Dealers’ Domain

Question: What negotiating tactics do you use with customers?

To find that you could just lump your customers together and put them in categories, will find that you will miss some of the market! There is not any one program that will work for all, so it is a must to remain flexible. Some customers are looking for a payment, and they don’t care as to how they get it, even if the zero-percent interest that they saw in the ad that brought them to you, doesn’t give the payment amount they are looking for. Then, there is the fellow that wants the best cash price! You might find his next response to you might be that he will take it at that price financed or wanting a better price yet!
There are some that don’t do their own maintenance and of course they would be looking for a program to cover that for them. Then, there is the fellow that would like to assemble the unit for additional savings (at least to him); be prepared for a barrage of calls from them for reinforcement as to how and probably why.
There is really nothing better than relationship selling and knowing your customer is a winner; if you don’t, it might be wise to be quiet and listen! They will often tell you, without asking, what they are looking for, as well as what they might be willing to do. I have seen customers pay more to a competitor because he came down in his price (still wasn’t as low as mine), but he lowered his best deal! Does the dealer have a spine at all? He got me because I didn’t figure in a price to drop but gave him what he asked for, a better number to begin with!
I feel it is important to stay as flexible as need be because there is not any one way to deal with everyone! Do leave yourself some room while pricing, as you never know what the next question will be! There are plenty of dealers that come and go due to lack of profits when they often are the cause by not asking for it to begin with!
— Art White
White’s Farm Supply
Waterville, N.Y.

Every customer is different. Some want to get the best price with no negotiation; others grind and grind. First, I find out what they are looking for and what they plan to use it for. Next is finding out how they plan to pay for it. You have to keep in mind some finance plans have dealer fees and a debit card is not the same as cash. When I give a price, I start at dealer list, which 75 percent of the time is where it sells. If the guy is a grinder, we work down from there. It is better to offer extra blades or filters than to give too much of a discount. If another dealer has given them a low price and I want the customer, I offer to match it.
— Matthew Borden, owner
Ed & Matt Equipment
Greenville, R.I.

Nothing upsets the customer more than a “slippery” salesman trying to use some questionable “tactic” to get a sale. Ever since I have been selling equipment, my main goal has been to treat the customer fairly and like I would want to be treated. Be polite, ask questions, give facts, talk about our business, and always give the best price. Very seldom does a customer walk out of our store without buying. They are regular people just like you and me.
— John Moon
Moon’s Farm-Yard Center, Inc.
Ulysses, Pa.

We don’t negotiate on price. We do offer great financing through our major vendor, John Deere. If the customer balks at the price, we show them a more expensive unit, which has a tendency to make them appreciate the lower-price unit more.
— Daniel J. D’Arcy
Granby, Mass.

If you find yourself having to do much negotiating, it’s because you have not done a good job establishing that you are selling a higher-quality product, you offer the very best service after the sale, and you are here for the long haul! If I know that I have to negotiate, I like to “throw in” free accessories instead of taking money off the top.
— Dean Davis
Dogwood Fireplace & Lawn
Carbondale, Ill.

I have two primary events that require negotiation: 1) when a customer sets a low limit on a repair job; and 2) when a customer can’t pay timely.
In the first case, I tell the customer I’ll call only after the repair cost exceeds $100. If I have to exceed that limit, I’ll call with an estimate of the overage. The problem with this method arises when I’ve used up the $100 of repair, but the job needs more work. If the customer stops the repair work, should I keep the unit, finish the repairs, and try to sell it? Assign it to the recycle bin for later scrapping or cannibalizing? What if he wants it back?
The second case demanding negotiation involves the customer who can’t pay timely. I suggest that he pay in two or three installments. The implied suggestion that they can’t pay at all, often encourages him to try a different tack: “Do you take plastic?” “Yes. When would you like to come in to pay? Maybe you’d like to pay over the phone?”
— Flute Snyder
Hudson Mower Doctor
Hudson, Wis.

Try hard to sell ourselves! Buy here and get service and parts here. As we all know, most customers only look at price, not even thinking past the point of purchase of where to get service. It still amazes me how many customers are amazed when they go back to the box store, only to find out no parts or service. Then, you have the person that knows that we do the warranty repair for a lot of the box stores throwing out the statement that they get the best of both worlds — price and service. Then, we bring up the point that we service our customers first since they truly are our customer, not a box-store customer. Then, when the box-store customer brings up the normal, “I’ve got to have it now,” I then suggest they take it back to the box store, get the manager outside, and let him fix it right now. We sell Snapper, which is a very nice mower, but the customer compares it against Troy-Bilt, Craftsman, Yard-Man, etc., and there is hundreds of dollars difference, and we just get the deer-in-the-headlights look when we try to explain.
— Tony Nation
Nation’s Small Engine, Inc.
Hot Springs, Ark.


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