You’re the Expert … Aren’t You?

Apr 1, 2010

Enhance customer relations and increase sales with knowledge.

In today’s market, a shop owner with good customer relationships has the edge. Take the relationship out of the equation, and the market becomes all about a price.

What do you have to offer your customer that is better than what your competitor has to offer? Hopefully one of things you have to offer is knowledge – detailed information about the products you carry that moves you from the category of “salesperson” to “consultant” in the mind of the customer.

Knowledge, as they say, is power.

Be the trusted adviser

Each member of your team should strive to become an expert in the products and services you offer so when the customer comes in the door with a specific need or request, you and your team members are poised to offer expert advice about the options that will provide the best solution.

By educating your customer about the features and benefits of the product and how it works, you’ll establish yourself as a trusted adviser. As you provide information, the next step is to expand the conversation to include other related products and accessories that enhance the customer’s investment and experience, and create the best possible solution for that customer. This accomplishes the goal of building trust. It also increases opportunities for additional and future product sales.

Ask the right questions

For example, a customer comes in the door and requests a specific brand of performance exhaust system, and it’s a brand you carry. Immediately you should be formulating a list of questions for this customer to define the following: Why this brand? What does the customer hope to achieve with this product? What type of vehicle is it being used for? How long does the customer plan to keep the vehicle? How will they be using the vehicle? Will they be using it for towing? How does the geographical region (weather patterns, proximity to salt water, etc.) affect material grade recommendations?

Armed with the answers to these questions, you can make and informed recommendation regarding the best system available from the manufacturer the customer requested and you can explain why.

You can probably also recommend a few alternatives that might be good options that reflect a variety of different price points. In addition, you can also suggest complementary products that might help the customer enhance that purchase and achieve his or her stated goals. Through this process, you become a solution provider.

Get suppliers to help

When it comes to getting smarter about the products you carry, focus on your top-tier manufacturers and your bread-and-butter product lines first. The process of becoming an expert should start with the information you can easily gather from the manufacturer. The manufacturer provides information about each product including steps for proper installation, troubleshooting, tech support, features, benefits, manufacture location, warranties and return policies. Each member of the sales team should be well versed in this information.

In the past, manufacturers would often provide that information by visiting your location in person and reviewing the information with you and your team. For most, that has changed. Shop owners are finding that they need to be a great deal more proactive. You must be willing to go out and get the information you need to maintain that edge. In many cases it can be as easy as calling and requesting the information, and perhaps identifying the right person to spend some quality time on a conference call with you and your team. But, there are some other options, as well.

Take PWA University from the Performance Warehouse Association, for example. PWA University provides a unique online learning environment that provides PWA-member manufacturers with the ability to create specialized material and related quizzes regarding their products from a password-protected online location. Last I checked, there were more than 30 manufacturers offering product education there. By providing one centralized online location, PWA hopes to reduce for everyone the time, energy and cost associated with the education process. Check with your top-tier manufacturers to see if they are involved in this or a similar program that might benefit your team.

A final thought 

Do your best to make sure that you and your sales team become knowledgeable consultants that customers can trust to provide expert advice. When you do, you’ll set yourself apart from your competition, and your success will be measured in increased customer retention and referrals, increased sales and employee retention.

Now, isn’t that smart?