In May 2008, Engine Builder magazine readers were introduced to my first article and what would become this column, Profitable Performance. Nine and a half years later, I’m as proud as I can be that I’m still able to bring you my insights to business from the “Parts Side.”
No, I didn’t say the “Dark Side,” for you Star Wars enthusiasts, but sometimes it seems to be the same thing. For me, this has been no less than a war against changes in distribution channels, and I often feel like a lone rebel warrior up against an empire. I fear the tides of war have changed and we’re in for our final battle. Of course, it would only take a few Jedis to help keep this war alive.
In 2008, I proposed five sales strategies based on successful businesses. But even these distant outposts have had to adjust to the new cyber-marketplace today.
The cyber-world, whether an evil empire or not, is a sizable giant and can cause many problems for the independent business owner. In some ways it might be a problem for the consumer as well, with so many options and so many “so-called” experts with different opinions and motives. This is where true expertise, a great reputation and a sympathetic ear may work for your shop.
Being on your home turf is always advantageous and a disadvantage for the visiting team. So whenever you can, I’d suggest getting the customer to come down to the shop and give yourself the advantage of being able to look at and sell based on what you know needs to be done. Being tied up and handicapped by a phone call where you’re forced to guess what’s actually going on might work against you.
This is a great time to explain that you not only sell engine parts and have a vast network of suppliers behind you, but it’s also part of your package and labor rates. Taking control of the situation from minute one is important, and it starts as soon as they hit your doors.
In this day of deep-pocket responsibility, no business can afford to do a job halfway if it’s going to come back to bite you. The first part of being in control starts with looking at what’s presented and deciding if you have the capacity to do the job and be profitable. If selling and profiting from the parts sale is important to you, this is where you get to decide. You’ve already proven that you’re as wise as Yoda when it comes to building engines, now is your chance to introduce them to the parts you see they’ll need and what this whole package of expertise is going to cost.
I do understand that it is not always this simple. I hear everyday about the consumer who showed up with his engine and his stack of internet parts. I know this is going to happen and I’ll have to be happy with the parts sales customers get. I also know that being in charge of the job makes life easier for you and in the long run, gets your customer a better deal. After all, the job is really not done until after the engine is successfully put back together, installed and running well.
Nothing causes more warranty ambiguity then one person doing the labor and another selling the parts. It’s always good to remind the cyber-shopper of this. Beyond that, the consumer who gets the wrong parts or gets suckered into buying something they don’t need can cause big scheduling problems for the shop, and this is an instant where we loose control.
In 2008, I suggested a plan I called “Discount for Labor” that would tie the parts and labor together by offering the consumer a discount on labor (from a new higher price schedule) if they purchased parts as well. Today, it seems the parts are often already purchased when the consumer shows up at your door. I hope the inverse is initiated and a higher labor price schedule is evoked at this occurrence. Considering so many shops are working off price sheets from the last decade, losing parts profits is truly costing you money.
The second plan that seems to be cast aside was called “The Direct Approach,” suggesting that you walk from the job if you weren’t selling the parts. Considering the frequency parts are showing up with the job, I’m told shops would be closing their doors for good right and left. So again, to make as much money as you can, charge accordingly for these jobs.
The last three plans for those not in the fight or that may have missed my debut were: “Selling Your Knowledge,” basically giving the stubborn consumer a shopping list for the correct parts, at a cost; “Check All Appropriate Boxes” suggested that you examine every labor procedure you preform and charge for those that would normally be included when someone who was paying for labor also bought their parts from the shop; Last, and always a good practice, “The Package” suggested you don’t get caught up in individual parts, but sell a package of parts for a price. And don’t forget, never supply a parts list with accurate part numbers unless you’re getting paid for it. The search engines out there will undoubtedly provide your customer with prices you can’t match.