The Cornerman by Chris West
by Chris West
September 28th, 2022

The Art of the Fire Sale

I am amazed at the growth our industry has seen through the recent pandemic that has affected and rewritten life as we know it. Despite economic strains, shops have continued to stay busy and grow more than ever. But as our economy comes into some challenging inflationary moments and supply chain issues plague the automotive industry, the automotive aftermarket industry is beginning to experience intermittent slowdowns. I want to address some sales tactics I have used and seen in my travels that can help a shop navigate slow periods.

Slow season doesn’t have to be painful.

Peaks and Valleys

First and foremost, we must understand that our business inherently will have peaks and valleys. There is no way to forecast this, and every shop has a sudden week or two where things slow down. My general rule of thumb is one to two weeks of cancellations and sub-average calls/leads are standard and not cause for alarm.

Anything longer than two weeks is indicative of a bigger sales problem, whether that be economy/market driven or a larger sales/marketing strategy issue that needs to be addressed. I want to focus on some ideas and tactics that have worked for me when it is just a short-term lull in the one to two-week range.

One of my favorite things to do during a business lull is a fire sale. With the advent of social media, this tactic is even easier to do than decades ago. Social media is a direct-to-consumer mouthpiece, meaning we can instantly reach hundreds of our customers via Facebook, Instagram and TikTok.

So with that being said, if I see a slow week or two materializing, I will do a post saying that we are running a special, one-off sale. Always attach the following bullet points to the sale:

1. A Reason for the Sale: The consumer now rationalizes that the sale is for that reason. Not because you are slow, which can be seen as a negative sentiment for quality/service.

For Example:

Back to School Sale
Fall Sale
Texas 2K Sale (a very popular national race event)
EV(electric vehicle) Sale
My-Wife-is-Pregnant-with-our-First-Boy Sale

You see the point. Each sale has a reason, and any of them can work.

2. Time and/or Quantity: Customers are more driven to participate when there is FOMO (Fear of Missing Out). By setting a time frame or quantity limit, consumers will jump on it.

For example:

For today only
This week only
The first five that book get 20% off, the next five get 10% off (my favorite)

3. Product or Products: Be specific about which products get the sale and which don’t. One of my favorites is to give a sale on the secondary product, meaning they have to get the first one at full price.

For example:

Free front two window tint with partial front end PPF on any truck
50% off a ceramic coating and a full PPF job
Free Glass Coating with any Full Car Ceramic Tint

For those with a good customer relationship management system that gives easy access to past clients, send an email blast offering a discount for a future install if they refer a friend.

The plus here is that you aren’t realizing the loss of revenue until they come in to use their discount (after referring a friend that you completed work for at full price).
And like before, make sure you attach a time/expiration for the offer and products.

For wholesale/dealership work, you can still fill in the slow periods with an approach for some pre-load opportunities.

Right now is the best time to approach offering a pre-load program as dealers are hungry to maximize profit on each car because their car counts are so low and lots are empty. They need to make every dollar they can on each car they sell.

There are many ways to generate business immediately in our day and age of technology. Don’t feel discouraged when you hit a week or two of being slow. If your overall model is correct and sustainable, going through these dips in business is normal.

The good news is that we can work through these and keep making money.

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  1. Thanks for laying out a clear path towards a positive way to run a sale! I always say sales are for filling in holes in a calendar.

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