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Whose customer is it?

By: Curtis Clark

Think of that large A or B account that you have and ask yourself this question: whose customer is it?  If your first answer is, “It’s The Dealership’s,” you’d be right.  But what are you doing to make sure it stays that way?  When you answer that question while ignoring competition and the other dealerships in your area, what are you doing to make sure that the customer is really The Dealership’s?

First, start by asking yourself, who does the customer see more than anyone else at The Dealership?  If the answer is a technician or a salesperson, that’s great. When was the last time you had a manager in there?  This should be a more telling sign of who the customer sees as The Dealership.  Don’t get me wrong, an outstanding technician taking care of a large account is great.  But we’ve all had that technician who left and went to another dealership or started their own business.  The same can be said for the salesperson.  How many of your salespeople have left and gone to work for a competitor?  If the only person that customer sees from The Dealership is the sales rep or the technician, they are going to associate them as the face of the business or as their own personal problem solver.  Again, not bad.  However, if they are The Dealership’s only presence in that account, chances are they are more beholden to the rep they are seeing than to The Dealership.

How do we make it a dealership account?  There are a number of ways.  You need a good technician or a good salesperson to help you get in and keep the account.  The Dealership’s exposure should not stop there.  Suppose this is an account with a large fleet of lifts that you provide service for. When was the last time they saw your Service Manager?  Your Service Manager should be able to go out and see customers regularly and work with them to solve problems.  Does that mean your Service Manager needs to be out every day?  No, of course not. But if they aren’t visiting and seeing your largest and best service customers, they are missing out on connecting with the customers.  You’re also missing out on the opportunity to understand The Dealership’s relationship with that account.  What is that beloved technician doing right?  Can you use his technique at other accounts?  How are you preparing other members of your team to take care of the account when that particular person is on vacation, or when they retire or worse, move on?

Let’s look at it from the sales perspective.  How active was your sales management on the initial deal (whether it was selling equipment or selling service)?  The Dealership should be sold as a whole.  This goes double for larger accounts.  How active were other parts of The Dealership?  Did sales managers go in and work with the sales rep to make sure equipment was spec’d right?  Did sales management convey The Dealership’s commitment to the account?  If there was discussion of maintenance, did the Service Manager come in to understand the expectations of the account?  What is the service interval?  How is service handled currently?  If the customer does their own maintenance, have you brought in your Parts Manager to make sure the customer understands what The Dealership can do from a parts and support side? By now you can see I’ve left you with more questions than answers.  This is because, frankly, only you and your team can answer them.  Some of you will read this and say, “Well, I’m not going to walk into a meeting with a customer and bring 10 different people!”  No, you’re not and believe me, I think the very idea is preposterous.  But when facing a large account, it would be good for you to make sure you establish a presence.  Not all of these conversations need to be had at one time.  First establish what the issues or hot buttons are with the customer and approach it from there.  The Dealership should not end or begin with just one person… unless you’re the owner.

Will answering all these questions keep you from losing accounts? No. I’m sure each of us has felt like we’ve done everything right in an account and lost it anyway.  You can’t stop people from leaving if that’s what they choose to do.  However, you can stop your dealership from asking the question, “Who do we talk to at that account?”  Making sure that it’s your company and not the individual that has a presence at a customer will better establish The Dealership should something happen.


Curtis can be reached at cclark@superiortire.com or at 800-289-1456 x100