Everyone’s got a short list of ‘do’s and ‘don’t’s for their business segment; and here are mine. I don’t ordinarily make guarantees; but if your business is fielding calls and questions from customers and you sincerely want both to make a good impression and to make money, I’ll challenge you: if you’re not already following a policy that includes these simple guidelines in some form, do so, and you’ll get what you want out of what you do.
RULE #3: Know The Competition
|photo by Nick Wilson / ALLSPORT that fits the point perfectly so I used it|
I’ve heard from plenty of resellers and service providers who claim to be the only one worth any consideration in the industry. These people deny that the guy down the street has anything of value and blow off online retailers as though they’re not in ‘real’ business.
If you’re one of these, sorry; but you’re just wrong. And your competition is probably eating you for lunch. I’ve discussed this before; and I can make a strong case for concentrating on what you do best and allowing the other guys to do what they do best. You’re not so much in head-to-head competition with them anyway if you’re able to distinguish between what you do and what they do that represents a benefit to the customer in coming to you.
For example, you might sell Mercury outboards and the guy down the street sells Evinrudes. They’re not really the same thing - different technology, different availability, different support network, and so on. Not all customers are wishy-washy between the two - it’s like Ford and Chevy; they like one better than the other and know that’s what they want when they start shopping. Sometimes people change their minds. I’d say most often they don’t.
Recently I had the cable-Internet tech over to fix a problem and asked him about portable (cellular) Wifi for the boat, for when I’m away from landborne service. I told him what I’d seen at the phone store (his employer’s competitor) and he immediately acknowledged that theirs was the system to use for that. And in the same breath he added that he knew the competition did that piece of business well while his company was more focused on other stuff the competition didn’t do. I was stunned. Of all companies I’d never have expected his to admit that! - I’d more expected him to put them down. But this was actually very solid customer-service policy - well-informed, honest, and in the customer’s best interests.
So, as a first step, focus on your product lines’ customers, and emphasize your strengths to retain them; and let the strengths of the product line (and your up-to-date knowledge of it) keep them from going over to some other product line. And keep up the dialogue with that product’s suppliers to keep them doing their best for you, too!
Some questions coming from the customer may be awkward to field. But your best tactic is information - that which you possess and that which you can glean from the customer. Learn about what the customer really needs. Educate him about which features make yours so appropriate for him, explain all your dealership has to offer, and offer him your best deal including delivery, installation, and post-sale service; and let the customer decide. Avoid bad-mouthing the other guys - in fact you should readily admit and discuss their virtues. They’re not bad people over there - they’re just like you. They just sell a different product, or the same stuff in a different way, or keep different hours or use different delivery services. (If you respect them, they’ll respect you. It does happen.)
I firmly believe that everyone who truly earns it is entitled to his own share of the market. As a player in the market, focus on what you do and why it should be important to the customer. If you’re convincing (and, most of all, honest) you’ll make your sales, and deservedly. If you have to bad-mouth the competition, the customer will recognize that, probably go to the other guy, hear a very different story in a very different way, and if so you didn’t deserve that sale anyway.
If you’ve done your best and other guy wins him over anyway, find out why, embrace that information, and change what you do to reflect that. It may entail a lot of negotiation with your supplier, who may be giving you less than the best deal they can and may have plenty to suggest to you about how you sell. That might not be a fun conversation! But really, if you can’t do better with what you sell than how the other guy does with what he sells, I’ve got to wonder why you’re trying to sell it!
I can pilot you through the nuances of acknowledging the (inevitable) competition while helping you strengthen what your business does that makes you unique. Get in touch; and we'll see what we can do to bring your business to the next level.
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