Over 25 years, I've learned that two-way radio dealers are a pretty smart group. I have synthesized your wisdom to 10 simple rules that can be applied to all levels of our industry.

  1. Get involved: Professional two-way radios are somewhat of a mystery to people. They are available only through technology specialists, aka “radio guys,” like you. Leverage this stature by plugging into local business and civic organizations and by sponsoring community events.

  2. Match your assets to customer needs: Successful dealers know not only what they do well, but also how their assets address the needs of current and potential customers. For example, a law enforcement agency has different needs than a surveying crew. Savvy dealers understand that they're in a needs-driven business and market themselves accordingly.

  3. Promote, promote, promote: Once you've identified what you do well, promote those skills in ways that not only communicate their value, but also how they set you apart from your competition. Be consistent with that message and make sure you tell customers and prospects more than once. A targeted message also is important. Uncover the prospects that really need your expertise, and promote specifically to them.

  4. Run your business with a profit motive: Run away from bad business. Resist the temptation to take a loss on customer transactions that you see as an “investment” in future sales or service business. The best dealers establish vertical profit centers, constantly monitor performance and are not shy about making necessary adjustments — including the elimination of unprofitable activities.

  5. Stay current: The only sure thing in the radio business is change. As the land mobile radio industry migrates from analog to digital waveforms, it is critical that dealers stay educated on the factors that are influencing technology evolution and advancement. It is imperative to monitor the activities of the FCC and the various frequency coordination agencies. It's best to stay current, too, with the dynamics of government funding. Be aware of budget cycles and how they affect your business.

  6. Become an integrated supplier: Many forward-thinking dealers are selling security, paging, mobile data and/or AVL, which means they're staying ahead of their customers' needs. However, when you offer broad technological solutions for multiple applications, you're not just selling customers more equipment — you're solving more of their problems.

  7. Be a good partner: An effective business relationship must be reciprocal to be considered a partnership. Supply your vendors with market information, customer trends, constructive criticism and any region-specific news that is influencing your business. Once this information pipeline opens, you should expect similar feedback from your vendors, resulting in better support.

  8. Honor your competitor: Customers are turned off when you speak negatively about your competitors. Instead of focusing on your competitors, concentrate on the prospective customer's requirements. Doing so will help you better determine whether your company's expertise fits their needs.

  9. Learn to say, “I don't know”: Customers tend to deal in absolutes, so refrain from half-answers that sound good but lack value. Once credibility is lost, it is almost impossible to regain. You will not lose respect in the eyes of your customer and rarely will you be at a disadvantage if you tell them you don't know the answer, but that you'll seek the information they need and provide it in a timely manner.

  10. Make lemonade from lemons: When a problem or error occurs, don't procrastinate on a solution because the problem will continue to grow. After the problem is solved, do something extraordinary to improve the relationship — for example, increase your level of service or reduce the repair cost on an abused radio, etc. Inevitably, we all incur problems, and most customers understand this. How you address problems is how you'll be remembered.

Mark Jasin is senior vice president and general manager of Kenwood USA.