Article > Operations

Sell Trust by Educating Your Staff

By Dave Zeiger

When was the last time you saw a manufacturer's rep? But with the disappearance of the rep comes the realization that product education must be a self-taught endeavor.

Another year has gone by in the aftermarket, the end of which is traditionally punctuated with its showcase extravaganza known as Automotive Aftermarket Industry Week better known as "The Show." If you're unfamiliar with this large get-together, this is the trade show at which manufacturers display what they have to offer and promote themselves to all of the movers and the shakers of the aftermarket. It's where contacts are made and relationships develop, all in anticipation of gaining a piece of the aftermarket pie.

But despite what happens in Las Vegas every November, as parts professionals, we know where the sale is really made. It's made in our store, by you and me as we go about the business of deciding what it takes to satisfy our customers.

When given a choice of brands, which one would you choose to sell? The likely choice would be the one you're most familiar with and the one in which you have the most confidence. Unfortunately, developing this confidence can be a little awkward, especially when your choice is limited to one brand, and your opinion may be coming from the success others may have had with the performance of that brand's product.

If you haven't personally used a product, how do you become the expert you're expected to be? Pulling parts off the shelf and sending them into service without having them return is a good barometer. But does that really give you the trust you need in selling a particular brand? When I reach for a part, I like to know a little bit more about the part in the box as well as the name on it. That's because my reputation is associated with that product's performance. Hasn't an upset customer ever told you that your part failed? Whether it was installed correctly or had a manufacturing flaw, it's your reputation that's on the line.

Educating yourself on the quality of the parts you sell is as important as the part itself. In the past, manufacturers would dispatch a sales representative to promote their products and company so that you could sell to your customers with pride and confidence. The sales rep would educate you on the features of their product and what separated it from other brands. This helped develop advantages for you to be more confident in selling their product and benefiting from customer brand loyalty. They would also be sure you had the most up-to-date catalog and related materials to understand and sell their products. Any problem you had with their line also became their problem, and they would work to quickly get it corrected. They were in business with you, knowing that their success was measured by your success.

Unfortunately, however, aftermarket manufacturers seem to have lost their focus on this position, or the memory of what it takes to keep the end user asking for their brand. In comparison, automotive manufacturers have discovered the retro look. By taking an old idea and re-presenting it with modern modifications, they're generating brand interest again.

Wouldn't it be refreshing to see representation like that back in the aftermarket to help you sell those products? After all, nothing makes a choice easier than the personal attention someone gives you which can help you to better understand and sell their products.

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