Jack Bidding: The way we sell off-road tires has to change

Is there anything in the world more ridiculously segmented than the off-road tire market?

It has become a total hodgepodge, with tires now marketed as everything from plain old all-terrain to off-road, mud-terrain, rugged-terrain, and now overland tires.

How on earth is the customer supposed to get a grip on what kind of tire they actually need?

That’s where we, as tire dealers, have to do our jobs. This is both a challenge and an opportunity – and it’s time we all paid more attention to off-road racing.

Let me explain.

Off the beaten track

The assumption that anyone could slap on any old tire from their local tire shop and go off the beaten path, secure in the knowledge they had the right tires, just because that tire had been labeled off-road by a company or supplier, always required a stretch of the imagination.

Choosing the right tire has always required far better product knowledge than that. Understandably, generally speaking, the consumer relies on the dealer for that information.

But what if the dealer’s information falls short?

Our point-of-sale (POS) systems are set up to quote prices on the tires we have in stock. That makes sense, of course. But, over the years, that has created a huge void between the specific needs of the customer (what they plan to use the tires for) and the tires we have in stock and available to sell them.

The result? We’re missing out on the opportunity to win over the customer recommending tires that fit their very specific needs.

Fit the shoe to the foot

So, we need to change. It’s time to get our heads around the options out there.

In order to sell the right off-road tire it’s vital to know:

• What, where and how the customer intends to use the tires
• The range of off-road tire options available
• The intention of the tire manufacturer in making the tire
• The validity of that tire.

What do I mean by validity? That’s where off-road racing comes into play.

Why off-road racing matters

Tire manufacturers are making some fantastic, quality, off-road tires – many of which are being constantly tested in the battlefield of off-road racing.

The competition in off-road racing is fierce and, as you’d expect, it’s dominated by a couple of very large tire manufacturers (although there are a few that hope they have a sliver of that pie, and several others that think they have). It is the supreme test of tires and demonstrates not just the engineering ability of tire makers but how serious they are about proving what they can do.

The most important consideration for someone who sells tires is that they recognize the tire maker or manufacturer can, and has, exerted the effort to showcase what they can do in making a serious tire.

A well-tested tire is likely to be a safer, better performing tire. And consumer safety should always be paramount in making any tire recommendations, whether the customer drives on pavement or overland (off-road).

Sell the benefits to the consumer

Manufacturers aren’t taking part in these races as an act of charity; it’s not just entertainment. It’s so their engineers can test and improve the performance of their tires for the benefit of the consumer.

That is information that can, and should, be used on the tire sales floor by every single person on your team who sells tires. Tire suppliers, too, should be reinforcing this type of information so that the activation doesn’t stop with the racers but is gift-wrapped at the sales counter!

Disregarding these efforts, and thinking that the consumer or customer doesn’t care about off-road racing, is ignorant. Off-road racing is a sales tool.

The ease of selling simple highway terrain, all-terrain and mud-terrain tire options has drifted into yesteryear. It’s your responsibility to get a handle on just how “off road” that off-road tire you’re selling is going to be, and then recommend the best possible option available – not just whatever off-road tires you have in stock.

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