The parts department has advantages over every other department. The parts department is the only department that does not require its customers to actually come to the dealership. Repeat sales can be made with greater frequency than any other department. These two facts make the parts department the only department, which can increase sales significantly, in a relatively short period of time.
You have prepared yourself. You have followed your plan. Your inventory is organized, and your personnel are well trained. You and your employees are motivated and eager for more business. Sales can now be made to those extra customers; the ones who never see you. These are your wholesale garage and body shop accounts. Here is my secret for increasing those sales:
Ask for their business!
You can increase this area of your business just by asking for it. Any program of phone calls, post cards, or visits will be successful if you just keep at it. Unless a shop is completely satisfied with their current supplier, they will give you a chance. Very few shops are completely happy with all of their suppliers. The reason is that most dealers do not have a good wholesale attitude. Your competition will, by comparison, be lazy, untrained, and unappreciative of their customers. Most of these shops will be willing to give you a chance. Remember, however, you cannot disappoint a new customer and expect him to come back. You must be ready for their business before you ask for it.
In most cases the only contact with this customer is over the phone. Your “best” counterperson must be the one who answers these calls. A smile in the voice, knowledge of the inventory, and years of experience will get that customer and keep him calling back. Your service is more than just the call, however. Your inventory and your delivery must back up your sales. Everything must work together, to give the customer an experience that is unmatched, elsewhere.
Build on your customer base. Research shows in all areas that keeping your old customers happy is the best way to increase your overall sales. A major reason for my success was keeping down customer “churn.” In a year and a half, I only lost one customer, and that person valued price over service. Service is your selling point, not price. Giving away your product is not the way to increase profits.
Stay in touch with all of your customers. Use a customer contact plan that suits your customers’ needs. Remember, your typical independent garage or body shop is busiest in the mornings and late afternoon; starting and ending the day’s work. Time your calls so you do not interrupt your customers’ day. Call every customer you have not heard from in over two weeks. Tell him you are calling to make sure he’s completely satisfied. He will appreciate your consideration and your concern.
Larry Williams is a former parts manager and consultant with national awards and over 40 years of experience in creating profitable departments. He can be reached at [email protected].
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