Tire dealers and service shop operators should capitalize on the impact of personal sales contact and follow-ups.
Experience has shown that a concerned human being, reaching out to a sales prospect, may be the approach that garners the business.
To some readers, this advice is so basic that it sounds trite. However, my field experience continually shows me that the proverbial "personal touch" is anything but obvious at some automotive service facilities.
First of all, I encounter owners and managers who gripe that their service bays aren't as busy as they used to be. Or, that their bays aren't as full as these bosses would prefer.
When you ask how things are going, a common response is, "Business could be better."
Mind you, this isn't any new phenomenon, especially if you have worked through any of the slack business periods of the last 25 years or so.
Meanwhile, there are unspoken questions that beg answers: What, exactly, are you doing to address the downturn in service activity?
Second, consider some firsthand observations of these particular service facilities.
For example suppose business requires you to visit these dealerships or shops — unannounced — on any given day. All too often, the service sales staff is taking up space rather than contributing to the better health of the business.
For example, salespeople are engrossed in their smartphones. They're playing digital games, watching sporting events, texting their spouses, etc. Or, they may be glued to computer monitors as they surf the internet for various diversions.
Some younger readers tease me for not recognizing the virtues of modern technology. But, in fact, I do.
In the old days, for instance, it was fairly easy to identify the lazy employee who was watching reruns of Oprah Winfrey or Phil Donahue. For one thing, you could observe this person watching a compact television on or near the service counter.
For another, you could hear the broadcast and therefore know the sales person wasn't engaged in worthwhile self-study of some sort.
But thanks to technology, such as personal computers and smart phones, workers can access the internet and waste time much more discretely than their predecessors did. That's progress.
Perhaps the boss has tried to promote the business. For example, he or she has blanketed the market area with mail as well as email advertisements. To me, those efforts are part of the potential solutions.
Over the years that I have authored this column, I have watched service sales professionals take a relatively aggressive but personal approach to spurring business. First and foremost, they exploit all the repair estimates that they and their co-worker already have written.
Obviously, the service counter can be a busy place. But whenever things slow down, savvy salespeople begin following up on unsold tires, maintenance and repairs. One estimate at a time, they patiently call each prospect and try to close the sale.
On the one hand, some motorists may not welcome a telephone follow-up. But for every one that does not, experience shows there are people who are impressed by — and grateful for — the personal outreach.
At this point, remember that the hallmark of small businesses is supposed to be personal service. A follow-up call on unsold service and a concerned voice exemplify a personal touch.
Suppose that over several days, you personally contact 25 prospects for whom estimates were written. Then you close the sale on five repair jobs. Wow, that's five jobs you didn't have; that means five busier bays.
Experience has shown that some potential sales languish — hang in limbo — for various reasons. When all's said and done, polite telephone follow-ups may be the most effective way to find out.