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December 2017
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Let’s get proactive!
John Walker
John Walker

Truly professional sales people would never consider entering the market place without a thorough knowledge and understanding of their competition. Should it be anything less for the professional parts manager, service manager or aftermarket service sales representative? How proactive are we in marketing our dealerships product support services?

Surveys continue (year after year) to point out that the customers’ major equipment buying consideration are parts availability and having the service job completed right and on time. Other considerations fade in the light of these two buying considerations.

We urge managers to return to the basics. If availability is extremely important to the customer, why not promote the fact that you have in excess of one million dollars in parts on your shelf and that your manufacturer supplies over-night delivery on most all un-stocked parts. If doing the service job right and on time is so important, explain to your customers your service response time and labor guarantees on a regular basis and particularly at the time of the sale. Let the customer know that you want the customer’s service business and why.

Pick out a list of your top customers, visit them and ask questions such as: What do you like most about doing business with our dealership, why do you use our service department, why do you buy parts from our dealership?

Recognize that in most cases a customer does not need your dealership’s aftermarket service after the sale! There are enough competitors in any market to satisfy your customers’ needs and requirements. Recognition of this fact alone will encourage you to become proactive in your aftermarket research.

In both today’s market and in future markets, customers have a CHOICE. A choice as to where they purchase their parts and service!

Following are four basics to consider when assessing your dealership’s parts and service competition. We strongly recommend that aftermarket managers begin to initiate market research of their competition and stop assuming that what they hear is the true competitive story. Make a promise to yourself that in 2015 your dealership will market the value-added services your dealership has to offer in the area of product support.

1. What is the competition’s true pricing structure? In parts, all too often we hear that the customer receives a discount from the competition. We immediately back away, when what we really need to determine is: What did the customer actually pay for the part and in what quantities did he have to buy to receive the discount? Many times you will be surprised to find that your actual price is lower than the discounted price. You may also be surprised to discover the customer had to wait for the discounted price while you had immediate availability.

In service, you may learn that your labor rate is ten/twenty dollars higher than the competition ($60.00 vs. $80.00). Pretty hard to explain, unless your market research discovers that your competition requires three hours to do a job which only requires one hour in your shop. This is one reason why we advocate the establishment of “flat rates” in the equipment dealer’s shop.

2. What is your competition’s marketing philosophy? Again in parts, customers are concerned with availability and one-stop-shopping. Competitors in parts marketing are basically interested in fast, high turn parts. You as a major supplier are in a position to supply all of the parts for the equipment you sell . . . you are the one stop, single source supplier for your customers, with parts on the shelf and/or  you have overnight delivery on un-stocked items the customer requires.

Don’t hesitate to market and mention your parts warranty, dealership parts policies, or whatever sales tool you have to effectively mention your dealership’s advantage in marketing parts.

In service, we have seldom met a dealer who did not guarantee his shop’s work. So why not market this guarantee? You might well find in your market research that your competition does not offer the same guarantee. We encourage you to exploit this particular issue. Check out your percentage of re-do work your dealership performs. If it is below one percent (as are most dealerships) let the customer know just how good you are at doing the job right, the first time and on time.

3. What is the quality of your competition’s parts and service? In parts, we recognize that many vendors to your OEM also supply parts to independent parts distributors. We also recognize that this represents (generally) a product of equal quality.

When this happens, it is imperative that you develop a marketing strategy devoted to backing up your dealership’s and your manufacturer’s sale of those particular parts. The words genuine and/or authorized carry little weight with the sophisticated customer today unless, you as a professional, market the advantages of buying from your dealership versus the independent distributor.

In service, we have already mentioned the marketing of your guaranteed labor. In marketing the quality of your labor, we need to go a bit further.

In your service market research, the manager needs to evaluate the product models most frequently serviced by the competition. The competition may do a good job of servicing your 1960/1980 equipment, but if your customers are now buying the latest models with computerized controls . . . how well will your competition perform with these new units?

Next, the professional service manager will evaluate the principal repairs the competition is most able to perform. The competition may do a super job on brake repairs, but is not qualified to do an overhaul that the customer requires. Again, your shop is the one-stop service center for your customers. Basic, yes, but something around which to build a solid marketing strategy

4. What is the integrity and reputation of your aftermarket competition versus your dealership? Sometimes we find this so basic that we neglect developing a marketing strategy around those important factors that make our dealership and our aftermarket services so outstanding in the eyes of our customers. When you buy from our dealership, you don’t just buy the sales department, you buy the whole dealership.

Marketing your integrity and reputation begins with the development of a Mission Statement and/or a Statement of Purpose. A document memorized by employees and made visible to all your customers.

Your dealership’s integrity and reputation is developed by informing the customer about some very basic facts: How long your dealership has been in business while representing a manufacturer or manufactures whom have been in business for so many years. Yours is a dealership with sales of so many dollars. Yours is a dealership selling to some of the finest companies in the area (references.) Yours is a dealership with so many dollars in shelf inventory and overnight delivery from your suppliers. Yours is a one-stop-shopping center for parts. Yours is a parts department staffed by experienced and involved individuals (50 total years of experience.) Yours is a competitive parts department established to service the needs of the customer. Yours is a service department offering guaranteed work and quality service, staffed by experienced and involved individuals (75 total years of experience.) Yours is a service department with factory-trained, experienced technicians. You have an orderly and well equipped shop, with tools designed for doing the job right, the first time. Yours is a shop with the ability to service a broad base of equipment. You have fully-equipped road service trucks and trucks for transporting a customer’s equipment. Look at what your dealership has to offer your customers, develop a marketing strategy to sell the advantages of using your aftermarket services versus using the competition.

When is the best opportunity to market your aftermarket? We believe it is part of the entire selling process and should happen immediately after or even during the sale of the equipment. We encourage the equipment sales personnel to bring in and allow the customer to meet the parts, service and aftermarket service rep as part of the selling process. Sell your entire dealership at the time of the sale and you will keep your customer from considering those “others” in the competitive market place.

This month for our readers we are offering two manuals for the price of one. For $16.99 you will receive: Laying the Groundwork for Value-Added Selling and When your Price is Right, Sell it! Simply email us at and request our two manual special. We’ll email you and invoice you via email and you’ll have the manuals immediately. Please when you order give us the name of your business, your address and the line of products your dealership handles . . .

If customers truly feel the services are essential, fair compensation is not a problem!

John R. Walker is president of Aftermarket Services Consulting Co. Inc. E-mail to contact John.