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When The Aftermarket Became The Beforemarket

In material handling, since time immemorial, it’s been understood that the “sales department sells the first piece of equipment, then the Parts and Service departments sell the second, third and so on.” I believe this truth may have come down, chiseled in stone, with Moses from Mt. Sinai. While this “tried and true” sequence of events may be a method of establishing and increasing your presence in the marketplace, it’s not the only way. As a matter of fact, can this “tried and true” marketing philosophy actually hamper growth in today’s marketplace?

What drives marketshare? Is it the OEM manufacturer and its products, or is it the dealership and its capabilities? While both are important, I would say the dealerships have the greatest opportunity to affect market share, either positively or negatively.

Marketing Through Product Support
Just consider the possibility that Product Support may have the greatest opportunity to influence not only the second, third and fourth sale, but that all important first sale as well. What would happen if marketing plans were developed with equal input and emphasis from Sales and Product Support? In today’s world this is not the norm. From an OEM level on down, the marketing focus is primarily on “the product.” Much of this marketing involves direct mail, local and national magazine ads, telemarketing, sales blitzes, new product introduction events and so forth. While these are effective marketing methods and do a good job of telling prospective customers about the product, it is just that, “telling” the customer.

While classic marketing “tells” the prospective customer about the product and dealership, marketing through Product Support enables your dealership to “show” these same prospective customers who and what you are, demonstrating your capabilities, and thus earning the right to be considered a supplier in future buying decisions. To further amplify the potential of Product Support in the overall marketing of your dealership and your products, recognize that the greatest portion of your market growth will come at the expense of your competitors. Sure, some new industries will move into your territory, but for the most part, it’s the unit replacement and facility expansion of the existing market that will drive market growth.

To further emphasize the opportunity, here is a theoretical situation: Your dealership enjoys a 30 percent share of a 1,000 unit market. While commendable, in fact great by most standards, it still means 700 of those 1,000 units are competitive product. How do you penetrate the glass ceiling on these accounts? Have you considered looking at these 700 trucks as the opportunity to introduce your dealership through innovative Product Support programs?

Exploit Your Dealership’s Advantage
By focusing on portions of the business we all have in common, no matter what the brand, exploit your dealership’s advantage. There are numerous “hot topics” that are effective in opening closed doors (if it’s an all-competitive account, the door is pretty much closed) in today’s business climate. Here are a few:

  • Safety issues,
  • Environmental concerns,
  • Expense containment,
  • “Common” consumable products.

When we were implementing this concept in the early ’80s, I think my then-boss pretty well said it all: “It’s like making a PAID cold call.”

To say that this form of marketing is easy would be wrong. Basic questions have to be asked: Do we want to change? Do we have the correct personnel to make it happen? Do we have the correct products? Do we have the necessary sales tools? You still have to start with the basics: a strong parts and service department with a strong commitment to consistent, quality care. You also need professional product support sales management, quality product support sales representatives, selected quality support products, leading edge sales technology, and a commitment to product and sales skills training.

Finally, as material handling professionals, we must ask ourselves this: Do we do things today just because that’s the way it’s always been done, or have we changed to meet today’s new opportunities?

Material Handling Equipment Distributors Association

Lee Hall Meet the Author
Lee Hall is director of product support/marketing for Hyster Sales Company.

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