Saturday Seminars Provide Tips for Improving Customer Communication, Making Sales

May 1, 2011

Saturday morning, Hotrod & Restoration Trade Show attendees gathered at the Indiana Convention Center for two business seminars hosted by SEMA’s ARMO council.

The first, “The Art of Selling,” was presented by Dick Dixon, director of the International Motorsports Alliance and a professor of automotive management and marketing at California State University, San Bernardino.

The second, “How the Internet Can Help Your Business: Internet Marketing on the Cheap,” was a panel discussion moderated by Laura Bergan with American Collectors Insurance and featuring Robert Basha with Auction123, Tyler Tanaka with CIE Studios and Eric Saltrick with Steele Rubber Products.

“The Art of Selling”

In his session, Dick Dixon asked attendees to imagine themselves at a school dance, the boys lined up against the wall on one side, the girls on the other. For a boy to get a girl to dance with him, he has to use the right approach, just like shops have to do with their customers when trying to make a sale, Dixon explained. In this hour-long session, Dixon talked about selling as a series of interactions that create relationships and lead to more sales.

“It’s critically important to understand their position,” Dixon said of customers, stressing that if a relationship is built, it’s easier to make the ask, just like at that school dance.

Selling, according to Dixon, is a knowledge exchange. Retailers can build relationships with customers by providing them with information.

“People want information and want it now,” Dixon said, suggesting that retailers provide their customers with information in a concise, descriptive way, like a newscaster would.

That newscaster style of communication can be used not just during the initial sale, but also in any follow-up, according to Dixon.

“[You] have to have the ability to communicate consistently,” he told attendees.

The Internet can be effective for follow up, but Dixon also believes in writing personal notes. Beyond communication and relationship-building techniques, Dixon offered other general business management suggestions that can have a positive impact on sales.

Dixon suggested attendees do a SWOT analysis, examining the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats for themselves, their businesses, the people they work with, their products, processes and customers. This self-analysis, he explained, will help retailers better understand who and what they are, which can improve their ability to communicate and sell.

“How the Internet Can Help Your Business: Internet Marketing on the Cheap”

The second session of the day was intended for both retailers who don’t have websites and those looking to improve the ones they do have. Moderator Laura Bergan got things started by asking the panelists to explain why it’s essential for businesses to have websites.

“The Internet is the first place people turn to for research and information,” Tyler Tanaka said.

Those online searches often result in brick-and-mortar sales for shops that have websites, but for those that don’t, “You’re conspicuous by your absence,” Eric Saltrick said.

The panelists discussed the elements a retailer should have on their website-content and a call to action. For content, Saltrick explained that a website is nothing more than a book, featuring a title, subtitle, index, preface, chapters and glossary. He showed Steele Rubber’s own homepage and the homepage for 37signals, a web application development company, as examples of this. An essential part of your website’s content needs to be the call to action, the panelists said.

“The call to action should be on every page,” Tanaka said.

List your shop’s contact information on every page so interested site visitors can get in touch with you and have a way for them to share their e-mail with you, he suggested.

The panel also discussed the importance of search engine optimization.

“It’s one thing to have a website; it’s another thing to be found on the web,” said Robert Basha.

Search engines care about content, the panelists said, suggesting that retailers regularly add fresh, pertinent content to their sites. Blogs are one way to do this; photographs and video are another. Whether you’re posting articles, photos or videos on your site, be sure to link to that content on sites like Hub Garage or Facebook because not everyone can see your content if it’s only on your website, the panelists suggested.

At the end of the hour-long session, attendees were given a web must-do list with tasks that included start planning a website if you don’t have one, get new content for your site if you have one, and install and learn Google Analytics.