BY NAPOLEON TETRAULT
This is all, of course, based on the assumption that you know what you are selling! How can we recommend products based on a customer’s needs if we don’t know the products that are out there? I’m not talking about whipping out a Bluetooth headset for a guy who wants to use his phone on a ride; I’m talking about an in-depth knowledge of what is in the market, a thorough understanding of what each does and how any of those products will enhance a customer’s riding experience by your recommendation.
This is a big task and I know what I am asking. From the day a parts employee steps behind the counter, there is a lot of faith that is put in that employee. A police officer wears the badge only after months of training, a technician earns a certificate after months (and thousands of dollars) of schooling, but in the parts and sales departments, when you put on your work shirt and step behind the counter, you are instantly the parts or sales guy. There could be little or no training at all. Therefore, it is up to you to seek out the education that will help you rise to your customers’ expectations of providing value.
Where do we find this? I’m glad you asked! Trade shows — trade shows are invaluable in this business, if you ask me. It’s the only place you can get out of the shop in order to focus on learning and have so many vendors under one roof in one place. This is the speed dating of learning. We all know that vendors are the subject matter experts on their products, and where better to learn from?
In addition, they are also more likely to know more about a competitors product than you do, know how to sell their product and know what to stock out of their products based on your needs. There are also aggressive programs put out by the manufacturers and distributors in order to get you there to learn. As a bonus, they’re a lot of fun!
Vendor training sites — there are numerous vendor websites that encourage you to learn about products by hosting online dealer training. The training is all very similar and allows you to learn at your own pace, during downtime at work or home and earn rewards for putting the time in to better yourself.
Distributor/manufacturer reps — these guys are worth more than counting the spark plugs that you didn’t get to. These guys have been through a lot of training and can help you out in that department. Whether it be a quick in-house tutorial on a product, a full presentation on a product line or even a slow season seminar given to your customers at your store. These reps exist to provide value to you and would be happy to accommodate you; you just have to reach out to them.
YouTube. Locate videos produced by vendors, and others that offer product reviews. While reviews are not gospel, they need to be taken into consideration for content and direct feedback. We also must be critical of the source of our information, but if the source is either the company or a respected reviewer, this can be a valuable tool for learning. And it’s convenient.
The concept isn’t earth shattering here, just something that needs to come to the top of our minds to execute. In these days of lean employees, many demands on our time and countless brands in the retail space, it’s important that we keep ourselves educated so that we can remain relevant to our customer. I read a book by a former Navy Seal who said, “The difference between a Navy Seal and a line infantryman is mostly the level of training that each go through in order to perform their jobs well.”
So I ask, how trained are you?
If you have a great training website, methodology or any training tools that you feel would be helpful for everyone, please share below so that we all can benefit.
Napoleon Tetreault is a sales representative with Tucker, an aftermarket PG&A distributor in the powersports industry. He works with powersports retailers on merchandising, profitability and management of the parts department as well as the education of dealership personnel. His experience includes being the GM of the largest indoor motocross facility in the U.S., owner/operator of a regional distribution company and current role with Tucker. He can be reached at: