Meet a long-time cell phone salesman who seized a unique market niche that allows his customers to save money and find a quality alternative to expensive phone bills.
Aaron Jiles likes to save money, and he likes to help his customers save money, too.
The owner of Ideal Wireless, 300 N. Alpine Road, Rockford, says he can save his customers anywhere from 10 to 15 percent off the price of his big-box store competition. If the idea of a little guy underselling high-volume national chains sounds counter-intuitive, it is.
Jiles sells wireless phone service through carriers such as Verizon, T-Mobile and Cricket Wireless, but he doesn’t stop there. He also buys and sells gently-used phones, and new accessories like chargers and protective cases, in addition to DirecTV satellite television.
It’s a wide variety of products, but he fills a market niche that few others occupy. Even though the challenges are many, Jiles is confident in his company’s ability to offer something different and valuable.
“I get a bunch of people who come in here from AT&T with an iPhone,” says Jiles. “With the iPhone, you’re looking at $140 a month after taxes on your phone, at the big-box store. I can offer that for $60 a month with the exact same service on a network that combines AT&T with T-Mobile.”
Even for customers without an iPhone, says Jiles, the savings are still apparent. Consider the customer whose phone is lost or stolen. Jiles can sell that customer a gently-used phone for half the price of a new replacement at the brand-name store. Even with a phone and an expired brand-name contract, Jiles can connect a customer to a prepaid wireless service, in a deal that requires no contract and offers lower prices.
He’s so eager to promote prepaid services that he uses his own contract as an example. With his current big-box contract, says Jiles, he pays $130 a month for unlimited service. With a prepaid service, he pays about half as much.
“If I were to completely get off my contract and switch to a prepaid service, I can get the exact same package – unlimited data, unlimited texting, unlimited calling – for $60 a month, no taxes and maybe just a few dollars in service charges.”
Jiles knows how the math adds up, and he knows why this alternative service saves customers money. He also understands the complexities of the cell phone market, after nearly a decade working for big-box stores. Jiles started in the early 2000s, selling NEXTEL push-to-talk phones at the mall, and eventually moved up to other sales opportunities.
His knowledge and experience in the cell phone market inspired him to open his own store in February 2010. It also guided his business plan, and helped him to land contracts as an independent dealer for eight wireless cell phone carriers.
“Before I signed the lease on this store, I had to have all of these companies approve it,” says Jiles. “Then, I had to be a certain distance from corporate stores, with all four companies that I first covered, and then they had to approve of me, personally, and know I’ve had experience in the business.”
Starting out, he faced a lot of red tape and paperwork, but that was simple compared to his biggest challenge: gaining customer recognition. He finds that many potential customers don’t know who he is, let alone what his business does. They naturally gravitate toward big-box dealers, and many consumers seem instinctively to want to buy only new cell phones. Still, Jiles is on to something.
“The problem is that everyone buys things new,” says Jiles. “If you can buy something that’s in great condition that’s used, then why pay full price for it? That’s the way I see it.”
Jiles knows that, in the abstract, the idea of broken or dirty used equipment can be a turn-off. In reality, Jiles guarantees the quality of each phone he sells. With nearly 300 used phones on display and in his storeroom, there are plenty of choices, and he can sell them for nearly 30 to 50 percent off the price of a big-box retailer.
“I make sure that the phones I buy are in excellent condition,” he says. “I do tests on the phones to make sure everything is in working order.”
To supplement his store sales, Jiles markets some phones online through craigslist and on his company Web site. He also sells non-phone products and services. He’s especially fond of the DirecTV satellite television service, which he promotes both as a dealer and as a happy customer.
“I use DirecTV and I save myself almost $65 a month on my bill,” he says. “When I switched a year ago, my goal was to pay around $140 a month for TV and Internet. My Internet bill with Comcast is $22 a month, and my DirecTV bill is $43 a month, so that’s almost a 60-percent savings.”
It’s clear that Jiles believes in the products he offers. He says honesty is essential to serving others and to being a good salesman. His philosophy of straightforward business deals with reasonable pricing also guided him in his previous business of selling and installing car audio systems. Honesty gave him a competitive advantage in that business, too, he says.
“In my old business, I was beating the Best Buys and the Americans and the Circuit Cities,” says Jiles. “I was killing their prices. I was trying to get customers nice stereos without a huge amount of money going out of their pockets.”
Starting his latest venture during a deep recession, Jiles has experienced his fair share of hard knocks and lessons learned. While it takes the right combination of intelligence and luck to make it this far, the entrepreneur is hesitant to declare victory just yet. As he sees it, there’s still work to be done.
Some challenges – such as consumer awareness and company recognition – still remain. But it’s the sales side that really drives him, and every day is a new chance to make new friends and further promote this unique business niche.
“If I don’t use a product, I can’t tell you how wonderful it is,” says Jiles. “I’m an honest salesman; I’m usually in the top ranks of the business that I’m doing. I feel that, if you know your product and it’s a good product, you can talk about it and it pretty much sells itself.” ❚