COACH KEN: 2022, THE YEAR OF “TEARING DOWN BARRIERS”
The list is long; supply chain issues, product shortages, more jobs available than people to fill them, Covid 19, Delta Variant, Omicron, government “giveaways,” fear created by mass media, too many so called “experts,” not enough truck drivers and too many trucks, too many politicians with their own agenda, riots versus protests, “defunding” of law enforcement, crime out of control, national deficit out of control, and inflation. I know I have missed a few dozen more topics of concern (school board meeting protests and what’s being taught in the name of “education” and agendas that most of us don’t even understand much less support like “WOKE”). Maybe the inmates are truly running the asylum?
There is a quote from the 1800s attributed to several authors: “There is nothing so uncommon, as common sense.” When it comes to today’s business world, these words ring true. I see commercial and fleet departments across the country taking different approaches to the current economic environment. The most common tactic is the “charge as much as you can per vehicle” which makes sense, but also has long term negative consequences. Others are “hoping for the best” strategy that “this too shall pass.”
We can point fingers at each other, we can blame the factory or the upfitters, but what we really need to do is formulate a “multi-faceted” approach that looks at both short-term and long-term solutions. Having worked with the commercial and fleet business from the manufacturer level down to the actual end user, it gives me both a comprehensive and “street level” view. You will have to bear with me, since this is a fairly long article, but it outlines a very successful approach that we are taking with dealerships.
Step One: Relationships rule! I am advising all of our dealers to stay in contact with current customers and vendors. Let them know what is going on in the industry and what your plan of attack will be to support your customers. (more on this later in the report). Avoiding the supply issues sends a message that you are not available to your customers. There are several actions you can take:
- Call five current customers per day to just check in and answer any questions they might have. Also have a set of questions to ask them! We have developed a list of questions that will help you not only show your concern but also to add value that your customer did not expect! (email me at [email protected] to send for these questions and word tracks)
- Be honest and forthright with your current situation on inventory. Every manufacturer is experiencing shortages.
- More than ever, service is critical. The vehicles your current customers are operating have to perform. Many of our dealers have started “mobile service” units for basic service work such as oil changes (check your state’s rules on off-site service).
- Start a weekly or monthly electronic newsletter like you are currently reading. As you know, we offer sales and marketing ideas, motivational articles, and vehicle highlights.
- If you have not done so, now is a great time to join very specific organizations:
- Trade associations- Most of these are starting “in person” meetings again and include organizations such as the National Association of Homebuilders, NAHB.org, Associated General Contractors, AGC.org, and PHCC.org, Plumbing and Heating and Air Contractors.
- Local civic organizations- The Chamber of Commerce, NFIB (National Association of Independent Businesses).
- Business to Business Networking Groups- BNI (Business Network International), LeTip.com, AMA (American Marketing Association).
- Bid Opportunities- This pertains to both government agencies and private and public corporations. This requires more experience in the large fleet business. These are websites that require a membership, but become a single point to explore bid opportunities.
- GovWin.com- This is a website for government bid opportunities of all kinds and can be targeted to your metro area. It has been purchased by Deltek.
- Bidnetdirect.com- Similar to GovWin and includes federal, state, and local government bid opportunities. This site is limited to the state of Georgia.
- Governmentbids.com- This is a national bid opportunity website for government only, but is extensive.
- Findrfp.com- Specific to government bids of all kinds.
Step Two: Organizational Tool- In any outside sales profession it is difficult to stay organized and create detailed and fast access to both prospects and customers. A CRM (Customer Relationship Management) software program is essential to long-term success. Too often commercial and fleet sales staffs are forced to use the dealerships retail sales software. Seldom is it equipped to handle business accounts. We recommend one of the following:
- ACT by Sage- This CRM is built for business to business sales. One of our partners has created a commercial and fleet version of this great software program. Email me at [email protected] and I will send you the contact information for this program.
- Goldmine- Built for business to business and is easily customized to fit commercial and fleet.
So many dealerships try to take a retail automotive approach to the commercial and fleet side of the business and struggle to get started in an organized fashion. Remember, business owners, your decision makers when it comes to trucks and vans don’t respond well to constant telephone calls and endless emails. Commercial and fleet is a relationship business that requires time and patience to grow into a fully functional part of a dealership.
I know this is a lot of information but it is worth going through this article several times and taking notes regarding areas that can help you grow the business. As always you can contact me at [email protected].