by Brian Cruickshank, AAP
Editor, Counterman magazine
AKRON, OH — Remember manufacturer sales people? There might be a connection between their reduction and a renewed strength of the OE brand.
I was never a whiz at math, and I guess that’s why I ended up in journalism. Words and sentences just seem to make much more sense to me than numbers and algebraic variables. But at least like most people, I do understand Newton’s Third Law of physics: Every action has an equal and opposite reaction.
Newton was one smart cookie, and his Third Law, unlike much of the math I ever learned, can be applied to real life too – like when a so-called professional customer returns a “defective” brake pad that was clearly installed backwards (that’s the action). You shake your head in disbelief and write it up as a warranty anyway (that’s the reaction). Trust me, I’ve seen it.
A few month’s ago I wrote a feature article called Dealership Parts and Service Takes Aim at the Aftermarket, part of which examined the growing preference technicians have for the “genuine” OE part. These things don’t happen without reason – recall Sir Isaac’s Third Law? We have a theory on the action that might have caused this trend.
There was a time not so long ago that many aftermarket companies had sizable sales forces that regularly called on jobbers and technicians. Back then, those reps were the ‘feet on the street’ when it came to the sales and marketing of product. I’ve had store after store tell me that when they and their customers were getting regular calls from sales reps, sales on those particular lines were good. The less he saw of the rep, the more sluggish sales became for any particular brand. See the connection? See the action and reaction?
Today, there are sales reps out in the field, but they are few and far between. Most have huge territories to cover, and on top of that, they are handling many lines. As a result, there are fewer sales professionals in the field banging away on the aftermarket drum. There are fewer people extolling the features and benefits of aftermarket-branded products to your store personnel and customers. Over time, the technician has become less and less faithful to those aftermarket brands. We think it’s because there are fewer in-your-face advocates for those brands. And so slowly, sales have been migrating to the OE dealer parts department. At least there, those brands have the cachet of being “genuine.”
In the past, if a tech had a problem with a product, he could tell the sales rep. Action and reaction. If a tech has a problem with a product today, there’s no rep to resolve it, so he does his talking with an OE pick ticket. Same action, different reaction.
Collectively, the market reduced its field sales forces in order to save money. In doing so, the unintended result might very well have been a loss of brand loyalty. Don’t blame Newton, though. His Third Law doesn’t say anything about those reactions netting positive results.
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