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3 Outside Sales tips for any operation and budget to grow your parts business

3 Outside Sales tips for any operation and budget to grow your parts business

Outside sales may seem way above your part’s department’s capabilities, but in reality, you have more opportunities than you think.

The largest, most recognizable companies use advertising and outside sales to make sure they are still a relevant brand. Think Coke – they sell 1.9 billion¹ servings a day – and that’s not just by word-of-mouth. They consistently create strategies for sales improvements.

This same mentality can apply to parts wholesale companies. I can say in confidence that your counter staff are most likely busy fulfilling orders to even think about an outside sales strategy. So as a parts manager, what can you do to get in the outside sales arena?

Strategies that work

I’ve worked with parts managers across the country and they have shared outside sales tactics that have worked well, and ones that haven’t worked so well. With their insight, here are three sales tactics that have worked well with nearly any operation and budget:

  1. Share an outside sales rep. This is one of the most common tactics to outside sales and makes fiscal sense to share expenses with other dealerships. In fact, this is the most cost-effective way and can only cost 1/3 of a full-time rep if you share with other dealers. It also allows single OEM brand dealers to join forces and promote the value of OE vs. aftermarket parts to repair shops. But note, this method can come with some challenges if you aren’t careful:
  • A sales rep shared among different OEM-branded dealers means you have to go in understanding that you’re sharing dealership representation.
  • Their knowledge on your particular manufacturer may not be what you are looking for if they’re representing different OEM brands.
  • Since their time is split, they may not be able to provide enough education/program exposure to shops and potential customers.

How do you make sure it’s worth your time and money? The key to success is hiring a sales rep that understands your OEM parts brand (including various parts programs) and will keep the focus on your business. Large, multi-franchise dealerships do it all the time.

  1. Pay on Gross. Have a Parts Department employee work as a sales rep and get paid commission from the wholesale business (collision and mechanical). This person should be very educated on the product and understands how OEM programs work. He/she should also be able to educate shops on how to leverage programs to order parts and be profitable. The Pay on Gross method is one of the hardest to establish; however, if done well, it’s cost-effective. As the Dealer makes money, the Representative makes money – creating a win-win for everyone.
  2. DIY outside sales. This is the least common approach where the parts manager doubles as outside sales. If that’s you, I bet you know your parts business better than your staff – and also the most equipped to sell your dealership’s OE parts. I’ve seen issues with this approach where the parts manager doesn’t have time to get out on a regular basis. And when they do, it leaves the department vulnerable of problems without a parts manager present. So as fast as they started doing this, it ends up failing.

    But it is doable. In fact, one Chevy dealer in Northeast Ohio swears by it. Every Wednesday afternoon, he calls new and existing customers like clockwork. His winning formula includes the ability to make credit and pricing decisions on the spot. He’s able to build relationships, assess customer satisfaction and keep expenses low with this method. Admittedly, it requires organization and a solid team to make this approach work.

Above anything else, your outside sales goal should be an aid in the growth of your parts department’s wholesale business, but it shouldn’t be your only goal. Don’t forget about your regular customers or you will easily lose them to a competitor.

Keep it going

I saved the best tip for last, and it’s only one word: Repetition. It may take time to discover what method works best for your business, but make sure you keep at it once you find it. For more tips to boost sales, check out last week’s article: Tips to becoming a pro at selling online that you can do now.

¹Source: Coca-Cola Company, 2016.