It can be a smooth and gratifying experience: The salesperson makes an informative and attentive pitch, the product is just what the customer wants, the price seems right and the deal is closed. This waltz of trained capitalism creates the kind of good will that keeps customers happy. Happy customers are less likely to switch to a competitor, jump to new products or seek a lower price.
Every customer is special and wants to be treated as such. He has his own unique personality, wants and reasons for buying.
But the dancing skills of retail tire salespeople seem to be declining. Instead of determining the customer's wants and needs and then selling the tires that best suit these requirements, we are becoming order takers and discounters-pitching the ``lowest prices,'' ``biggest discounts,'' or ``the best deal.''
Marketing experts estimate that no more than 3 in 10 salespeople know the basics of their trade, and the pool is getting diluted with displaced workers seeking new jobs but not necessarily the chance for a long career.
How can the customer be properly served if the producer of a product or service doesn't know enough about it to begin with? Whatever happened to the old-fashioned sales spiel by a trained salesman based on the features and merits of the product?
Many tire firms, particularly the smaller ones, devote little or no time to sales training-expecting employees to learn by experience.
This may work for a time. But once the typical company grows to include more than a handful of people it becomes harder to maintain any sort of consistency in meeting customers' needs unless a formal training program has been initiated. You cannot expect employees to be professional salespeople when they are not given the benefit of professional training.
No matter how excellent a product may be, no one can benefit until the salesman enters the picture and begins to sell it. Without him the system can not work.
Many tire dealers and retreaders still wrongly believe training is a ``one-shot'' deal. The limited training they espouse consists of a brief discussion of the product's features, operating the cash register and how to write up the customer's order.
Usually there is no formal instruction on how to make a professional presentation and-most important-how to close the sale. But that's another story.
As a consequence, salespeople often lack the necessary knowledge to convince the customer of the tire's value and what it can do for him. It's an odd fact, experts say, but many presentations fizzle because the salesperson doesn't try to close the deal using the standard techniques.
Too many salespeople are unfamiliar with ways to convert a question or objection into a reason to buy.
There is always a need for employee training, and this is especially true in today's marketplace, as customers are becoming more knowledgeable about tires. They are reluctant to spend hard-earned dollars on products offered by salespeople who don't have enough product knowledge to answer their questions.
Cliches such as, ``May I help you?'' are generally considered an ineffective opener. It is better to ask: ``How may I help you.'' One approach calls for a quick turn-off response like, ``I'm just looking.'' The other calls for an explanation. A salutation approach such as ``Good morning'' or ``Good afternoon'' is also acceptable. However, the greeting does not focus the customer's attention on the merchandise-the primary objective.
The vocabulary of the salesperson should include words and phrases understood by the average customer rather than the professional jargon used by technicians. When customers don't understand what you've said, they usually refrain from asking you to repeat it, as they don't want to reveal their lack of understanding.
It is also quite risky for a salesperson to assume the customer can visualize the value in the tire they are demonstrating. Customers who may only buy tires every three to five years might not see the built-in features and benefits.
You have to display your merchandise if you expect to sell new or retreaded tires. Customers expect to see clean, attractive samples of the product they are seeking. They are easily turned off by dirty, cluttered displays.
If you sell retreaded tires, display them in a prominent location, not as second-class merchandise stuck away in a back corner.
Customers judge your company by the salespersons you keep. If they are friendly and interested in keeping customers happy, then buyers feel your firm will be, too.
Few things are more impressive than an employee equipped with the knowledge and ability to help customers solve their problems. Conversely, any employee lacking the knowledge or willingness to help almost guarantees lost customers.
The objective is to sell customer benefits. ``Don't sell me things. Sell me freedom from worry and low cost per mile.''