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Sell the Sizzle: Building a Strong Performance Business Takes More than Prayer

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When it comes to building high performance tire and wheel sales, offering the right products and having strong technical skills are only parts of the equation. Perhaps more than any other segment, marketing plays a huge role in building a solid, loyal customer base.

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In this Performance Training Guide article, we’ll look at success-building techniques to market your business and gain profitable marketshare in your area. Then we’ll show you how to keep customers interested, and discuss some techniques to help close the sale.

First, an important word of caution: The wheel business is constantly changing. Not just year to year, but even week to week. What was popular yesterday, may not be so hot today. Making matters worse, not every wheel looks right on every vehicle.

Staying up with the market and having a sense of what looks good will go a long way toward helping customers get the look and performance they want, while developing your shop’s reputation as “the place” for the latest UHP tires and wheels.

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Marketing your business and creating a high performance image are key components in attracting customers to your store. Simple changes like adding “& wheels” or “performance tires and wheels” to your business name will instantly draw people.

You might consider creating an exciting performance logo that people will associate with your business. Take that logo and create windshield visor strips and vinyl graphics that you can give away to wheel customers. They will gladly “fly the colors” for you, creating free advertising with each mile they drive.

And do you know where your new customer is going to go? Straight to their friends and to car shows and even the racetrack. How much will that piece of vinyl lettering cost you? Maybe $2 each. How much business will you generate from it? Probably another two or three sets of tires and wheels.

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Here are some other ideas that will have customers knocking your doors down. Develop a plan that incorporates some of these ideas as soon as possible.

• Promote wheel and performance tire sales in your Yellow Page ads

• Use radio promotions, especially around a big event like a local race event or the grand opening of your new performance section.

• Have an annual or semi-annual sale. Invite suppliers to participate and bring a truckload of wheels to your store. Set up in the parking lot and offer special deals and incentives. Pre-event advertising will greatly enhance the results, because it will prepare people to come. Promote the selection of styles and the deals to be had. You may want to invite some of your best wheel customers to come in and show off their rides. While we don’t recommend promoting the event as just a car show, having those happy customers on hand can only help land additional serious buyers.

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• Take your business to where the customers are. Go to local car shows and set up a display. If you have a racetrack near, promote there, as well. Get connected with local car clubs and offer them a trade discount just as you would for a fleet account.

• Offer your employees an incentive by allowing them to buy a set of wheels and tires for their personal vehicle at cost if they meet sales goals. Perhaps an annual bonus of a free set to the top salesman. Put a set on your vehicle to promote as well. Sell them every few months and change to the latest style.

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• If your shop’s front window faces the street, put a display rack full of wheels in that window, and illuminate them with spot lights at night. You wouldn’t believe how many people stop and look at night. Try it and see if people don’t start calling and asking about a particular wheel that they saw the evening before. Neon lights in the window are another great way to attract attention. Remember, you are trying to get noticed by making customers want to know what’s so special about your store.

Fresh Displays

The next step is to display custom wheels in your store where they can be seen. Don’t buy old discarded wheels just to hang on the wall. And make sure to get the latest styles each year. Customers expect that what you have on display is a hot selling item and they will purchase it if they happen to like the style. Very knowledgeable customers will know if you’re displaying old wheel styles and move on to a store that’s up to speed.

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Nothing is more embarrassing than displaying a wheel or tire that has been discontinued. Telling a customer that a wheel or tire isn’t available anymore just discourages them. Maintain a fresh display. Work with your suppliers to keep the newest styles on display. Expect to invest a minimum of $500 for a minimal two or three wheel display.

With display wheels bigger is always better. The more styles that you can have, the greater the chance that you’ll catch someone’s attention and make a sale.

On Hand Inventory

With all your advertising and promotions bringing potential customers to your store, you’ll need to invest in some inventory to handle impulsive buyers. They usually show up with a pocketful of cash and want to give it to someone quickly. Sometime, they will buy a set of wheels just because they can get it right now and not have to wait even a day for a style that they may like better.

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Here is an area where your supplier can be your best asset. Work with them to develop a selection of chrome and tuner-style wheels that cover the broadest array of fitments – from bolt patterns to offsets – in 17- through 20-inch wheel diameters. And keep these in the low to moderate price ranges; remember, you want these to be fast movers, not inventory drags.

If you’re targeting trucks, look at carrying a set of 15-inch 5×5, 16-inch 6×5.5 and 5×135 in areas where direct OE replacement is more prevalent, and 20-inch 5×5, 6×5.5 and 5×135 in areas where larger packages are common.

Remember to have the right tires in stock, as well. It’s best to match these tires to your wheel inventory to make sure you can handle package sales. And it might not hurt to keep some extras around for customers needing fresh rubber for the spring/summer season.

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Make some space in your store to display your wheel and tire selection. If you hide them, they won’t see them and they will likely leave without saying a word. Invest in some wheel racks; good racks can be had for less than $100 each.

Make Packages Count

Package deals are a great way seal the deal with a customer. Most expect to buy wheels and tires separately, trying to find the best deal for both. Put package pricing together that delivers you a fair profit on the wheels and tires while making it impossible for the customer to walk away.

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Fighting Internet “deals” on wheels is tough. The best defense is to make sure you offer quality products and service – before and after the sale. Remind the Internet price shopper that they have no where to turn if a problem crops up, and will be liable for shipping costs – possibly both ways – should they need to send wheels and/or tires in on a claim.

You won’t win all of those Internet sales battles, though. Some customers want the most for the least and don’t understand the ramifications of their decision. They will need to have their tires mounted and tire/wheel assemblies installed, so there is an opportunity there to let your superior service shine and possibly win that customer back.

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Another tool to use against the competition – and create customer loyalty – is a loyalty rewards program. Many performance shops use this technique, and it’s inexpensive. The basic premise is to offer wheel customers “points” for the value of their purchases, which they can then redeem for future products or services. For instance, offer a $50 gift certificate for each $1,000 in purchases ($100 for $2,000 in purchases and so on).

Those gift certificates can then be applied toward other performance products you may offer, or to services like alignments, tire rotations, oil changes – smaller, low cost services that won’t bust your budget. Using gift certificates means they have to return to your store, giving you future opportunities to sell them more.

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What do you need to have a rewards program? A few hundred dollars invested in designing and printing special Performance Customer Rewards Club cards is all it takes. Your sales staff should then make sure to tell prospective wheel customers of the offer, and use it to push the sale.

Being successful in the performance market is tough. It takes a lot of study and focus to stay on the so-called “cutting edge,” but performance customers – if treated right – can become among your most loyal, biggest spending clients. All it takes is a little imagination, the right products and the right attitude.

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