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The Four Types of Aftermarket Outside Sales Professionals

By Tom Easton

Essential Action Design Group logged more than 2,000 observations of face-to-face sales calls made by aftermarket outside sales people in the automotive, fleet and PBE channels. The firm used that information to paint a picture of the four types of sales professionals in the aftermarket.
Type 1: Low Price Lou
This type of salesperson is very likable and a consistent worker. They make a lot of customer visits (high number of sales calls per week). They produce little or no significant increase in their assigned accounts’ monthly purchases. They always have a few accounts that increase their purchases — however they are unearned increases.  

Their mindset: They are not making excuses. In their mind these are not “excuses”; they feel their “excuses” are actually “valid reasons” why their customers do not buy more. They often play the blame game. “Competitors have lower prices and/or the competition does everything better than us.”

Their approach:  “I could get this account’s business if we lower our prices.”

Their proposed business plan for their company: We should be “The Low Price Leader”

Their bay-side manner:  “Need anything?” They listen a little, talk even less. They ask no important questions. Their energy, actions, aptitude and attitude communicates, “I am here; I have to get on the road to my next stop.”

Their call report entries: ORLY is $2 cheaper on belts; NAP is 39 cents per gallon cheaper than we are. Our timing belt kits are overpriced. Some of this sales person’s call report entries are just the account’s name to prove that they made the “stop.”

(At type one; an employer has more of a price mystery shopper rather than a salesperson on their payroll.)

Type 2 Friendly Freddie: These types of salespeople are dedicated goodwill ambassadors. They are strong on relationships. They are good at customer maintenance tasks and service (stock checking, core and defective returns). Very consistent in making their sale calls. Has favorite customers, and will do almost anything for these customers. Their assigned accounts produce low to moderate annual purchase increases, mostly produced through their favorite accounts with some increase coming from outlier generic unearned growth.

Their mindset: “People buy from people” If the customer likes me they will buy from ME. They believe the customer is always right, and they will take the customer’s side in all situations. Feels (believe) they work for the customer not their employer. Their core belief is; “Us against them!”  (Us, is the salesperson and customer; them, is the store/company that pays this salesperson’s salary).

Their approach:  Knows more about fishing / baseball / football / hockey or racing than replacement parts. Has a new joke, hunting story, or sports scoop every week. Happy is as happy does.

Their proposed business plan for the company: “Give the customer everything he wants” (Lower prices, 5-minute delivery, unlimited paid labor claims, unlimited returns, OE pick-ups at no up-charge, no core charges, 90-day credit terms).

Their bay-side manner: Talk more than they listen. Questions asked by them tend to be non-business.

Their call report entries: I picked up four cores. Paul said store took three hours to deliver a water pump gasket. Jake is still waiting on his credit for the defective axle returned last month. Donny tried to buy a set of struts and was told by Eric that we don’t stock them or even list them.

(At type two, a company has employed a consumer advocate or public relations representative rather than a salesperson.)

Type 3 Show and Tell Mel: These salespeople are hardworking, dedicated, knowledgeable, and committed sales professionals. They possess all of the positive traits of a Type 2 salesperson, and they have excellent product knowledge. They are excellent at customer maintenance tasks and services. They are very consistent at “Show and Tell/Sell” products. They understand their commission compensation plan and are motivated by making money. They win sales contests, and are consistently in that 5 percent of the salesforce that participate and capitalize on spiffs and reward incentives. Some of their assigned accounts produce average to above average annual purchase increases, mostly produced through their sale, sale, and sale attitude. They have solid personal relationships with most accounts; have earned respect from their customers through outstanding service attitude and their technical knowledge aptitude. (They would go to the store at any time to get a part or to help a customer out of a jam). They are self-motivated and need little supervision. Thrive on praise and recognition.

Their mindset: A “no” is not rejection. In middle school they learned that if you ask enough girls to dance you will get to dance. If a customer says “no” to an item they have shown, they just say to themselves, “This customer just didn’t need what I presented. My next customer might need it.” They believe customers want to buy stuff. Customers need to buy the stuff we have for sale. It is my job to show them new or special products.

Their approach:  Show, tell, and sell. Know your customer, know your product.

Their proposed business plan for the company: “We need more offerings!” More programs, more promotions, more contests, more POS for the customer, more bay banners, more products. Why don’t we sell tow trucks, snowmobiles, guns and ammo, jet skies, bulk oil? Our customers buy them.

Their bay-side manner: Talk twice as much as they listen. They are quick to answer questions asked by the customer. The sales questions they ask customers tend to be “closed” factual simple informational questions. These sales people have a self-centered agenda, however they are always available to offer technical expertise and help to a technician.

Their call report entries: I picked up four cores, and sold case of hand cleaner. Sold two cases of hand cleaner. Sold one case of hand cleaner. Wrote filter stock order and sold six cases of hand cleaner. Signed everyone in the shop up for the advanced A/C clinic, they will order hand cleaner when they run out of stuff they are using.

(Type 3 salespeople are often 10-year members / recipients of the company’s “President’s Club” honor and are often one of the highest paid salespeople in the company.)

Type 4 RITA; Respected, Involved, Trusted, Adviser: These salespeople possess all the positive attributes of Type 2 and Type 3 salespeople, plus they have achieved the status of trusted business adviser with most of their customers. Their customers recognize and appreciate the value this expert brings to their business. These sales professionals fully understand that gaining a customer’s allegiance and loyalty requires hard work, care, and attentiveness. They constantly build and refine the process for delivering extraordinary value to their customers. They know and understand each of the key performance indicators and metrics of their customer’s business. They know the “profit” drivers and robbers within their customer’s business. They also realize that each customer’s allegiance and loyalty is very important, not just for their personal earnings (commissions), but as an engine of profitability for their employer. They have very few customers that purchase less than ten different product categories monthly. With their top quartile customers, the company (store) that they represent is first call/first click on thirty plus different product categories monthly. Their assigned accounts consistently produce above average annual purchase increases; resulting diametrically from this sales person’s abilities to accomplish receptivity from the customer for the additional product categories his/her company offers while helping to increase the customer’s usage of these products. They maintain excellent “notes” about each targeted account and the people that work at these accounts. They need little to no supervision, require little praise or recognition from management, set aggressive personal sales goals annually.

Their mindset:  “My job is to help each of my customers improve their business financial outcomes.” My knowledge, and my company’s products, services, and expertise are the deliverables inherent to my customer’s continued improvement process and business success.

Their approach:
 IPO: Inquire, Profile, Observe. They target the correct existing customers, and then target the precise product categories within each of those customers that he/she wants their store to become the first call supplier. These sales pros work methodically gaining acceptance of one product category, then another product category, and then another product category as they continue to build the customer’s allegiance and loyalty.

Their proposed business plan for the company:  To maximize our service-profit chain, we all must work together to leverage the interrelationships between customer satisfaction, our employees’ capabilities and our company’s profitability. Loyal customers buy more of a diverse product mix from us and are willing to pay a little more, this will increase our revenues, plus our company doesn’t have to spend as much on delivery or on new customer acquisition and marketing. Increased sales and decreased costs equal more profits for my company.

Their bay-side manner: They listen twice as much as they talk. At each customer’s facility they have established listening and observation posts. They have a customer-centered agenda, “How can I help you be more productive, profitable and successful?” They are genuine in their concern for their customer’s business operation. Business owners, managers, and technicians accept this sales person’s business and technical aptitude and caring attitude.

The “situation” and “implication” questions asked by these professionals helps illuminate (in the customer’s mind) the competitive product’s minor imperfections that with time evolve into clear problems, difficulties, or dissatisfaction now acknowledged by the customer. The type-4 salesperson avoids the price driven sale by focusing on the customer’s improved efficiency, productivity, reputation, bay-turn time, car count, reduced operating costs, lean initiatives, and with fleet customers reducing their cost-per-mile. The seriousness of the customer’s “implied or explicit” problem outweighs the small incremental cost of the change to the product category solution offered by and available from this salesperson’s company.

Their call report entries:
Returns handled and noticed a CBA alternator marked “Def” for return to Otto’s Warehouse. Jason said car count was up by three last month but total revenue was down. Max mentioned they use a different supplier for import rads than domestics (more info next week). Cecil is frustrated with fuel pump jobs; thinks they have lost money on the last four jobs, have not used our pumps. John has agreed they will use only our calipers. Mark said the last two PS pumps they got from us WERE quieter than the ones they had been using, changing to us for all pumps. Mike said they would try our gloves.

(Type 4 salespeople are usually the highest paid salesperson in the company. They are patient, persistent, and consistent in delivering “new” business from existing customers; they understand you can win a game once in awhile with a single big play, but you win more games with solid plays every time. They make great mentors or coaches for new salespeople, demonstrating a perfect balance of aptitude and attitude).

Tom Easton is a senior partner with Essential Action Design Group. Contact him at or (239) 791-8325.

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