Talking about turning away customers who are haggling for a better price is easier in theory than actually doing it when a customer is ready to walk out of a tire dealer's door.
``That's why nobody does it,'' said Chris Bernier, sales manager at Malerba's Tyre Man in Meriden, Conn.
But Lawrence Steinmetz, a consultant with High Yield Management Inc. and a former business professor, told World Tire Expo attendees at his seminar ``How to find and retain new customers'' to stick to their guns when customers threaten to walk out over price.
For the most part, customers who are willing to spend time arguing over price don't have a sweeter deal down the street, despite their assertions, Mr. Steinmetz said. And, though they may contend price is the only issue they're looking at, customers likely have their eye on a tire dealer's inventory or service when they're taking the time to haggle, he said.
``If the customer has a sweeter deal, he doesn't need you,'' Mr. Steinmetz said.
For tire dealers, the key to hanging on to a price is to recognize when a customer is overstating a better deal, then combat the customers' techniques, Mr. Steinmetz said.
The caveat, he said, is to have other positive qualities besides an ability to crack on price. For example, dealers need exceptional service and flawless delivery systems if they're going to convince their customers to pay the best price.
The following are some reactions Mr. Steinmetz suggested salespeople could use when confronted with a price-conscious customer:
* Respond by saying ``So?'' to the customer's claim that your price is too high.
This may seem like the reaction of a teenage girl to a price complaint, but Mr. Steinmetz suggested using this simple response, which naturally begs the customer to ask the salesperson to justify the price.
At that point, he or she can point out the other positives, such as service and delivery.
* Ask ``Why not?'' if the customer refuses to pay the quoted price. This response also will lead into a discussion of why the price given is justified. Mr. Steinmetz said if the negotiating has lasted this long, it's not likely the customer is really looking at another company.
* Keep on selling by using phrases such as ``I know the price may seem high but....'' This may be a less edgy way to initiate dialog about why the price is what it is. By doing this, salespeople can move beyond price and into a discussion of selling points such as product features and other services offered.
* Use testimonials. Mr. Steinmetz suggested salespeople slip in mentions of other customers who have paid the same price. He said customers feel better about a price if they think others have accepted it as well.
Whichever strategy a salesperson uses, Mr. Steinmetz said he or she should avoid the temptation to crack. While low prices may seem an attractive competitive edge, Mr. Steinmetz said they can actually reduce sales because customers interpret low prices as a negative statement about a product or service. On the other hand, higher prices keep the integrity of a product and help generate revenue to improve service and delivery.
``You can literally increase sales by raising prices,'' he said.