Anyone frustrated in trying to convince buyers that the cheapest price is no guarantee of the lowest tire operating cost should appreciate the satisfaction of Paul Keinonen, who now enjoys the retreading business of the Cleveland Public School System after an educational effort spanning two and a half years. For Mr. Keinonen, a commercial sales rep for Canton, Ohio-based Ziegler Tire & Supply Co. Inc., the Cleveland school district's competitive bidding set-up not only posed a twofold challenge, but it inevitably provided a lesson for all dealers about how persistence can pay off in the long run.
First, he had to demonstrate that his Bandag retreads represented better value than those the system had been buying at $20 apiece less.
Second, the financially strapped school system had to be persuaded that the resulting increase in its retreading expenditures would ultimately pay off in longer service and reduced outlays for school bus tires.
In order to persuade skeptical officials, Mr. Keinonen asked the district to test Ziegler Tire's retreads against those of the competition for two years.
He had the company's retreads installed on a representative number of vehicles and placed hubodometers on all the district's buses to provide a means of quantifying the results. Then he visited the district every six months to compare his tires against the competitor's-documenting his findings with charts and photographs.
The results convinced Irv Sobul, assistant director of transportation/maintenance, who said Ziegler's Bandag retreads yielded almost double the mileage of the retreads the district previously was using.
Armed with the documentation, Mr. Sobul went to the school board recommending that Ziegler Tire's bid be accepted. The board complied-and Mr. Keinonen got the contract to equip some 600 buses or 2,400 wheel positions for the 1995-96 school year.
The moral of Mr. Keinonen's story is that value often becomes the determining factor even in a price-driven market. Selling strictly on price ``will kill you'' in the long run, he asserts. ``You'll eventually lose the customer.''