- Author: Noah Rickun
- Subject Matter: Management
- Issue: Increasing sales
It’s that time of year again. You know, the time when the kids go back to school, and you’re supposed to go back to work. Not that you weren’t working all summer, but odds are you slacked off a bit because the weather was too tempting and your kids too demanding.
So what’s your plan? What will you do to maximize your sales opportunities during the remaining 68 business days of 2014?
I’ll get you started. These are the things you should be thinking about if you want to make the most of this year:
- Your attitude. A great attitude doesn’t guarantee success, but a lousy attitude pretty much causes failure. Now’s the time to take a good, hard look at yourself and to determine whether you’re setting the best example you can for your staff. Get to your shop with a smile and be the guy or girl who gives everyone a lift. Make them laugh, make them smile and give them an environment in which it feels good to work their tails off.
- Your approach. If it doesn’t start right, it won’t end right. Lift up your chin and get excited about the remainder of the year. It’s not, “I’m going to do things differently in 2015.” It’s: “I’m going to do things differently right now. I’m going to give it my best, and I’m going to go hard from this moment forward.”
- Customer loyalty. Your present customer base is your best chance for immediate sales and growth. Repeat business is so much easier to get than new business. Your current customers already know you, they already spend their money with you, they already trust you. Be sure you’re doing everything you can to serve them in ways that make them want to come back for more. You’ve fixed one of their cars. Maybe their spouse or child or parent or neighbor has another.
- Your commitment to fixing the problem. Customers come to you because they have a problem. You’ve heard about needs vs. wants, and you’ve decided you are clearly in the need business. Nobody wants a new transmission (unless you’re in the high-performance niche), and certainly nobody wants a check engine light or a clunking noise or brakes that don’t stop the car. So you have to be totally focused on fixing the problem. It starts with the car’s mechanical symptom, but it goes beyond that to the real problem your customer is experiencing. Their real problem is that they can’t get their kids to soccer practice without their car, or they can’t do their job without their car, or they can’t get home from their road trip. Yes, you have to fix the car. But you also have to fix the customer. Help them in every aspect and you win.
- Referrals. Remember, it’s earn, not ask. Odds are if you’re not earning enough referrals, it’s because you aren’t doing well in #4 above. Or that your customers don’t perceive you as trustworthy, memorable or “a good deal.” A referral is the ultimate indicator of a customer’s feelings about you. No referral = no good.
- Your staff levels. Got enough technicians? Got too many? It can be tough sometimes to balance things properly. Too many people on the payroll, and you don’t make any money. Too few, and you deliver cars late. Now is a great time to analyze your crew and make sure things make sense.
- Your staff morale. If they aren’t the happiest people on the planet, do something about it. Make sure everyone is excited about coming to work, about serving customers and about doing their best. Have a contest. Give them something to celebrate. Get together outside of work hours and experience something together – a ball game (either in person or on TV) can be a great bonding experience. Get their families together and have a picnic. Do something for the community together. Volunteer. Run a race. Walk a race. Just do something to make sure everyone is feeling good about working for you.
- Your staff performance. Got rock stars or got slackers? Either help them or fire them. Otherwise, you end up with what you put up with.
- Your follow-up. I challenge you to personally call every single FTA (failed to authorize) for the next 30 days. What happened? What could your manager or service writer have done differently that would have swayed the customer toward authorizing the repair? Don’t take your employee’s word for it – it’s never his fault. If you listen to him, your prices are too high, the customer didn’t have any money, they decided to trade it in and their dog ate the RO. You’ll never hear the real reason unless you ask the customer yourself – and you might even make a sale in the process. Worst case, you learn what to do next time.
- Your marketing strategy. If it starts and stops with the yellow pages, you lose. What are you doing to get noticed? What are you doing to stay top-of-mind? Hint: Direct mail is not dead. Email is not dead. Phone books are not dead. All of it works. Understanding how they work, and how to make them work for you, is the key. Your strategy has to include the right mix of print and digital, offline and online, and outbound and inbound.
- Your social-media strategy. In case you’re wondering, social media isn’t going anywhere. It’s here to stay. And it’s time you went all in. Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and Instagram are the bare minimums. Get involved. Now.
- Your lobby. Is it clean? Is it fun? Is it time to paint the walls, change furniture or add a coffee machine? Customer comfort goes a long way, but so does creating a space that your staff can be proud of. Sometimes a change of a physical space (even a minor, inexpensive one) can create an impactful emotional change within your employees.
- Your willingness to try something new. If you change nothing, nothing changes. Need I say more?
Making the most of this year is about all that and more. I’ve probably missed a few, so please feel free to chime in and share with me your best ideas for making the rest of this year a whopping success.
Noah Rickun, aka Captain Reman, is the vice president of sales & distribution at ETE Reman. An aftermarket veteran, Captain Reman is known for sharing his sales, business and customer-service knowledge weekly through the e-newsletter Reman U.