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January 22, 2010
Marketing, Sales and Customer Service

I was out riding my bike with a friend last week when the subject of sales came up.  She is also a business owner and we were talking a bit about the different responsibilities of each department within our companies.  At that moment we happened to ride past a car dealership... which got me to thinking...

At a automotive dealership the areas of customer contact are VERY clear... marketing... sales... after sales support...


The purpose of the marketing department is very simple... figure out a way to bring people to the car lot...

Now although the end goal is simple... the actual process can be very complex and scientific... especially if it’s a brand new company where name, logos, location and product mix add significant layers of complexity to the equation...

The science of marketing tries to determine who the customer is, what the target customer truly wants, develops compelling solutions for those potential customers, and effectively finds ways to communicate, with focused messages, to their potential target customers.

Think for a moment about how a luxury car dealership, such as Mercedes, BMW or Lexus differs from that of a Chrysler, Ford, Toyota or Honda dealership. 

The target market for each car brand is completely different.  The luxury car dealerships might target households with a certain income range and/or certain professionals who are looking for comfort and/or performance vehicles.  Whereas the non-luxury brand dealerships may look for those buyers who incomes are a bit more modest but want value, better fuel efficiency, can seat 7 people comfortably or can tow a small boat.

Once the target customers are defined, then the marketer will create a compelling message designed to attract those target customers.  The message of luxury brands may be centered around power and speed, quietness, a smooth ride, or resale value.  The message that another brand my convey is price per mile driven, service records, available seating, towing capacity, or the protection of the environment.

Lastly, the marketer will find mediums to convey their message to the target market.  The luxury brand may advertise in magazines read by more affluent households or on TV where a larger percentage is typically of a higher income such as golf events or business programming.  The other brands may choose to focus their message to outdoors people, young families, or students.

Remember, the primary goal of the marketer is to get people to come to the car lot not to sell the potential customer a car.


Once the marketing department has brought the potential customer to the car dealership, then the sales department takes over.  The primary focus of the sales department is to make sure the potential customer drives off the lot with a different car than what they came with.  The sales department’s job is to learn more about the customer’s needs and match the right vehicle to the customer in order to satisfy their needs. 

The salesperson will typically pose several questions to the customer in order to learn what concerns they might have and what features they need and want as well as their target budget.  The salesperson will then direct the customer to several different vehicles that might fit the customer’s needs, wants and budget.  He will then demonstrate the features and carefully outline the benefits of those features as well as the associated costs.

Once the customer has selected the best car or truck to fit their needs, then a price will be negotiated between the salesperson and the customer.  A variety of complex financing options may be available for the customer to choose from but it is the job of the salesperson to review these options with the customer.

In order for the customer to buy, they must establish trust with the salesperson and believe that the information they received from the salesperson is true, accurate and timely. 

The sales process is no more than a transfer of trust between the customer and the salesperson.  If the salesperson has performed their job correctly, the customer will buy because they trust that their needs have been satisfied.

After Sales Support

After a sale is made, it is important to follow-up with the customer.  Much  time and energy has been spent by the marketing and sales department to find the customer and sell them a product.  The customer has agreed to transfer their trust to the business and purchase a vehicle.

A concerted effort now must be made to keep the customer coming back month after month and year after year.  A customer will tell their friends and colleagues about their positive or negative experiences with the business.

After a sale is made, care should be taken to educate the customer as to the proper use of all the features to derive the new owner’s maximum benefit.  A review of the vehicle servicing requirements and scheduled reminder calls or letters should be made to the new car owner.

Once the car owner returns for maintenance, care should be taken to review the service options and make informed recommendations.  The work should be scheduled to be convenient to the customer, not the other way around.  There should be an offer to transport the customer to home or work while the vehicle is being serviced.

There customer needs to feel as though the dealership will stand behind the products that they sell by resolving any problems or repairing manufacturing defects quickly and correctly.

The customer wants to be a customer forever, the dealership should give the customer every reason to do so.

Lessons Learned

Now most of us are not employed at a car dealership, but the lessons are the same regardless of whether or not you sell cars or electronics...

1.  It is the primary job of the marketing department to attract new customers.  They do this by targeting specific customers, creating a compelling message and/or product to that targeted base and use the proper medium to convey that message to those potential customers.  They help to create a brand promise and product demand.

2.  The sales department job is to learn as much about the customer as possible in order to help select the best options for the customer and their needs.  They need to know and understand their products and be able to demonstrate the effectiveness of the product to the customer.  The are also responsible for negotiating a fair price for the product or service that is acceptable to the customer.

3.  The customer service department’s job to to care for the customer after the sale is made.  This includes contacting the customer on a regular basis to review production or maintenance schedules, helping to schedule delivery of the product or service.  Customer service also should handle any unforeseen problems such as quality, installation or delivery issues.

Working together as a team will ensure that the right customer will use the right product to solve their needs and become a customer for life.

Remember these facts:

It costs six times as much to attract a new customer than it does to keep an old one

A typical dissatisfied customer will tell 8-10 people about their problem

Seven out of ten customers who experienced a problem with your company will do business with you again if you resolve their problem to their satisfaction.

If you resolve the complaint on the spot, that number rises to nineteen out of twenty.

Of those customers who don’t come back, 68% do so because of an attitude of indifference by the company or specific individual at the company.

Thank you very much for your continued support of OptiFuse as we try each day to make or keep you a happy customer...

Jim Kalb

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