Saturday, February 28, 2009

Great Color!

Of all the colors I would want out front besides Red, it would be Yellow. There's nothing quite like it to draw attention. That is the point of a display, right? If it doesn't draw attention, what good is it? Might as well park it out back with those other big white things. Not this one! This one goes front and center. Love this truck. Thanks to Kimberly at Harbor Truck Bodies for this shot and thanks to Rugby Manufacturing for the nice looking dump body. I'm drooling. . .

Friday, February 27, 2009

One of the Best Options


This is one of the best options ever invented. I have encouraged many dealers to stock this option on some of their van bodies for three very good reasons. One, it generally sells very quickly. Two, the van body average gross profit is somewhat higher, and three, customers love it because it makes their job easier.

Getting inside a van body is always an issue. The unit shown has a Tommy Aluminum Railgate and is mounted on an aluminum van body from Marathon Industries. With the railgate, you can easily get in without much effort, but a faster, easier way is the side door. Notice the entry height is low and the steps are easy. This makes an outstanding combination for around town deliveries large and small.

My experience in van bodies is that it always seems to be a price driven market. Low grosses is just part of the reality; however, when you add options like this, the value to the customer shoots through the roof and the grosses rise dramatically. Flatbeds are in that same market. A plain flatbed is typically a low gross piece, but turn it into a contractor and it changes dramatically. Accessories and options generally help sell the product more quickly and to increase the gross profit. That's not a bad combination and I have found this to be true on all bodies.

I recommend that you stock this kind of body as 25% of your van body inventory at least. Think of some other great solutions to help customers and build those as well. Call your supplier and say, "hey, what can we do with van bodies to make them more interesting?" I'm sure you will get some good answers.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Interesting Flatbed


Here's an interesting and very nice looking flatbed with unusual gates. I have no idea what the reason for the changes in height, but I'm sure there is one. To me, it just doesn't matter, because it just looks wonderful. . . and interesting. Looks sleek--especially with the tapered headboard.

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

A Safe Way To Try Color


One of my passions is colored commercial trucks. I built it up to the point that approximately 40% of my entire commercial truck upfitted inventory was color. I stocked every color available, and some more than others. They all sold. Some said it was my insanity, and I say it was my claim to fame. Regardless of the comments of naysayers, it was highly profitable and I had no competition. I like those two in combination with each other.

So, if you want to get your feet wet in the world of commercial truck color, here is a suggestion that may be of help.

The photo above is a really good way to get into color and leave yourself an out. Order up an uplevel cab single rear wheel 3/4 or 1-ton pickup. The photo shown, courtesy of Harbor Truck Bodies is a super cab Ford King Ranch in the Mahogany/Pueblo Gold Metallic combination. With the pickup bed, this is a highly saleable truck. I recommend that you might start with non-metallic colors, but this example is such a sweet looking truck.

If you drop ship it to the service body builder, you will want to work a deal to have them keep the pickup bed stored for you. It may work out better to store it on your lot, then get it to the body company. Regardless, the idea is to order the pickup, remove the pickup bed and add the service body. Down the road, if it doesn't sell in 3-6 months, put the pickup bed back on and get the truck sold and put the service body on a new order. The truck will go down in value, but the body as new will not. There will be a cost to swap bodies, and that will be the cost to play the game, so focus on showing it a lot and not have to do that. Simple, but at least you have a solid plan B here.

In today's world, there are a lot of general contractors and other contractors who don't have a team on the payroll. They bid jobs and sublet parts and keep their costs down. A lot of these people enjoy the superior comfort and convenience of a very nice truck and still have their tools with them. They buy this kind of truck when they find them, or they create them by themselves.

You want to test the market and see what I mean. For the next week, count service bodies you see and record it in two columns. How many are colored and how many are white. I did this recently on a trip of 50 miles early in the morning. I saw 28 service bodies (includes enclosed service bodies like plumber bodies, etc) and 16 of them were colored. Yet, go to the typical commercial truck lot and see if you can even find one colored one. There's opportunity knocking here. . .

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Living On The Edge. . .

One day at The Home Depot, I spied a new way to carry concrete to the job: Put it on the lid of the service body! Let's see. . . 7 bags on each side = 14 bags = 700 lbs of concrete mix. I'm not sure I would have thought of carrying them this way. It certainly does spread the load out between the axles. Maybe the treadbrite covering on the lid helps keep them from sliding off. I know they must be planning on smooth turns and no fast stops or starts. . . but what would the fuzz have to say about this?

Another day living on the edge in the contractors life!

A Little Change and It Looks Great



The single rear wheel flatbed has always looked like a fish out of water to me--like it doesn't belong there, yet when I saw this truck, I thought that it looked like a perfect match. It's not the flatbed or the extended cab, but the solid slatted gates that gives it the look along with the underbody box to finish it off. Matter of fact, the underbed box really helps because that empty space there just doesn't look right and the box takes care of it.

So, here you go: A sweet addition to your repertoire. Let the single rear wheel flatbed stocking begin!



Monday, February 23, 2009

Consider Your Suppliers Methods Carefully



After only one year in commercial trucks, I started really looking at my suppliers methods and my own logic. For example, on a flatbed with a rack, the racks were welded to the body and from past experience with a previous employer, I saw that as a problem. That previous employer was always switching out bodies to be able to do a different job and he did a great deal of welding. So, in 1990, I required my suppliers to bolt on their flatbed racks and I began stocking almost exclusively forklift loadable racks and upgrading the size of the posts and number of cross bars.

Notice the contractor body above. In the two shots you can see how the rack is bolted to the floor with a foot and it is also bolted to the top of the headboard. Notice also that it has 4 crossbar supports, the headboard, two over the body and one rear. This is a sweet design by Harbor Truck Bodies where the rear area is devoid of any vertical bars so that area could be used as a work area more efficiently. In addition to that, the design allows a stronger rack because the vertical supports are closer together. In this case, they use 2"x2" tube and that gets the job done for most loads and stays light enough to deal with in removal. In this rack on the 12' contractor, there are 8 bolts to remove and 4 strong friends, gets it off.

Why is removal important? Even on the contractor, all you need do is remove the rack and the top boxes which are also bolted on, and you have an empty flatbed to carry large items. It gives the customer flexibility. They may use that a lot, or very little, but having it is a huge benefit in their mind and actuality when they use it. Of course, all the crossbars are removable as well, so carrying tall things without removing the rack is easy.

Think flexibility for your customer. The thing I like about the contractor is that it is a flatbed underneath all those accessories and it can be back to a flatbed anytime you want it to be.

Another thing was rack design on the service body. Notice the two shots above. The black rack is narrower and mounted on the inside top edge of the service body, the other is mounted on the outside of the body and both are bolted on of course. The stronger rack is the black one and it is because of where it is mounted and the fact that the vertical legs are straight which are far stronger than curved legs. That top edge is a very strong point on the body. The rack is also out of the way of the lids. It was easy to sell this design and I ordered about 80% of my service bodies with this rack. This shot is provided by North Bay Truck Body.

I also liked painting it black rather than body color and that works very well when mounted in that location. Painted the outside edge mounted rack black against the white body would look strange. I liked that for a couple of reasons. One was the black rack picked up on other black aspects of the body such as the tires, door handles, etc. So, aesthetically it was pleasing to the eye in contrast to the body. I tried them in white also, but it wasn't as good. Even on my colored trucks, I painted the rack black. The other reason was utilitarian. Racks get scratched very easily moving product on and off, hanging things off the rack and so on. Those scratches don't show up very well under black paint, but they glare at you through white paint. Unpainted metal, then rusts and the rust is hard to see on black and jumps out at you on white. With the black rack it was easy to just carry a can of black spray paint in one of the compartments and you can touch it up in a couple of seconds. It works very well.

Think in terms of how it benefits or could benefit the customer and it all makes perfect sense.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Tilt Cab Wars: Winners, Losers (Deserters)

I just finished talking about tilt cab advantages #1-6 and the main reason I chose this subject this time is that I have seen a lot of dealers (many Ford LCF dealers) who took on the tilt cab, did little with it and then quit in disgust--hence, the title of this post: Tilt Cab Wars: Winners, Losers (Deserters). I've seen a lot of deserters and they started deserting long before they actually left. It was evident in their displays and their lack of actions in promoting the truck.

To get in and have the franchise, the Ford dealer only needed to commit to 5 units in stock. Such a small number. Many took 5 units and never bought another one. Some took too many 84" CA and this was partly due to bailment pool lack of tilt cab expertise. Many eventually took substantial loses on their remaining 1-2 year old units. Every one of the losses and every one of the deserters were due to ineffective and mismanaged commercial departments. Of course, this mismanagement has a negative effect on all their commercial sales regardless of cab design. I know many from actual experience, and yet, I hate to see Ford lose a potentially good geographic point.

There are a lot of reasons that losers lose, but the main reason winners win is this: The winners don't quit. They stay in the game and keep learning. They are committed.

I don't want this to sound like I'm banging on Ford LCF dealers. The above scenario probably happens at many tilt cab dealers. My purpose in writing about this is to help the dealer who wants to put things into perspective and to make a commitment to making the tilt cab to be a viable and profitable part of their overall commercial operation and I have some points to make to help make it more successful.

First, when I say Tilt Cab Wars, I am speaking about competition. Let's just get it out in the open: Isuzu is the leader in this market by a very sizable margin. Many dealers might even use this as an excuse to bail, but I say don't compete, but instead create. I started two Isuzu tilt cab franchises in two stores, so I am very familiar with Isuzu and the identical Chevy and GMC badged counterparts. I've used that experience to try to help some Ford LCF dealers to get excited about the opportunity they have.

Many would hear that Isuzu was the leader and think that the way to market the product would be to compete with Isuzu (even at Ford meetings they would always compare their features with Isuzu and even suggest that inroads could be made in taking market share away from Isuzu). That is a waste of valuable time and energy. If that approach is taken, I can guarantee failure. Isuzu has been in this game for a very long time and they are very good at it. In many ways it is a superior product. Trying to compete is silly for the LCF because about 50% of the Isuzu sales are gas motors and the LCF has only diesel. That's just one major stumbling block to competition. If you're going to bother competing, you might want a more closely matched competitor. Competition is not the answer. Creative selling is. Find your features, get sold yourself, get excited, and sell the benefits to the customer. Create your own market rather than trying to take a piece of someone else's.

Second, also regarding the phrase Tilt Cab Wars is some dealers might think that taking on a tilt cab franchise will automatically compete with existing conventional cab sales. It is not going to work quite that way. In this case and the case in the previous paragraph, we would be thinking very small. I want to encourage a dealer to think more globally--like this: Adding a tilt cab franchise will allow me to offer more and better solutions for my potential customers problems which will allow me to make additional profits, gain additional customers and thereby gain additional referrals and repeat sales. It's not about war. It's about solutions to your customers problems. The more solutions you can produce, the more trust you will gain with your customers and the more sales and profits will be made.

The best thing is to look at adding the tilt cab as more and different solutions and to become so familiar with the product that you know how to express the customer benefits that you will be opening your customers mind to better ways of doing a thing and how that will help them do what they do better, more efficiently and more profitably.

Commit to keeping the franchise. Learn the Tilt Cab Benefits #1-6--especially #1, #2 and #3.

Offer better solutions by staying away from the 84" CA tilt cab and stocking longer chassis. Seek alternative solutions from various vendors rather than the same bodies over and over again. If you use the same body, you can modify the dimensions and create a different solution as well as an attractive piece. As an example on this, rather than have a standard height service body on the tilt cab, put a taller body like a 56" tall body. It looks like it belongs on the truck with that height, whereas putting a standard height looks like a toy body because the cab is taller. Little things like this will make an amazing difference in turning the tilt cab inventory.

Last, and yet most important is to get people into and driving the truck. It will only be this experience that makes all the other points valid for them. Successful selling of a tilt cab franchise is all in how you choose to think about it. I hope some of these points will convince you of the benefits and to encourage you to be successful and profitable in selling them.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Tilt Cab Advantage #4, 5 & 6

These are more minor advantages, so I will group #4, 5 & 6 in one post.

Advantage #4 is visibility. Because the driver is sitting on top of the wheels instead of behind them, the driver is higher and can see more traffic and some more detail. The other reason visibility is better is that the glass area is larger. Rear visibility is enhanced with standard larger truck style mirrors. In addition, the steering wheel is lower and doesn't affect the visibility at all compared with a conventional cab truck. The dashboard is much lower and it not a visibility issue either. It all translates to better vision of the road, the job site, how close you are to objects and so on.

Advantage #5 is what I call "driveability." This word just means that it drives the way it drives, it feels the way it feels and that is a positive or a negative depending 100% on how the prospect feels when they drive it. Some love it because, as I think myself, it is fun to drive. The way it steers is easier to negotiate obstacles, you have better visibility of the truck and the terrain at the same time. Because of the geometry of the steering wheel, ones arms are in a comfortable position. It seems to take less movement of the wheel to affect movement of the truck. The visibility is great, seating is good and so on. It is totally interpretation by the prospect. One thing is certain and that is that most people are used to the conventional cab design. It's just like your car, or any pickup by any make and so on. So, at first people may feel "out of place" in the tilt cab. This is the critical reason to make sure and demonstrate every time unless they are buying another one. I think the driveability of the tilt cab is an advantage; however, not everyone will agree with this.

Advantage #6 is serviceability, or access to the engine by being able to tilt the cab to expose the full view of the engine. Here again, this is subject to interpretation, mainly by a mechanic. Is it easier to work on? I don't know, but one could very easily have that impression just by being able to show the whole engine and transmission off where on a conventional cab one only sees the front part of the engine and cannot see the transmission at all. Sometimes in classes when we talk about the advantages of the tilt cab, this is expressed as advantage #1, but you see where I put it: way down the list. In reality, the cab will be tilted up only rarely. 99+% of the time, it will be down.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Tilt Cab Advantage #3

To me the #3 advantage of the tilt cab is the turning radius. If I use just one word, it will be maneuverability. The turning radius comes down to two main things. One is the length of the wheelbase, and two is the maximum angle of the wheels on the front axle, which has something to do with the frame width, front axle design and so on.

The main point to keep it simple is the wheelbase. The shorter the wheelbase, the tighter the turning radius. It's logical and you already know that a little economy car will turn a tighter circle than a full size pickup. The big difference is the wheelbase.

So, let's do a few comparisons. Keep in mind, advantages #1 and #2, so we can keep it in perspective with successful sales of this product.

I'll use Ford as our example since I have the statistics at hand. The F250 pickup with standard 8' bed has a wheelbase of 137". Let's compare this to the Ford LCF tilt cab in the shortest wheelbase they make of 113" and this truck would have a 12' bed. That is 24" shorter wheel base (along with a tighter angle on the steering). Previously, I stated that advantage #1 is stocking longer CA units. This model with the 113" wheelbase is an 84" CA and we are not going to stock hardly any in that wheelbase, so the next one up is the 108" CA and the wheelbase on it is 137". Now the tilt cab and the pickup have the same approximate wheelbase, yet the pickup has an 8' bed and the LCF has a 14' bed. Big difference. In this case the LCF will have a slight advantage still due to the ability to turn sharper due to the front axle/frame/suspension design.

There is no doubt that this is a huge advantage.

In the previous example, we were comparing a pickup with the tilt cab. Now let's compare something that is more likely to make sense. Let's take the Ford F450 84" Chassis for example. This unit has a 165" wheelbase and would take a 12' bed. The LCF with the 84" CA has a wheelbase of 113" and would take a 12' bed. The difference in wheelbase is 52"! This is a HUGE difference in maneuverability! Yet, we're not to the really good part yet. Let's compare the same F450 84" CA with the 149" wheelbase LCF which will take a 16' bed. Now there is still a difference of 16" which would be a big deal in its own right, but the interesting thing here is the shorter turning radius AND having a 4' longer bed at the same time. This is such a big deal that I want to jump up and down about it. Just think of the maneuverability improvements as well as productivity improvements. It is just one of the easiest things to get excited about when talking with a prospect.

Now, here's the best way to sell this besides jumping up and down with excitement, which I like to do about this stuff. Get the prospect in the truck and do some tight circle turns and some tight maneuvering around a parking area and then turning around in a city street if you can. Do it in both trucks. If that along with your enthusiasm doesn't sell the prospect, the prospect isn't going to get sold.

Sell the value--what it does and how it performs relative to other vehicles. Understand the features of the truck so that you can understand how that may be important to the prospect. Having at one time driven a dump truck into construction sites, I can tell you that maneuverability is critical. The tilt cab very rarely sells itself. You have to have a good sales pitch that means something to the prospect. That will lead you to be successful at selling more tilt cab trucks. I can tell you this: If I owned a store with commercial trucks, I would absolutely, without a doubt have a tilt cab truck line. It's not even an option.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Tilt Cab Advantage #2

Continuing the series on successful selling of a tilt cab versus the conventional cab, the second most important advantage for me is the "footprint." By footprint, I mean how much space the truck takes up, with length being the main focus.

This is important because it has a lot to do with prospects making a decision on a truck. They may have maneuverability, job site size restrictions, parking issues, or other things in mind, and the footprint will settle those issues, or cause them to look further.

Here's an example of what I mean. Let's say the customer really needs a 16' flatbed to carry the right amount of cargo to their destination. If we took a conventional cab truck, the wheelbase for that is going to be about 200" (16.7 feet) and the overall length is approximately 316" (26.4 feet). That is a big footprint and were not discussing turning radius yet, but that is a huge issue here.

Now, let's look at how the tilt cab advantage will change this image. On the tilt cab, the wheelbase will be about 150" (12.5 feet), and the overall length is approximately 268" (22.4 feet). The difference is approximately 4 feet. That is a HUGE difference in footprint with the same size body to do the same job.

Being able to manage the overall footprint of a commercial truck, whether on the job site, city streets, or parking is a very important issue to customers. They may call it other things, but it all comes down to how big the thing is and how much space it takes up. This is where the tilt cab shines.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Tilt Cab Advantage #1

Adding a tilt cab franchise like Isuzu (includes Chevy, GMC badged counterparts), Mitsubishi, UD (Nissan), Ford LCF/International, is a very good thing. Learning how to sell them once you have them is another challenge for many. It's really easier than it seems, but a dealer has to change their thinking a little bit to make it work well. I've seen a lot of dealers get the tilt cab and then fail to make a go of it and then stop selling them. So, here is a series of short pieces that will help make adding a tilt cab to your commercial mix a success.

The first thing to change in thinking is to let go of the 84" CA ideal. With a conventional cab inventory mix at most stores in light duty upfitted trucks, the 84" CA is preferred and stocked heavily, especially in contractor bodies, flatbeds, combo bodies and service bodies. For the tilt cab, 108" and 120" CA will be the preferred length.

I know a lot think that putting a 12' unit on an 84" CA tilt cab makes it turn on a dime and is very impressive, but that short of a body on the tilt cab doesn't make effective use (generally speaking) of the virtues of the difference between the conventional cab and the tilt cab as it relates to wheelbase, overall length and CA.

Because of the design of the tilt cab, the engine is directly over the front axle, while it is well behind the front axle on the conventional cab. This allows the combination of the shorter cab and the placement of the cab over the engine to transfer the 4' of hood area of the conventional cab into cargo area on the tilt cab instead. So, to make it make sense, the cargo length is 4' longer on a tilt cab for the same overall length of the truck when comparing it to a conventional cab. Another way to look at it, is the 84" CA tilt cab has a 4' shorter (48"!!!!) overall length than the 84" conventional cab. Yet another way to look at it, is the body can be 4' longer on the tilt cab for the same overall length of a conventional cab with a 4' shorter body. So a 12' flatbed on an 84" CA conventional cab, means that a 16' flatbed on a 120" CA tilt cab with match (approximately) in overall length.

That is one of the biggest selling features of the tilt cab vs the conventional cab and why to stock 108" and 120" CA. To me, it is the number one selling feature.

Look at another. Take a 108" CA tilt cab and put a 14" service body on it. Park it next to a single rear 9' service body and they are very close to the same overall length! Take a 60" CA conventional cab with a 10' flatbed and they are within millimeters.

That translates to VALUE!! I can buy this truck and carry 4' longer material and still have the same overall length. That is huge. HUGE! Did I say Huge?

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Do You Believe Price Shoppers?

One of the hardest things to get--and one must work at it all the time--is NOT to believe price shoppers when they say they are buying, or have bought because of a better price. It's hard to get because it is so easy to believe. Yet, I don't know about you, but I do a lot of shopping and although price is an issue, it is not my decision threshold. It may get my attention and it may look attractive, but I always look past that to see what it is and to see if the VALUE is there.

Another thing is that people hate to say the real reason they make a decision, especially if they feel they would say something unkind, like they don't like you or don't like the way you treated them. So, the easy and believable way out is, "I got a better price/deal/services." They are being kind, yet misleading.

If they bought elsewhere and you really want to know the truth, ask with sincerity of helping you become better at what you are doing. This way, they will feel okay to state more of the truth--yet not necessarily all of it.

When I was a brand new salesman in late 1972, I followed up with a lady who had come in. She said she bought one. I said, "Do you mind telling me why you bought from that dealer so that I might improve my skills?" She said, "you didn't call me until today. You should have followed up with me." It kind of took my breath away, but I got the message.

Price is always a consideration. It can cause movement. Some buy price, but only about 4%. The rest buy value. Value may be a combination of many things and much of that may be very, very human. Sell your value, your expertise, your way of solving their problems, your follow up, and your long term service, but don't ever believe the "price shopper." You may have to remind yourself daily.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Ever Been Fired?

Have you ever been fired from a job? I have at least twice that I can remember. Heck, as a manager for over 25 years, I fired a few more than that myself. Being fired can be a bad day for many, but the times I got fired were among the best I've ever had. Certainly the last one was such a high, I felt as if I were on a cloud the weight being lifted from my back. It was a glorious day!

Regarding the people I had to fire, two of them were very difficult and very emotional, but everyone felt relief afterward.

There is nothing like a decision to get the blood moving back to the brain. Most of the time, I think people know that it is coming, they just don't want to have to deal with it, but after the first take your breath away moment or two, when you realize you're not only still alive, but breathing nicely, a wash of relief comes over you.

If one lets the fear of the unknown future out of the way, some very constructive things can take place. A new enthusiasm can be born. A new career. Finally the chance to do something different. There's nothing like that feeling. It is exciting. There are so many possibilities!

Some of my mentors from the past who got fired, went on to become one of the best in their field. Firing is just a decision and it can be a great one!

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Rules Of Thumb Help You Think On Your Feet

I was invited to do some training at a Dodge meeting a few years ago. I put on a hour-long class called Commercial Trucks 101. This was the largest group I've done and there were over 65 sales people and managers in attendance as well as Dodge BusinessLink personnel. One of the people from Dodge was a stickler for details when it comes to giving quotes on payload. I get it. One wants to be as accurate as possible and so do I; however, one is far better off learning to think on your feet and guide the prospect long before you can sit down at your spec book.

As I got up and got into my presentation, my most important point is early in the class, and that is how to figure payload quickly. The rule of thumb, I told them is this: GVWR - GVW = Payload. It is very accurate if you know what the GVW is. If not, the inaccuracy would be in that number. Still, it is very effective on the lot. As I spoke this with emphasis, I could see the Dodge training rep cringing in his seat and then up and pacing. Not a good sign, but I kept on because I am from the street when it comes to this stuff.

The Dodge trainer wanted everyone to use curb weight, add the passengers, and all that stuff. In the meantime, the prospect is down the street buying from another dealer. He was probably thinking of everyone sitting at their desk with all their spec books and preparing a quote to go in the mail or fax or email. That's not an effective procedure for the lot. I think training should help teach you how to think for yourself, not follow a specific procedure.

You need to find a way to find payload quickly, so here's a system that works very well:

Do a little study and memorize a little chart on common truck empty weights. For example, a single rear wheel empty 56" CA chassis will weigh in roughly 5,500 lbs. That is plenty close enough. Just look at 3 or 4 invoices and you'll get the idea. Then move on to a few others like 60" CA dually, 84" CA dually, 450/550 84" CA and so on. You only need about 6-8. If you carry tilt cabs, do a similar thing with them. Then memorize the GVWR on most of your common models. So, for example, you might look at a Ford 84" CA F550 and see the empty weight (shipping weight on the invoice) is about 7700 lbs. Look at a few and just average it and that will be your number. This is a small amount to remember.

Next, get an idea of what some of the different kind of bodies weigh. As a rule of thumb you could look at an 8' service body at about 1100 lbs and if it has a rack, add another 2-300 lbs. Look at a few. You can see from the weighmasters weight slip number minus the shipping weight and that will tell you what the body weighs. Once you see a few, it is very easy to estimate close enough. So I would figure an 11' steel dump with sub-frame hoist is going to be about 2,500 lbs. You'll get the idea.

Now, when you are on the lot and you don't have your inventory list with all the cargo capacities, you can still give the prospect a close estimate of payload that will be very effective and you can do it all in your head on any upfitted truck on the lot. This will help immensely to guide the prosepct to the right truck but not selling him too much truck. Very important to not sell too light a truck or too heavy a truck.

So, I would look at any make 56" SRW chassis at about 5,500 lbs, an 8' service body with rack at 1,400 lbs., so that is 6,900 lbs or 7,000 to round it off. The GVWR is easy to memorize, but if you need to open the door of the truck and get the GVWR, that is easy to do on the lot. Most SRW 56" CA chassis are around 9,200 GVWR in round numbers, so what is they payload? It's 2,200 lbs. Easy. And the best part is that you can think on your feet and make decisions quickly and reasonably accurately--certainly accurate enough to get the job done.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Foundation with No House Saves Money?



The pictures above were from the same dealers lot and there were even more empty chassis here. This is all too common at many commercial truck stores--especially medium duty truck stores. I could see this as opportunity because of the sheer volume of chassis available right away, yet I see this as a serious flooring issue and a sales issue. I see the dealer looking at this and wondering what is going on with his money.

To me this is like building a housing project of 35 homes, except only the foundations are built to sell from. This isn't an intangible market any more than the truck market. I have stocked empty chassis, but in quantities typically not exceeding 2-4 units and then only rarely.

Some dealers I have known think that an empty chassis is good for their bottom line. I argue the opposite. It is very bad for the bottom line because dollars are tied up with no possible way to sell the unit without a body. It is an incomplete unit. They might as well stock cars without any engine and transmission.

Installing a body gives a good opportunity to make a sale--on purpose. There is the case for the extremely rare person who has a body to transfer to a new chassis. No big deal, trade for a chassis or get one out of a pool. In the meantime, the dealers money isn't tied up in a car with no engine or a foundation with no house.

What is even more interesting to me is seeing ads in the Big Truck Trader and other places with an empty chassis being offered. This is a total waste of advertising money to me. An empty chassis might be trade bait, but little else.

The remedy of course, is to install a body. With a complete unit, you now have something to sell--and, what's more important, it is something to sell with gross profit in it. I would now have a unit that I can market, demonstrate, put into a display, drive as a demo, and the most important thing of all: deliver it to a customer this very minute, deposit the contract and go sell another one. A somewhat faster turn, less expense and higher profits makes a happier, healthier commercial truck department.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

It's All About Solutions, Not Price




Solving problems, providing solutions is the name of the commercial truck game. Here's an example of this that we saw mid-year 2008. This customer replaced 5 Ford Cutaway units with steel plumber style bodies because they had to make a number of trips each day to and from the warehouse which cost them time and money.

In addition to that, they were having trouble with diesel engines that was also costing them time and money. The customer wanted to load up the truck full for the day and not have to come back to the shop. They wanted to keep moving from customer to customer. They are plumbing company.

The customer found a solution with a Hackney Aluminum Plumber body mounted on the new Dodge 4500 with the Cummins diesel. He replaced all 5 in one purchase with this arrangement. I asked how it was working out and he said he was thrilled with the change. He said that now he can load up with no overloading concerns and keep the trucks out all day. I asked him if he didn't mind telling me the cost of the bodies. He said $16,500 each.

It's not about the money, it's about the solution. He paid close to double what he was paying for the other trucks, yet feels the value was well worth the cost. Besides that, it is a great looking truck. I saw them after the signs were painted on the sides and they look great.

Even with sales off the mark, customers still need solutions to problems and will do what they need to in order to solve them. In this case, he replaced his entire fleet and all were special ordered and took time to arrive.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Faster and Better

I enjoyed thinking about yesterday's post, How Easily We Grow Accustomed. Coincidentally, a friend on Facebook told me about a YouTube video that would interest me. After viewing it, I was amazed. If you haven't seen it, you will be amazed as well. Talk about a world moving faster and getting better. Here's the link:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cL9Wu2kWwSY

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

How Quickly We Grow Accustomed

Television as we know it is just over 50 years young. When I was a child in the early 50's, we had a black & white TV (there were no color TV's until the 60's) and there were just a couple of channels and we lived at that time in Southern California. I guess my generation is the first to grow up on TV. Now there are hundreds of channels, you can't even find a black and white TV, but there HD-TV's everywhere. But, this is a long growth period.

The Internet. Although 1991 is kind of a start year in some respects, the Internet as we know it really began about 1994. There were no such thing as web pages, and now there are hundreds of millions of them. What a phenomenal growth period the last 15 years has been in this field. There appears to be no slowing down either. This blog didn't exist 10 years ago and even 5 years ago, they were uncommon. Amazing growth that we take for granted now.

Search engines. Google is so new it is hard to believe what this company has done to the Internet (I should say, for the Internet). Yet, we are so accustomed to Google searches that now Google is a generic name for Internet searching, like Kleenex is to tissues.

Think of the commercial truck market as we now know it. When I started my first commercial truck operation in 1989, you had to look long and hard to find a dealer who stocked commercial upfitted trucks. We were a leader just by stocking them. Chevrolet was a real leader in opening this market up by bringing a dealer focus to stocking upfitted trucks on purpose back in 1994 with their CSV program (Commercial Specialty Vehicle). Today it is so easy to find a dealer with upfitted commercial trucks in stock that it is a surprise if you don't find at least one in most larger towns or small cities. You may even find some in small towns.

Huge expansion of this market has occurred in such a short time frame. This included the expansion of body companies and body manufacturers who became bailment pool dealers allowing and encouraging even more expansion. Even with sales being off considerably last year and this year, this market is still so much larger than it was 10-15 years ago. And, it is not nearly over with yet. Some dealers are leaving, but others will replace them that have even more of a vision of the possibilities of its success. There is much, much more to come. It is really only in a transition stage and it will become more and better than it ever was. I watched the improvements in chassis, marketing, bodies, dealers across the board in the last 20 years and I look forward with huge excitement to what possibilities lay in store.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Success Is Never Ending. . .

Yesterday I went to my warehouse to pick up some books sold in my little eBay business. While there, I noticed a copy of Robert H Schuller's Success is Never Ending. . . Failure is Never Final! It was written in 1988 and it has been quite a while since I read it, so I opened to the table of contents and found even something so simple as that was inspiring and thought I would share it. Here it is:

Success or Failure--The Choice Is Yours!
Dream Your Way to Unending Success!
The Ten Levels in the Evolution of a Dream
If You Can DREAM It--You Can DO It!
Here's What You Need: Curiosity, Confidence, Courage, Constancy
Nothing Is Impossible!
Clear the Site for Building a Possibility-Thinking Faith
Remove the Word "Impossible" from Your Vocabulary
Creative Conditioning for Possibility Thinking
Turning Failure Thinkers into Success Thinkers!
Laying the Foundation with Eight Positive Mental Attitudes Toward
Change, Yourself, Leadership, Problems, People,
Emotional Well-Being, Creative Ideas, Decision Making
Packing the Power of Possibility Thinking into Your Life!
Sterilize Your Attitude!
Recognize Your Position!
Itemize Your Assets!
Prioritize Your Goals!
Visualize Your Objectives!
Energize Your Thinking!
Harmonize Your Conflicts!
Minimize Your Risks!
Finalize Your Plans!
Actualize Your Dreams!
Colonize Your Success!
Analyze Your Possibilities!
Scrutinize Your Values!
Capitalize On Your Experiences!
Reorganize Your Calendar!
Mobilize Your Resources!
Organize Your Network!
Neutralize Your Opposition!
Positivize Your Addictions!
Verbalize Your Expectations!
Maximize Your Results!
Revitalize Your Imagination!
Where Do You Go from "OUT"?
STAGE ONE: Damage Control
STAGE TWO: Renewal and Recovery
Now! Bounce Back! Become a---
Wow! Thinker
Now! Thinker
How! Thinker
Ow! Thinker
Vow! Thinker
Pow! Thinker
Every End Is a New Beginning!
The Parable of the Seed
Starting Over Again
Look at What You Have Left
There's Hope for a Breakthrough
Going Beyond the Limits
Don't Throw a Curtain Across Tomorrow
Tomorrow Is Today
Say, "Farewell to Failure!
Say, "Hello to Success!
FAITH--The Force That Sets Your FREE to Succeed!
Now--Come Alive--With HOPE!


For $7.99 on the link above, you can get a brand new copy via Amazon.com. What a bargain. You can get used copies for even less. There's no end to the possibilities you will find in this book from one of America's most positive thinkers!

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Working the Net

Networking, let me count the ways. . . If you're not already networking on a regular basis, now would be a really good time to get more of that going. Here's some ideas.

Le Tip International is a combination of local networking groups, but it is much more than just networking, it is pretty much a guaranteed referral system. When you join, you are required to refer business (a tip) to another member or members of the group and vice versa. The more they know about your business, the easier that can be for them. Only one person from each career field is eligible to join so that all the referrals for the product or service you sell come only to you. There is a membership fee and a monthly fee, but the uniqueness of the system assures you a return. Consider the investment. They typically meet once a week in the lunch time frame.

Local Professional Business Clubs. Here's a local example: Vacaville Business Club. Go to Google and type in business club and your city and see what comes up. There are probably hundreds, maybe thousands of these clubs. The idea is to help each others business by referral prospects to each other. Where Le Tip is a requirement, many of these are probably more like network clubs where you have to work it more, but they probably cost less as well.

Chamber of Commerce. Here's a local Chamber site: Vacaville Chamber of Commerce. There is an annual fee to be a member, but they have quite a long list of events every month and the opportunity for you to network with other business people in your area is huge. Consider joining your local Chamber of Commerce.

Service Clubs. Lions Club, Kiwanis, Rotary, and other such clubs can be a great benefit for your business and your gifts. Most concentrate on being of benefit to their communities through their local chapters. This along with regular meetings and events allows you to get to know a lot of people and also be a part of something important. In the process, many people get a lot of business and referrals.

Start your own professional referral club. There are many ways to network locally and to improve your business and exposure and to be of value in your community as well. Many of these will take a little time each week, but the returns can be very beneficial.

Friday, February 6, 2009

Benefits From the Customers Perspective

In the first few months as a new salesman in late 1972, my manager loaned me some 33 1/3 records about sales to help me learn. I remember most of the messages today. One came to mind this morning. Here's the quote: ". . . last year in America, people bought one million quarter inch drills, but they didn't want quarter inch drills, they wanted quarter inch holes." I do not remember the person on this record, but have never forgotten that message. It's been well worn over the years, but is a great reminder to focus on the benefit of a product and not the product itself, because it's true that people don't want products, they want solutions and feelings.

I relate this to commercial truck inventory (or any other inventory) in that people don't want 8' service bodies, they want something else. If you focus on the something else, you will sell more service bodies and this is also a key in this message: you will make more gross!

Let's say that you have enough sales and normal stocking level of about five 8' service bodies. If you think of the service body, you might just buy 5 of the same thing, so that you have 5 on the ground ready to go. If you think of the benefits, you might stock one with horizontal compartments, one without a rack, a low pro, a colored unit, one with cargo bed enclosure and so on.

Ask yourself something like this: If I were an electrician, how would I want to use this body and what would be important to me? Or, you might ask, what are some of the benefits that I see in this body of how different people might make use of it? I used to do this and it caused me to stock different things and make a lot more sales than I would have otherwise. I could see solutions. I imagined it. It allowed me to give a different presentation to show enthusiasm and to show value. What are the benefits from the customers perspective.

If you stock items with the benefit to the customer in mind, you will have a more effective inventory. You will also be able to show different solutions for the same product. In scenario number one, we have 5 service bodies the same, in solution number two, we have quite a varied selection of solutions like cargo bed enclosure, color, low pro, horizontal compartments, no rack and so on. That just scratches the surface of options you can consider, yet each one offers a different solution that adds value.

This same approach is valid with all your commercial inventory. Stocking only 12' contractors on diesel F450 or GM 4500 chassis is ineffective and wasteful. The 9' and 10' and 14' should be considered carefully. In addition, there are many options that can be added here and there that will solve different problems and provide more value. Consider rear mounted underbed boxes with the wheel skirt, drawer assemblies in compartments, alternate box placement or alternate size boxes, color and many more.

The more creative you get, the more excited you will get because now you have something to sell! Solving problems is great fun. Seeing the prospect get excited with you is magical. You will also make substantially higher gross margins because you are solving problems that other dealers cannot solve. You are showing products the other dealers do not have. You are leading!

Will you make mistakes? I sure hope so. If you are not willing to make a mistake, your potential is severely diminished. You will learn from your mistakes. I guarantee you that the mistakes will most likely be very few and insignificant in comparison to your successes. The fruit is on the limb, not the trunk. Go on out there and remember to focus on the benefits from the customers perspective.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

The Best Question

In times when business is down, or when business is up; in fact, anytime is a great time to consistently ask the best question: What can I/we do to improve my/our business?

Have you ever heard the phrase, "you're either growing or your dying"? It is a really good phrase to remember. Here's the main reason it is good to remember: because it's true. I'll give you some examples.

Mervyns. It is dead. It has been dying for the last ten years. They just didn't know well enough to fall over until late last year. Circuit City. It's been dead for years. Now almost gone completely. The current economy was just the straw. Their lack of asking the best question every day is what killed them. They had an idea and just kept repeating it. Reminds me of the story of the 20-year veteran car salesman. I've known quite a few. He had one year experience repeated 20 times. Just doesn't know enough to fall over, but he's dead. The lack of the best question every day killed him. It kills them all.

I go to a certain place to have my oil changed, minor repairs and even some major repairs on all my vehicles. I've done business with them for well over 25 years. I love the people. If it weren't for the fact that their property is probably paid for and they keep their expenses low, they would already be gone, but they are absolutely dying. I had a meeting with one of the owners to discuss some things they could do to improve business because I don't want them to go out of business, but it falls on deaf ears. They don't want to know because they have one years experience repeated 30 times. Great ideas are all around them--indeed, even offered up in person and they pay no attention. Less and less repeat business, very little new business. Competition just sucking them dry. Why? They are standing still. It's not the competition, it's their complacency. Sad, don't you think?

I just heard of a Chevy dealership being sold off today. Know it well--used to know it rather. Dying and going to another contestant. It's been dying for a good while. Could have been a contender! At one time it was a market leader. So many ways to improve, so little time and so little interest. One year experience repeated again and again. This person owns two stores, and I'm sure the other is going the same way soon. Head in the sand. Old ideas repeated with less results. Running ads in the paper doesn't do it now and hasn't for a lot of years. What hope have they? Just one: Pull their head out and start asking the tough and best question: What can we do to improve our business? Start getting some fresh, talented people in on the answers to that question. That will change everything.

So, I can hear it now. . . what has this to do with me? I'm just a fleet/commercial manager--just one person, this doesn't help me. Wrong. The question still applies. How can you improve your business? What can you do differently that will make a positive difference? How can you get new customers? More important than that is, how can you keep the highest percentage of the customers you already have and to sell their relatives, friends, business associates--in fact, everyone they know? How can you work your business so that you never have to prospect again? What tools will you need? Who can help you brainstorm this topic? Who can you partner with? How can you expand your inventory without running up the costs? How can you close more sales? How can you take more time off and still improve your business? How can you have a whole lot more fun everyday and build a better business at the same time? How can you become a real leader in your market? How can you add so much value that your customers will never want to go anywhere else ever again? What can I do to improve my business?

Questions are the catalyst and the answers will change your world. So, what are your questions?

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Keep Your Sanity

The way to keep your sanity is to not do the same thing and expect a different result. In other words, if you choose to do the same thing, you would be wise to expect the same result you've been getting. Don't be surprised. Frustration comes from expecting a different result along with a number of less appealing emotional responses.

Here's another way to keep your sanity. I learned this many years ago and it continues to serve me: There is no right or wrong way. That is purely and simply a judgement. There is only your way, my way and their way. Each way is a way and each has its merits and each has its consequence. It is only a way. It may not be your way, but it is a way. Someone pulls a stupid (judgmement) move in front of you with their car in heavy traffic. Well, that's interesting! I wouldn't have thought of doing it that way, but they obviously have . . .

The best way to keep your sanity. Feel good. You get to choose how you feel about anything and at all times. Choose to find a way to feel good. Pump yourself up. You can be of little value to anyone else if you aren't of value to yourself. Smile. Sing Jingle Bells in July. Have fun.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Keep Your Focus

It is harder to keep your focus when you turn on the news or pick up a paper and see that the world is coming to an end. The more of that one sees, the more easily it is believed to be true. Logic says that if it is true for them, it could be and most likely will be true for you. Balderdash!

Here's how I get through:
  • I don't read the paper. Every once in a while in a place where one is available like a hotel or something, I'll browse a USA Today, but that is it. We take the paper so my wife can read it, but I don't even open it. I haven't for over 5 years. Don't miss it one bit. If a tree falls in the forest and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?
  • No regular TV news. I used to watch the 10 or 11 o'clock news plus CNN, Fox and all that. Hardly every watch any of it now, but once in a while a few minutes only. They always accentuate the negative side of things.
  • I listen to positive, uplifting, instructional audio or positive, uplifting music when I am driving. Feeding myself and choosing what I feed myself is critical.
  • I keep focusing on what I want as if I already have it. The way I want things to be, the things, the fun, the lifestyle. Eyes on the goal. Tiger Woods pictures the ball landing where he wants it to land.
  • I rarely get upset about anything. I used to get upset about almost everything. I feel a peace about life and am happy where I am with what I now have in pursuit of what I want. This is so important. If I'm upset, I'm focusing on what I don't want.
  • I think about people I admire, many who are long gone, whose stories I have read that inspire me. Some are great business leaders like Andrew Carnegie, Conrad Hilton, J Paul Getty, Wallace Johnson, Jim Rohn, Anthony Robbins, and many more.
  • I don't think about quitting. I used to quit a lot. Now I feel like a bulldozer going through. Persistence is omnipotent.
  • I laugh as much as I can. You Tube helps me do that any time I want. I love comedies.
  • Last, and this is the most important: I try to uplift other people. I want to see the positive and remind them of that. I used to keep it to myself, and now I tell them often. If I can inspire someone else a tenth as much as I am inspired every day, that is a wonderful accomplishment.

It's really not even about getting through. It is about enjoying (even relishing) every moment of every day. It goes by so fast. I finally can truly say that I do enjoy every day and I'm 95% there on every moment of every day. I call that success. If I can do it, anyone can.