Personal sales calls are the secret weapon of some thriving retail businesses. Perhaps this potentially lost art could benefit your tire dealership or service shop.
During my time writing this column, I have argued that automotive service providers are retailers.
Instead of selling food or clothing, for example, they retail automotive maintenance, repairs and tires. I also have argued that many tire dealers and service shop operators don't see themselves as retailers.
Therefore, they claim that the excellent sales and marketing ideas traditional retailers use don't apply to the automotive service world.
Another concern has been the self-appointed sales/marketing expert. This is the tire dealer or service shop owner who believes that the physical location of the business automatically imbues him or her with intimate knowledge of motorists in the surrounding neighborhoods.
So, they already know every prospect's priorities — supposedly.
However, savvy retailers have stressed the value of making as many personal visits within the local market as practically possible.
Although these are really sales calls, the most important result is gathering invaluable marketing information — highly detailed things that you may not cull from the Internet.
This includes consumers' priorities, objections and overall impressions.
For instance, I have talked to folks who run catering businesses, restaurants of all kinds and bakeries. They have described their forays into any and every open door (other businesses) they can find within their market area.
Experience shows that for every instance where someone ushers them out the door of a local business, many others welcome them.
These retailers bring the same things that auto service business people could: Snacks of all kinds, food samples, promotional coupons, key fobs, company calendars, etc.
During these casual visits, they learn things, such as the competitor who botched a wedding cake or missed the pastry delivery to the sales meeting or church social.
Or they may hear about a competitor who struggles to deliver the correct lunch order and do so on time or something close to it.
So, the boss discovers firsthand what prospects' priorities really are. Surprise, it's quality and reliability instead of the lowest price.
Likewise, savvy and aggressive auto service providers have described visiting local businesses and offering shameless attention-getters such as donuts and snacks.
They hand out traditional items such as calendars, key fobs, booklets of auto maintenance tips, etc., but they also may give people coupons for maintenance and service and/or enter people in a contest. The prizes could be oil changes for life, a set of tires, dinner at a local restaurant, sports-venue tickets, etc.
At the same time, smart bosses politely are soliciting consumers' care and worries about vehicle maintenance and repair — not to mention culling comments about the things other service facilities are NOT presently providing to them.
For example, an owner or manager may hear that people need a shuttle service to and from work. He may hear headaches because the vehicle wasn't fixed correctly the first time or that auto repair people failed to explain the other problems they found on the vehicle.
Once again, their priorities may not be the lowest price. (I'll bet that their priorities are not!)
To be fair, a business owner or manager may glean some of these concerns from social media. However, they may not.
What's more, social media cannot match the presence of a friendly face and someone showing personal interest in and concern for consumers' priorities. How do you put a dollar value on this kind of personal interaction?
Making personal visits is challenging; many people are not cut out for this task.
But in today's largely impersonal business climate, personal contact may reap rewards beyond your expectations.
By all means, readers, let me know how you are connecting with your marketplace.