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Selling Every Customer


Recently this writer had the opportunity to address the dealers of one of the major power equipment manufacturers. The question of the day dealt with the various individuals that are a part of the typical dealership and what their responsibilities are. The concern that was frequently debated was, "Who in the dealership is the salesperson? Who really is the individual that makes the sale to our customers?"

While we were together for the entire day, it did not take long for this group to agree on the answer to the first question.

Perhaps it was Bill Sharp, a noted speaker and writer whose experience in this industry goes back many years, who said it best with his trade mark acronym, "ACES". ACES stands for, "Around Customers Everyone Sells". While truer words were never spoken, there are too many times when our staff members do not remember this or perform like this. Then again in any scenario, when our staff members do not perform as we want them to, the responsibility for this inaction falls back on the shoulders of the management and owners.

Maybe not when this inaction is an infrequent occurrence. But when an individual continually fails to remember ACES, or chooses to think that stocking the shelf with parts is more important than taking care of the customer at hand or the customer that is on the other end of the line as the phone rings, then surely the responsibility for this problem falls on the shoulders of management.

In the cartoons, there was the character that noticed a problem. Looking at the problem, the character said, "Maybe if I ignore it, it will go away." There may have been a few too many people in a management position that saw this cartoon and mistakenly thought this statement was an appropriate plan of action.

Sometimes we have hoped that the problem employee will just decide to take another job. Maybe they will decide to "straighten up and fly right". If it continues to be a problem, we can perhaps solve it by simply not asking that person to do that particular task any more. The unfortunate side to this action (or is it inaction?) on our part, is that the other employees have been noticing this scenario. As they observe, the lesson that many of them learn is that poor performance is tolerated. Of course, this can severely damage morale and the chances a business has of building a great sales and service team.

Once we had agreed that the answer to the question of, "Who is the salesperson?" is everyone, we turned our efforts to the second question.

"Who really is the individual that makes the sale to our customer?" Surely, everyone will agree that the answer has to begin with our sales staff. After all, these are the individuals that are working one on one with customers, whether it be on the sales floor of the dealership or out in the field with some of our commercial customers. These are the individuals that have hopefully been schooled on sales techniques. They are the ones that have seen the demonstrations provided by the manufacturers, showing how next year's model has improved over the model that has been offered this year.

There is also the support people that are a part of the team at a dealership - those that answer the phone, make deliveries of units, order as well as sell parts, and all of the other tasks that are necessary to make a business go. It even includes the person working in the office that is making the call to a delinquent account, trying to make a collection in a way so that we can continue to do business with this company as well as get those dollars into our checking account.

There is that one group within our dealership that we have intentionally left for last. It is the group that our discussions on that day concurred were the individuals that are most responsible for sales - the service department.

But didn't we just state that the sales department was the one responsible for sales. True, but their responsibility really excels in two places. One is that initial sale with a new customer. These new customers have no track record with our business, although they may have decided to consider our dealership based upon what they have heard about us through other customers - both those satisfied and somewhat dissatisfied with our efforts.

As the old adage states, "Anybody can sell a piece of equipment to a customer the first time. It is a true salesperson that can bring that customer back time and again". And again we look back to the service department as being that crucial tool to bring the customer back.

What we see as crucial is not in convincing the management or ownership of this idea, but that management or ownership needs to work to convince those hard working individuals in the service department that they truly are the sales team that allows the dealership to thrive as we work to get customers to return.

As the service writer, or technician is invited to see themselves as the critical ingredient in the formula, we need to share with them some ideas that can enhance their efforts on our behalf. While many of them are squeamish about talking with the customer, simply provide a verbal nudge by explaining that you are not asking them to sell equipment, but to explain the equipment and what they do.

The direction that you need to give them would include pointers such as their not making comments such as, "This manufacturer has always had problems with their cutting decks", or "I don't know why the sales guys tell customers that".

Instead, a service technician can add a personal note to the customer on the service ticket or asks the customer to see them when they pick up their equipment. And then telling the customer that they see a pattern in the way they are using the equipment that will lead to an eventual problem, can go a long way to cementing that relationship.

What if we can place a customer in a situation that when they are ready to buy a new piece of equipment, they are concerned about who will fix it if they don't buy it at your dealership? What if the customer walks into the sales floor and tells the sales person that your technician or service writer has suggested they buy a certain piece of equipment because it is reliable?

Then, the technician or service writer who thinks they have no sales skills has truly done the job that goes beyond what you hired them for. Now the service department has truly done what service stands for: Selling Every Returning Valued Individual Customer - Everyday!

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This article is copyrighted by Tom Shay and Profits Plus Solutions, who can be reached at: PO Box 1577, St. Petersburg, Fl. 33731. Phone 727-464-2182. It may be printed for an individual to read, but not duplicated or distributed without expressed written consent of the copyright owner.

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