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Are You The ‘Go-To’ Store?

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By Allen Markowitz and Allan Gerber

As we start working our way into 2014, a few things come to mind that deserve mention. The first involves our inventory levels. You know, those thousands of part numbers we have on the shelf?

We always believed in the philosophy that you could not sell from an empty shelf. However, it is challenging to think that our professional customer generally expects us to have every part in stock (on the shelf) even though they do not yet know whether or not they need it. 

Today, with the continued growth of new car models and technology, parts proliferation has become not only a bigger challenge, but also a good deal more expensive. Fortunately, today’s computer programs fairly accurately dissect and direct us toward those new parts that will have the quickest failure rates and thus become our first sales for the newer cars. 

While we may hesitate to invest our inventory dollars in parts that are for the current model year, let’s not forget that the filters, new-style lighting and brakes are usually the first to go. Having these late-model items in stock contributes toward making you the go-to store in your neighborhood.

Internet buying, as popular as it is, will not replace the value of a local jobber who has the part on the shelf and is immediately available for a technician who has a car on the lift. Even in the retail arena, while the Internet is playing a bigger part, have you ever had to return a starter purchased online? Not as easy as going to the local parts store and simply getting the right part the first time.

Another thought on making your store that “go-to store.” I ran into an interesting situation the other day involving a jobber counterman who told one of his professional customers that they did not have the part needed in stock. The technician then called a second jobber who, while they did not have the part either, looked up the part number in the first jobber’s brand and gave it to the technician. The technician then re-called the first jobber, gave the part number and guess what? They had the parts in stock all along. The technician actually told the first jobber he should hire the second parts pro.

Now, we all know how difficult it is to find competent technical counter professionals. By that, I mean those counter professionals who care about what they do, believe in the product and actually use the products they sell. 

Put yourself in your customers’ place. Has your company ever put you on hold? Building and sustaining a viable business sometimes requires waiting on many customers at the same time, while making them think they are the only one.

Knowledge is a powerful tool as long as you know what to do with it. The only answer is that as a counter professional you have to know your stuff. 

Training is as important for counter professionals as it is for techs — updates on methods to speak to women, phone etiquette, better ways to place customers on hold and on and on.

It takes all of this for your store to become that, “go-to store.” You know the one that is referred to as, “go there they will know what you need”?

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.

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