By Jeff Sheets
Since David Letterman left late night television, we no longer have his “Top 10 lists” to enjoy, so I thought I would try to fill the void with 10 tips (5 each) split up between sales and marketing. My hope is that this will give you a simple place to start this season by making sure you do the most important things first. Sometimes, you can get so caught up in trivial items that mean so little that you forget the big picture, which is getting people into your dealership and selling them something that is either in your inventory or service department. Your business is dependent on doing this well, so hopefully these tips will help you see things that might be applicable to your dealership.
#5 Be creative: I say this a lot, but take a chance and find a new way to market yourself. One thought: I like things that tie an OPE business to weather. When it rains, snows, floods, storms, etc., make sure you are mentioned as much as possible. Obviously, there are 1,000 ways to be better in marketing, but try one new thing this year.
#4 Be simple: Have a clear message that anyone can understand. Sometimes, being small is an advantage. In that case, “We remember your name!” might be a way to make sure that customers know you will treat them better than larger outlets. If you are going to do something like this, your staff needs to refer to people by their name. If they forget, give the customer something free. Whatever message you choose, make sure it is very easy to remember and replicate.
#3 Be different: Don’t just do what everyone else does. Sometimes, that means stepping out of your comfort zone. An example might be finding a new way to get customers in your store with some public relations idea. I have suggested blood drives, food drives and any other way to help your community and get people into your business for a new reason.
#2 Be competitive: How can you do something that will make you stand out from your competition? What is it that you do better than anyone else? Find it, and use it to your advantage. Maybe your turnaround in your service department is less than a week. Make sure your customers know!
#1 Be professional: Pay people to help you. Things like Search Engine Optimization (SEO), website development, online/media ads, and public relations require some sort of expertise, and very few owners have the time or ability to do them. Don’t allow something to be done halfway. It is your reputation as a business involved in these strategies, and having great marketing professionals in the fold makes you look good.
When getting down to the basics of marketing, the goal is to get as many people to see your marketing efforts and to have them take action by either buying in person or online. Obviously, there is an area where most of your business comes from, and you need to pay attention that you aren’t marketing in areas where you will get little return for your investment. I like what American Inventor John Romero says about marketing: “In marketing, I’ve seen only one strategy that can’t miss — and that is to market to your best customers first, your best prospects second, and the rest of the world last.”
#5 Be passionate: If you aren’t excited about what you are selling, how can your customers get excited about it. You need to know why all the products you are selling make your customers’ lives easier, and that comes through using them. Many times, it is hard to sell or see the advantage if you haven’t been involved with the product or service in some way. Make sure you are doing all you can to know your product well in all aspects, so that you know why it will fulfill your customers’ needs.
#4 Be concise and direct: Make sure that you are not complicating the sales presentation. The fewer words, the better, and make sure that you are asking questions and listening, so that you can tailor what product or service is best for each customer. If you don’t ask questions, then you may never know the true need.
#3 Be closing early and often: Asking for the sale is the hardest part for many salespeople. I know some salespeople that do trial closes right from the beginning, so that if customers are prepared to buy based on their own research, they don’t get in the way of the sale. Having watched a lot of selling in OPE dealerships, I have seen salespeople so interested in showing their knowledge, they forget to ask for the sale!
#2 Be fun: Humor can be a way to relax a customer. Find creative ways to make the sales presentation fun and light. I think people appreciate a little light-hearted conversation to make the process less intense. Obviously, there is a balance here that needs to be maintained.
#1 Be better: A lot of salespeople are great at what they do and have a natural ability to sell, but they also can learn how to handle difficult customers and sell people who don’t respond to their natural abilities. That comes through training and a desire to be better at the profession.
Selling is really an art more than a science, but anyone who sells in an outdoor power equipment dealership needs to do it professionally. I suggest that those who have demonstrated a natural ability to sell, go to classes designed to help them develop their skills. As an owner, you have an advantage in that people love to buy from you because they know you will take care of them, but even you could use sales skills training. I’m reminded of this by the following quote from Chris Murray in his book The Extremely Successful Salesman’s Club: “Embrace the fundamentals like the closest of friends, for they will be the foundation of your future success.”
Your marketing and sales efforts must be coordinated. Your salespeople need to know what the marketing efforts are and how they should process the customers based on that plan. I would suggest looking at these plans in increments, and I think quarterly is best. What are you doing in the first quarter, second quarter, etc., and how are you changing what you are doing based on the way you are marketing your business? As with all efforts in your business, there has to be a plan in place or you will be spending money and not getting the results you had hoped for. You are coming up to the most pivotal part of your season, and knowing where you are headed in these areas, will make you successful. I hope this article motivates you to make sure that you have given a tune-up to your marketing and sales areas. Your success depends on doing both of these things very well. I’ll leave you with the following quote from marketing expert Laura Lake: “Without marketing, you would not have prospects or leads to follow up with, but yet without a good sales technique and strategy, your closing rate may depress you. Marketing and sales should work together simultaneously.” Do your best in both of these areas to make your business the best it can be.
Jeff Sheets is the founder and owner of OPE Consulting Services. Whether a business is thriving or struggling to survive, Sheets’ rich experience in both the corporate and not-for-profit sectors allows him to partner with business owners to customize unique strategies for their needs. For the past nine years, he has worked extensively with hundreds of outdoor power equipment dealers to create best practices in business structure, personnel management and financial profitability. For more information, he may be contacted at email@example.com or (816) 260-5430. You can also follow him on Twitter @opeconsult, connect with him on LinkedIn, and visit his website at www.opeconsultingservices.com.