag tire course and is working on a certified industrial tire service program. This will be a welcome addition to the industry as currently there are no certified programs addressing that unique segment.
Over the years, I’ve talked with dealers about the in-house training programs they provide employees. Many use the TIA OTR basic program as part of their internal training program. Plus they provide in-depth training on the proper use of and safety procedures for the equipment they are using. Many dealers also provide on-going refresher programs to keep service people focused on tire service safety.
Some OTR dealers also use their training efforts as an opportunity to expand their relationships with customers. Inviting key customer personnel to participate in your training programs – particularly field service safety – helps you to become a more valuable supplier to them.
Whether it is selling the correct tire for the application or safely installing tires on the equipment, the focus on the right training will add up to more sales and profit.
Building a strong sales and service team is the key to a successful business – but remember that no one can get enough training.