COACH KEN: THE PANDEMIC BLUES

We are in the midst of a world changing pandemic, of which the ramifications have not been fully exposed to America and the world. Vaccinations, new virus variants, and economic impact to this day have not been fully realized. Many car lots sit empty, and businesses are struggling to stay afloat.  Right now, the words of the American Revolutionary War patriot, Thomas Paine ring true:

“THESE are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.”

Paine’s message was clear during the darkest days of the Revolutionary War. His advice was not to “shrink from the service of their country” but to stand up and be counted.

My company works with manufacturers and dealers that build and sell work vehicles from Class 8, over the road trucks to mini vans and pickup trucks. This has been a 21-year journey that began during the last great recession in the early 2000s until today. I’ve witnessed a lot of strategies being deployed then and now that can lead to disaster or triumph. Let’s look at all your options:

  1. Wait and see- This strategy is a “cut expenses and wait until it is over” approach.  This means not contacting current clients, not prospecting, cutting expenses and bodies, and complaining about how bad things are right now.
  2. The “blame game”- Complain to your manufacturer field rep, your upfitters, and your finance partners.  Trust me, if they could fulfill your needs, they would do it in a heartbeat. My company, Commercial Truck Training, works with most of the manufacturers from Ford,, GM, and Stallantis, to finance companies like Ally Financial. Every supplier is doing everything they can to help dealers.
  3. Get “beat up”- Listen to all the complaints (and threats to never use you again). Most of us take a “not my fault” approach and hope it will all go away.  “Hope” is not a strategy!

Is there anything we can do?  Yes, you can control the things that are within your power. That means being proactive and taking well thought out directed action. Here are my best recommendations.

  1. Contact five customers and prospects daily. Ask questions regarding their current status and be straightforward and honest about where you stand regarding inventory and options.
  2. Do offer to place orders in the order banks.  Let them know that even if they are not looking for a work vehicle, now is a good time to “get in line.”
  3. Target market what you do have in stock. If you have vans, target plumbers, electricians and delivery services. If you have light duty pickups, new or used, target building contractors, pool service companies, and landscapers.
  4. There has never been a better time to embrace training in sales, marketing, and product knowledge.
  5. Learn about and leverage technical tools that broaden your marketplace, such as Work Truck Solutions. This is a small investment for a big return if done correctly. Go to www.worktrucksolutions.com.
  6. Become active in trade groups and networking opportunities.  One of our dealerships followed our advice and had each salesperson become active in two different national trade groups, in this case the Home Builders Association and AGC (Associated General Contractors). The meetings were online via www.zoom.com. They followed our advice and made telephone calls after each online meeting and got face-to-face appointments with new prospects. Another dealer became active in BNI (Business Network International) and got immediate results!
  7. Leverage “electronic marketing.” We help dealers set up and distribute “electronic newsletters” that go out weekly and have a very solid open rate. We highlight a vehicle of the week and attach a link directly to your website that gets a high level of click-throughs.
  8. Be involved in civic groups such as your local Chamber of Commerce, Civitan and others.  This business is all about relationships and there is no faster way to grow relationships than through group involvement.

There are other options, but these are great starting points. When you make all these contacts and build relationships, remember, you are not going to get immediate results, but when the economic situation gets back to normal you will have more business than you ever imagined.

So, are you going to depend on the strategy of “hope,” or are you going to proactively target customers and prospects to both keep them informed and build new relationships that will pay off in the near future!  I think the answer is clear. The motivational speaker, Tony Robbins said, “The only impossible journey is the one you never begin.”