A struggling golfer or baseball player may regain a winning swing by reviewing the game's fundamentals, and likewise, service sales professionals may capture or regain the swing of selling automotive diagnosis by revisiting some basic sales techniques.
My field experience repeatedly reinforces two impressions of selling diagnosis. First, motorists are skeptical of it because they don't comprehend what diagnosis is or why it's necessary. Second, service sales pros themselves seem to know as little about diagnosis as motorists do.
If a tire dealer's or service shop's salesperson doesn't believe in diagnosis, then how is he or she supposed to sell it comfortably? For that matter, why would anyone sell something successfully if he or she didn't believe in the product or procedure?
Experience shows that diagnosis ultimately saves consumers money because it confirms the real cause or causes of the vehicle's problem(s). In turn, then, it ensures that the vehicle is fixed correctly the first time.
Let's review some of the aforementioned techniques. First and foremost, recognize and respect that selling anything in this business may be challenging because of the people who came before you.
That is, some ignorant, incompetent or downright unscrupulous people have tarnished our collective reputations by selling stuff motorists didn't need. Therefore, it may take every bit of evidence, good will and salesmanship you can muster in order to sell diagnosis in your shop.
Second, you may be fighting a motorist's super-simplified notion of diagnosis and repair. Many motorists I've dealt with or observed at the service counter pare the process down to this: They tell you that the engine stalls occasionally, misfires or makes a noise. Then you tell a technician to open the hood and turn a screw or spin some wrenches. Now the car's fixed and everyone lives happily ever after.
Third, you can't sell anything until you've sold yourself first. This includes tangible as well as seemingly intangible things such as diagnosis. Selling yourself begins with the business' overall appearance. Does the general appearance of the place suggest modern, professional diagnosticians? Or does it project a back-alley grease pit?
Meanwhile, how's the personal appearance of the sales staff? Usually, doctors, lawyers and accountants have little or no difficulty selling diagnostic time in their respective disciplines. Typically, they look the part—they look like they're worth what they're charging.
It grieves some automotive people when I cite those examples, but it's true. Most consumers associate a certain level of grooming and behavior with someone's knowledge and fees.
At the very least, service salespeople should be dressed in clean, sharp, distinctive garb that projects a professional persona. Their grooming, demeanor and speech should telegraph a sense of knowledge and authority. All too often, the guy at the service counter looks like a displaced person and sounds like a school dropout. Other times, I can't tell the difference between a supposed sales pro and someone busting tires.
Fourth, learn to earn. This means you must take the necessary classes, do the required reading and observe the service bays so you're reasonably well versed on automotive services. Establish and maintain solid working relationships with technicians so you're able to learn more about their work—especially the testing that may be needed to make accurate, effective repairs the first time.
No, sales pros need not become technicians. But that said, they still need to be reasonably informed and conversant about maintenance and repairs. Otherwise they're unlikely to build the confidence that fuels all service sales, including diagnosis.
Yes, there comes a time when sales pros ought to sound like they know the automotive business. The most effective display of that knowledge may be telling a customer: “We don't know until we diagnose the symptom thoroughly.” By all means, let me know how you're selling diagnosis at your business.