To boost truck tire sales, dealers need to get back to the basics of selling, which means talking about what the tire is and does rather than focusing on price, a speaker at the recent World Tire Expo said.
Years ago, when the industry began shifting to radials from bias tires, dealers understood and successfully sold the advantages of radials, even though they were significantly higher priced, said Don Streiff, national manager, training and development for Bridgestone/Firestone's North American Commercial Tire Sales Group.
``Nowadays, we have nothing to compare the radial to so we've quit selling value and we're selling price,'' he said during his seminar, ``How to increase commercial tire sales.''
``So now we have a commodity in trucks tires-they're round, black and hold air,'' he added.
But there are differences between today's radial truck tires, Mr. Streiff said, and tire dealers need to understand and sell those differences to fleets-along with the services their dealerships offer-if they want to boost commercial tire sales. This means knowing about and being able to explain differences in a tire's tread application, such as tread depth, casing integrity, including retreadability, and performance, taking into account treadwear and fuel efficiency.
As an example of selling the basics, Mr. Streiff said that while most truck tires have steel belts, some have three and others use four.
``If you can't explain the difference , the buyer will see no difference and won't pay more,'' he said.
Mr. Streiff also advised dealers to be aware of changes taking place at the buyer level. Today, many tire dealers, when working with a fleet about purchasing tires, may not deal with the maintenance manager, he said. Instead, it's a financial person who's doing the buying and selling.
This person may be a sophisticated buyer but isn't necessarily an expert in the tire business, Mr. Streiff said. ``Our job as sales people is to educate them.''
Another change is buying habits. Now fleets are more cost conscious and buy tires as needed. But this can work to the dealer's advantage, he said, noting it's easier to sell an upgrade on 16 tires than it is on 40 where the cost exposure is greater.
``We're letting that type of buyer intimidate us,'' he said. This is where ``salespeople blow it,'' because they don't get many opportunities to sell. ``But the nice part about selling to a sophisticated buyer is they will buy value,'' he said.