Applying Valuable Lessons Learned from the New Economy
Jeremy Burkhardt ([email protected]) is president of SpeakerCraft in Riverside, California.
If you are like most people, then you are working twice as hard for half the money, and it doesn’t seem to be getting much better. If you are reading this, I am going to make the gross assumption that you are still in business and have weathered one of the toughest economic times in our country’s history (and it’s not over yet).
Most dealers that I know have had to lay off employees, find new ways to get business, don’t have the same credit lines or cash flow, and have had to take a pay cut. On the upside, you have earned a virtual MBA in a very short time, and these tough lessons have made you a better businessperson for the rest of your life.
It’s All About Profits
The best way to stay in business is by selling superior products for higher margin and providing a better value to the consumer. Anyone can make and provide either cheap or overpriced products and adequate service. You must constantly differentiate yourself with better products, better quality of installation, and better after-the-sale support. All of these things come at a higher price.
Know Your Value Proposition
You should always provide better sound and video quality, systems that are easier to operate, cleaner installations, a relationship based on integrity and an overall better value. You decide what the value differentiators are and highlight them as you present your proposal to the client, including your install process, your forward commitment, and a serious service contract.
The author is currently mentoring Brandon Beaudoin, owner of Riverside Ski & Sport, by helping him generate cash flow with discounts on product, mailing past clients, asking the landlord for a rent reduction, and getting vendors to give better terms.
Remember that you set the level of profit that you want to hit. You choose the staff and what they get paid. You decide on your building, your demo facility, and your vehicles, and you determine all expenses. If things cost too much, make cuts now.
If you have to be your own best salesman to survive, then do it. Make the hard choices so that you can continue be a great service provider to your clients and a great provider for your family. Remember that your client’s trust and your desire to please them should always come first, both consciously and subconsciously.
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If you’re a good salesman, then you should do what you say that you’re going to do, and your service and finished product should be better than what the customer expected. In this economy you must find new clients anywhere that money exists, from car show rooms to country clubs.
I am currently mentoring a skate, urban wear, and snowboard shop. I had the local BMW dealer agree to provide every client that purchased a new car with a coupon to the shop for a free gift and a discount. I also advised the shop’s owner on other ways to generate cash flow with discounts on product, mailing past clients, asking the landlord for rent reduction, and getting vendors to give better terms.
You, however, can’t depend on anyone to help you. You have to constantly get referrals from every client and market yourself in the community. Don’t get trapped behind your desk, because business occurs outside and not in your office. Go find the clients and use print materials, promotions, and technology to hook them.
You already have survived a very tough time. Now go prove that you are worthy of that survival. Being slow and conservative isn’t for you or for now. Now is the time to rise up and go create the market and circumstances that you desire.
There must be urgency in your vocabulary and your actions. If you have to bust out all the old files from past clients and call everyone and offer a personal visit to check out their system and make recommendations, do it. Do whatever it takes to make business happen.