By Allen Markowitz and Allan Gerber
Today, your competitor is more aware of your company’s strengths and weaknesses than ever before. Each day, news about your company is released either by word of mouth, counter or sales personnel, even management talking to customers or sales representatives and yes, let’s not forget the Internet. Whether the information (or mis-information) is fact or fiction it happens and thus the telephone chain begins: “Steve, did you hear what XYZ auto parts is doing?” You the counterperson have to handle the inevitable inquiry from customers or potential customers. What do you do or not do to confirm, deny or just ignore?
In the early 1980s, we opened a new location and the market was extremely competitive. Three established auto parts stores were located within a mile of our store. Soon after opening, we received a call from a potential customer, upon answering the phone, the person on the other end started the conversation with, “I was told by your competition not to buy from you.” Great first introduction!
Rather than retort in anger, the reaction was simple, “May I help you? Do you need something now? Can I send you the item?” This new potential customer was surprised as he did not expect that reply. Again, we asked, “do you need something now and can we send you the item?” This time the reply was, “… you know I do need …” and, “yes send it right over.”
That simple phone call started a business relationship that led to a friendship, which still exists today. This is one instance of how a negative statement by a competitor can have positive results. Each day, we wanted to thank our competition for opening the door to new business. This store still exists today and is thriving.
Every situation is different; many times it may be a pricing issue as your competitor is selling a part for less than you are. The customer is telling you they want to buy it from you, but they want the item for less. How do you satisfy the customer, make the sale and still make a reasonable profit? Do you immediately meet or beat the competition’s price? Do you say, “let me check into that I will call you back in five minutes?” Do you say, “hold on, let me check and see what I can do?” Or do you just ignore the customer’s request and hope the price issue goes away along with the customer?
This is where the trained counter person comes into play. You must be well-versed on all of the benefits that your company offers every customer. We have all been in price situations where a competitor is selling an item for less but does not have it in stock. Obviously, we have it in stock and are higher-priced, how many times have you said to a customer, “I could be cheaper, too, and not have it.”
However, you do have the part needed, now, at this point you need to review with your customer that by paying a small amount more, he can get the car out and get the next job in, which will make him a good deal more money than the few cents extra he paid for your part.
Most of the time it is really all about service, not price.
The common solution to handle competitive issues is communication with employees, customers and suppliers. When something is said, think before you answer, but yes, give an answer.
Allen Markowitz and Allan Gerber operate Auto Biz Solutions, which provides training, marketing, management and business consulting services to both the automotive jobber and independent repair shop.
For more information, go to: www.autobizsolutionsllc.com or e-mail [email protected].