Ask the right questions

If you’re to leverage your company’s competitive advantages, your understanding of them must be accurate. You can’t promote the advantages you think your dealership has. Rather, you must determine the competitive advantages that resonate with your customers and truly set you apart from your competitors.

If you’re not already surveying your customers, you need to start. Not only should you send them a sales and service CSI survey, ask them why they purchased the product or service from your business instead of the competition.

Some customers are less likely than others to tell a business about their sales or service experience, but most aren’t shy about sharing it with their friends. That’s why following your customers’ social networking activities can be fruitful, whether you conduct searches for your brand name on social networking sites or invite customers to provide their feedback on your Twitter, Facebook or MySpace pages.

Perhaps most ideal, however, is face-to-face communication. In an age in which consumers trust people, not companies, it is one of the most effective ways we can obtain accurate information from our customers. Ask them where else they’ve shopped for boating products and services. What was their experience like? How does it compare to their experience with your business?

As your marketplace changes, re-evaluate your competitive advantages. If a competitor has gone out of business or dropped a product line, ask yourself how you can fill any gaps that may have been created. Is there a boat brand you’ve always wanted to carry or a service for which demand is growing? Now may be the time to try to win that line or launch that service.

Don’t limit your questions to new boat sales. Each department or profit center within your business should have at least one competitive advantage.

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