By Bob Clements
“Your price is too high.” “That’s more than I can afford.” “I’ve never heard of that brand.” “How much will you give me for my old mower?”
If you are hearing such things from the prospects that are either walking into your dealerships or calling you on the phone, you are knee-deep into the selling season.
With inventories held over from last year and interest coming due, now is the time to make sure that every potential customer who walks into your dealership walks out with your equipment. Regard- less of your inventory or financial situation, last year is done and now is the time to capitalize on every sales opportunity. This article will focus on how to make the most out of every potential customer and to move equipment through your dealership to maximize your profits while at the same time reducing your inventory levels.
Let’s start with some basics. In selling, you encounter two situations on a daily basis — people who walk into your store and people who call to get pricing information. To understand selling, you must understand the importance of controlling your selling situation. Most people believe that “selling is telling.” “Let me tell you about this, let me tell you about that, let me tell you our price, let me tell you about the warranty — tell, tell, and then tell again.” To be successful in selling your equipment, you have to learn to stop telling and start asking questions. I stress to my dealers that, when it comes to selling, God gave us two ears and one mouth for a reason — you need to listen twice as much as you talk.
When potential customers call your dealership and ask, “How much is your XYZ mower?” don’t say, “Just a minute, let me get a price for you.” By them asking you a question and you responding like a trained monkey, they take control of the selling situation. Instead of saying, “Let me get that price for you,” you should say, “We are committed to getting our customers the best price possible. What dollar range do you want to stay within?” By you asking them a question, you take back control of the sale and create a dialog that potentially will have them end up in your dealership.
Whether or not you give a price over the phone is a matter of personal preference. I tell my dealers not to offer a price over the phone. For those phone callers who are persistent, I would let them know that if they are willing to bring in other prices they have gotten, then you would do whatever was possible to help them get the equipment they wanted at a price that would work for both of you.
The same holds true for potential customers who walk into your store. When you walk up, and they ask, “What’s your best price on this?” don’t give them the price. Instead, ask a question. You might say, “Let me ask you a quick question: What is there about this mower that makes you think it would be the best for what you need?” By asking a question, you take back control of the sale and stand a better chance of getting more for your equipment.
Your ability to ask questions is the key to keeping potential customers engaged in the selling process. The longer they are engaged, the higher the probability that you will close the sale. Ask questions such as follows: “What do you have now? How long have you had it? What do you like most about it? What would you like to change or improve about what you have now? Who other than yourself will be using it? Have you been to any other dealers?” With each question, you gain valuable information and build a rapport with the customer.
As much as we hope that customers will pay the asking price, it’s important that you do everything you can to get the customers who are in your store to spend their money with you and not walk out to spend it with a competitor. James Potter, owner of Potter’s Motor Company in Albany, Ga., has a saying that is right on the mark: Potential customers walk into his dealership with their money, and if they leave without buying anything from him, they have walked out with his money.
Think about it. If you have spent money to get people to walk into your dealership to buy equipment from you, and you let them walk in and out without buying, you have spent a lot of money for no reason. Your goal has to be to capture all available dollars that come through your doors. It doesn’t mean that you take whatever a potential customer offers, but you have to have a pricing strategy that gives you some flexibility.
A solid pricing strategy is a critical component of your ability to produce extreme profit for your dealership. Whether it is service, parts or wholegoods, nothing is more important than pricing yourself to be competitive in the marketplace. I am not saying to be competitive you have to offer a lower price. Actually, the opposite holds true. Since only about 15 percent of the North American population buys solely on price, you don’t want to strive to be the low-price leader in your marketplace. Keep in mind that 85 percent of the population will pay more for your equipment if you can show those people that your dealership is worth paying extra. Dealers who strive to have the lowest price are losing margins that they could be taking almost 85 percent of the time. It doesn’t take a genius to lower prices — anyone can do that. As a dealer, your goal is to charge more than your competitor, by adding value to the sale, by leveraging your total dealership.
So for most people, it’s not the equipment they will pay more for — it’s the value you as a dealer add to the equipment that makes it worth more. How do you add value? Well, it’s simple. From a customer’s perspective, there are only three things that add value: time, money and pain. Save me time, make me money, or eliminate a pain from my life. As a dealer, you have to think in those terms. You need to constantly ask yourself: “How does what we do as a dealership save the customer time, make the customer money, or take away a part of the customer’s life that is painful?” The more that you can do any of the three, the better your ability is to sell your equipment at a premium.
Hill’s Power Pro lists four pricing packages on the tag of each piece of equipment.Another way to add value is to sell the “whole dealership” when you sell your equipment. Think about this for a moment. Your dealership consists of multiple profit centers: wholegoods, parts, service and delivery. When you sell a piece of equipment, why not at least give the customer the ability to buy your “entire dealership” at the same time? We work hard with our dealers to get them to package parts, service and delivery as at least an option for customers to buy. As a dealer, you can easily create packages to sell with your equipment that are bundled combinations of parts, service and delivery with an extended service component.
Nathan and Linda Hill, owners of Hill’s Power Pro, Inc., in Tullahoma, Tenn., have done just that. We worked with them to create four levels of pricing for each piece of equipment they sell. Depending upon the package, the Hills have the ability to sell up to five years of parts, service, delivery and extended warranty for customers who are busy and don’t want to have to worry about the equipment that interests them. Using variable pricing models, every mower has a price tag with four different prices listed, starting with cash only and ending with a premium package that includes five years of parts, service, pickup and delivery. Every time that the Hills sell a package, they have pre-sold parts and labor that they won’t have to act on until some point in the future. It adds great margins to the sales and enhances cash flow immediately. Plus, it eliminates the pain for customers who are pressed for time and want their equipment in top condition, so that when they are ready to use it, it is ready to go. Remember, customers are saying, “Save me time, make me money, and eliminate my pain.”
Chilton Turf Center attracts new commercial customers by partnering with a local trailer manufacturer to offer fully equipped trailer packages.Take a moment to think about your commercial customers. What is one of their biggest headaches? Like you, it’s cash flow. Roger Smith of Chilton Turf Center in Nashville, Tenn., has put together a complete package to attract new commercial customers into his store. Working with a local trailer manufacturer, Smith has outfitted a trailer with a utility loader and attachments. By selling and financing the complete package, including the extra attachments, Smith can improve his margins and make the buying process easier for his customers. Like the Hills, Smith is adding value by offering a one-stop purchase and finance opportunity for commercial customer.
Also, with commercial customers, think about showing them how leasing the equipment will help improve their cash flow over owning it. Leasing, for most dealers, has become a thing of the past. But for commercial cutters and municipalities, it can be a much better way to manage their cash flow and budgets than actually owning. There is very little value for commercial cutters or municipalities to actually own the equipment they use. What they really want is to have new equipment every three years. By working with your commercial cutters to show the benefit of leasing equipment, you open up an entirely new world for you and them.
Bob Lawrence Jr., owner of Bob Lawrence Power Equipment in Asheville, N.C., has mastered the art of leasing equipment to his commercial and municipal customers. By leasing, he shows his customers how to guarantee they are always running new equipment and how that improves their “up time.” Plus, as Lawrence will tell you, he has the ability to sell them new equipment every three years without having to compete on price.
Yes, the selling season is in full swing. Your inventory levels are at their peak, and it’s time to capture each and every opportunity that comes through your door. You must take control of the selling situation rather than allowing the customer to control you. You need to look at all of the people who walk into your dealership as an opportunity for you to capture their money and not have them walk out with yours. Consider creating package pricing by adding parts, service and delivery as pricing options, or develop a turnkey package for your commercial cutters, using leasing as an option to reduce competitive pricing.
If you are like most dealers, you have plenty of people who come into your dealership, just not enough who buy. But you have the ability to change that immediately. If you are willing, success can be yours.
Bob Clements is the president of Bob Clements International, Inc., a consulting firm that specializes in the development of high-performance dealerships. His organization works hands on with dealerships throughout North America, helping them attain the personal freedom and financial wealth all entrepreneurs strive to achieve. For more information, contact Bob Clements at (800) 480-0737 or firstname.lastname@example.org or visit his Web site at www.bobclements.com.