Cost and complexity have made superior communication skills vitally important to selling automotive maintenance and repairs.
The more competitive the marketplace becomes, the more valuable these skills will be.
The cost of many services and repairs may seem routine and plausible to you. However, they often sound intimidating and frightening to the motorist on the other side of the service counter. The stronger your communications skills, the more likely you are to dispel these fears and convince the customer that the work is a good value, a smart investment in his or her vehicle.
If you fail to convince them, then a competitor who does so gets the service sale. Or the motorist may just sell or trade the vehicle—perhaps park it. Meantime, the complexity of modern vehicles fuels maintenance and repair costs.
To be fair, good communication always has been vital to selling anything from new cars and tires to maintenance and repairs. I recall watching some service writers and service managers work their verbal magic in the late 1960s.
Although I was a teenager and new to the business, I certainly recognized people who had more than the proverbial gift of gab—they could discuss a car's ailments effectively and recommend solutions very convincingly.
At that time, the consensus seemed to be that someone either possessed natural communication skills or they didn't. In my relatively small automotive world, I don't recall much emphasis on explaining the vehicle's needs clearly, politely and professionally. Furthermore, I can't remember any of the older guys advocating that communication skills could be or should be taught, groomed, improved.
To the contrary, technical know-how ruled. When motorists appeared confused or distrustful in any way, it was always their shortcoming—not that of an owner, manager or technician. According to many of the older guys, it was pitiful that more motorists weren't as technically enlightened as “wrench-turners” were.
Over the ensuing years, salesmanship—and the necessary communication skills for it—has become a bigger topic throughout the aftermarket service business. More and more training courses on service sales are available. If you aren't aware of these training opportunities, you either haven't looked or you've kept your eyes closed.
At some service facilities, any prospective sales person can't work the front counter until he or she has undergone a minimum amount of training for the position. This underscores how much owners and managers appreciate the need for competent “front-counter” staff.
However, my field experience suggests that some bosses either haven't recognized this need or don't understand it as well as they should. You only have to observe their staff at work to come to this conclusion. Their sales people need training.
Don't dismiss service sales training until you have taken some courses. Never assume that you've already learned all there is to know about selling maintenance and repairs. Many of the specialists who teach this topic actually did sell—longer and more-successfully—than you have. If nothing else, competent sales trainers exemplify people who can express themselves effectively.
The approach of quoting a price and telling someone to take it or leave it has been outdated for a long time. Money is tight and many motorists are suspicious because they've been stung in the past. Deal with these issues before your competitors do.
Unfortunately, technical talent is only part of the equation for a successful service facility. Sales skills must match technical know-how.
Without effective communicators at the service counter, a tire dealer or service shop operator faces an uncertain future. If you aren't selling as much service as you expected to or need to, closely examine the technique of your front-counter personnel first.
You may realize that some of them can't express themselves well enough to succeed. Train, coach and encourage these individuals accordingly.