Selling To Drag Racers

Dec 2, 2009

Drag racing may enjoy more participation than any other motorsport, but is your business getting a part of the action? And if it is, is it maximizing sales potential? Read on to find some great ideas on how to get the most out of the drag racing market.

Drag Racing In 2007

However, before digging into sales techniques, let’s take a look at the current state of drag racing. Commenting on how 2007 has been for drag racing, David Page of FAST in Memphis, Tenn., says, “From a technical standpoint, cars in every class of drag racing have continued to break speed and ET records. The new technology in the turbocharger, supercharger and nitrous markets, along with the superior controls of today’s EFI systems, have made this possible. This has driven big sales in these areas so far this year.”

According to Don Sneddon of Mickey Thompson in Stow, Ohio, the drag racing market, like many of the enthusiast markets, is feeling the pain of higher gasoline prices. Racers are not traveling long distances as much and are running their cars at local events.

High fuel prices isn’t the only challenge the drag racing market has had to deal with this year either. According to Bill McKnight of Clevite in Ann Arbor, Mich., the weather has also been an obstacle.

“This year’s been a little tough, and that’s primarily due to the weather. There have been several races that were either cancelled or postponed due to storms. There’s not a thing wrong with the drag racing economy; it’s just been the weather,” says McKnight.

However, Kyle Fickler of Aeromotive in Lenexa, Kan., adds that the hardcore end of the market is pretty resilient, regardless of what the economists say about the economy in general.

“Typically, that type of racer will quit eating before he quits racing, and we have great penetration in the hardcore market and it reflects in our sales,” says Fickler.

On the drag racing economy in 2007, Tony Kane of Hughes Performance in Phoenix, Ariz., says, “For us, sales wise, we noticed the economy as a whole seemed to be off to a slow start at the beginning, but for drag racing and our customers and components, it has been very well. Sean Langdon, a customer of our, drives one of the Lucas Oil SuperComp cars, and he has racked up over 600 points toward a championship this year. We’re pretty proud of guys like that.” Kane adds that all of Hughes components are tested in competition by their drag racing team.

Segments With Growth Potential

So it seems that 2007 is treating the drag racing market well, but what parts of this thriving market offer the most potential for growth?

Some markets with potential from the point of view of Corey Flynn from QA1 Motorsports in, Lakeville, Minn., are the Mustang market, drag radial and the muscle car market, which he says continues to grow at an incredible rate.

For his part, Page says he believes that the tire limited classes are the hottest thing right now, and any type of tuning device, electronic or otherwise, that will help control the power to the tires has a lot of growth potential.

“As far as the service market, good EFI tuners are also in high demand,” says Page.

In Fickler’s opinion, sportsman drag racing is where the focus needs to be from a sales standpoint.

“We have great penetration in the NHRA Pro Stock market, and we are very thankful for it. But to build a sizeable business, you need a larger market like the sportsman racer. For example, the recent growth of Top Dragster and Top Sportsman has been great for Aeromotive. These six- and seven-second cars require Pro Stock and Pro Mod style fuel systems, and many of the larger races are seeing upwards of 50 cars in each class, with more showing up each week,” observes Fickler.

That’s an opinion that McKnight agrees with. “From my perspective, the lower segments of the market have the most potential. It’s the weekend racers who have a full-time job and race on their days off at the local track and compete in NHRA’s regional events,” says McKnight.

He adds that those guys are the ones with the most potential for shops, because a lot of times they’re making their buying decisions based on price and not what the best product is.

“When I talk to John Force Racing, price isn’t an issue. But, when you drop down into the lower ranks, a lot of those guys are making their decisions based on price. To me, that’s an opportunity to sell them up,” says McKnight.

He adds that if you don’t educate a customer on the value of what you’re selling, then it’s strictly a price equation. They’re going to buy whatever and from whomever has any given part for sale for the least amount. He says that for every one selling drag racing parts, the real challenge in this industry is to educate the customer about the buying decision. It’s critical to teach them why it’s important to have higher quality parts and what that quality will mean for them.

As an example, McKnight recalls a customer he met at tradeshow who was carrying a handful of failed bearings. As they got to talking, the customer told McKnight that he had saved upwards of $70 by purchasing bearings other than Clevite’s. Of course, they had failed. McKnight asked the gentleman how much he’d paid for his motor, and the man replied that it had cost about $17,000.

“Then I asked him whether or not those less-expensive bearings had really saved him money,” remembers McKnight. The only reply he received was an embarrassed expression on the man’s face.

“We need to talk to customers and work these types of stories before they make the dumb decisions. To me, that’s where the real opportunity is out there,” says McKnight.

Further motivation is the fact that those high-end products also have higher profit margins.

Importance of Participation and Track Presence

Having identified that the 2007 market is not only doing well but also offers plenty of growth, the question is, what is the best way to fulfill all of that potential? The answer is both simple and fun, but requires a bit of extra work: participate. Why?

“My personal experience,” says Sneddon, “is that drag racers are loyal to those whom they trust and have a relationship with.”

Also, Kane says that for speed shops, the more knowledge they have, and the more technical and racing experience they have, the more confidence they’ll sell with. He adds that drag racing parts are a little bit technical, so it’s always good to talk to somebody who’s done some racing.

“I’m a drag racer, and when I talk to a customer of ours, I know exactly where they’re coming from. I know what tire-shake feels like. I know what leaving with a trans-brake feels like. I know when a converter is working properly and what that feels like, and I know how it feels when they’re bad. When I’m buying parts, I want to buy them from someone who has that knowledge as well,” says Kane.

Along with that knowledge comes the wisdom of just what type of difference high-end parts can make. Kane notes that when selling drag racing parts, don’t make the easy sale just because it’s a few dollars less than the product right next to it. It’s very important to do your homework and stay up with the latest technologies. Give the customer the option to buy the best at any cost.

The bottom line is that product knowledge is a valuable sales tool, and product knowledge gained from personal experience is even more valuable.

Flynn cannot drive home the importance of participation enough, saying it is critical. “Becoming involved and staying involved adds creditability, and it also keeps the business in tune with what the racers are looking for.”

Providing another slant, Page says, “I think that drag racers need to have confidence that the products they buy will deliver the performance they are looking for. A speed shop has an opportunity to build relationships and trust between their employees and customers.”

Fickler complements those thoughts by adding that having an owner or employees who actually race or pit for a racer certainly helps. “Most of our company is involved in racing, and being face-to-face with your customer on the weekend keeps their needs in perspective Monday through Friday.”

Face-to-face contact, says Fickler, is irreplaceable when it comes to developing a strong customer base. The first time you interact with a potential customer may not result in a sale, but if you create a positive first impression, something positive will come out of it eventually. Track signage is a great tool, but nothing can replace face-to-face interaction.

Flynn says that track presence possibly impacts a speed shop’s sales more then anything else.

McKnight notes that, “My thinking is that it’s important for the customers to see me at the track, not just when I’m selling them something. It shows that you care about the sport. If a customer does well, it also gives you the opportunity to congratulate them on their success.”

Sneddon simply states, “Out of sight out of mind!” Hopefully, the opposite is also true, in sight, in mind.

Sources of Information

Taking a look at 2007 drag racing so far, it’s apparent that the market is doing well, and in addition offers opportunity for speed shops to increase their parts sales for drag racers. Getting involved in the events-whether racing, crewing or just attending and taking in the excitement-is one of the best ways to improve sales to that market.

Product knowledge, which can also be acquired at the track, is another tool that can be incredibly valuable. What are good sources of information for those looking to increase their drag racing knowledge and keep up with its trends, changes and competitions?

Fickler points out that the Internet has become very helpful. “Drag Racing Central, Competition Plus and Drag Racing Online are probably the big three, but there are a number of other really good sites such as Dragraceresults.com and Classracer.com that also serve their markets very well.

Flynn says it’s a good idea to keep up with all of the information available in publications, TV shows and on the Internet, but mostly being and seeing what is happening at the track will keep you in-touch of what the market is doing.