Savvy sales professionals appreciate and practice the art of creating a positive first impression, which can go a long way toward making that initial mark on a sales prospect.
A true professional makes the most of it because he or she realizes there's only one opportunity to make an impact that'll count on the bottom line.
Some tire dealers and service shop operators I've met insist that the automotive service business is uniquely different from other sales scenarios. Basically, they insist that this alleged uniqueness excuses them from practicing proven techniques that savvy salespeople use in other markets.
Perhaps it's no surprise the bosses who claim this “special status” most fervently also gripe that they can't keep their service bays busy. In an era of cutthroat competition, they're searching for the proverbial silver bullet or magic wand that will draw hordes of motorists into their service departments.
Meantime, an impartial observer would very likely conclude that neither the owner nor the business make a positive first impression — period.
In reality, these owners and managers find it easier to denigrate successful techniques than to emulate them. Of course, copying those techniques takes work and guts — and accepting the challenge to improve and grow.
Let's return to the concept of making a solid first impression. During my travels, I've been fortunate to observe, interview and work with owners and managers of some mighty impressive auto service facilities. Each of these men and women had earned at least 25 years of prosperity — fighting tough competition, too. They had culled a clientele that faithfully purchased value instead of searching for the lowest price.
I've noticed a common thread, a common philosophy among these bosses. They all realized the need to advance themselves beyond the stereotype of a dirty, foreboding kind of auto service facility.
Instead of the grease ball appearance that came before them, they took their cues from retail operations that showed a clean, bright and welcoming image. The warmer, more-inviting image, they told me, was the first step toward exceeding consumers' expectations of an auto repair business.
What's more, these bosses saw their businesses differently than some of their competitors did.
“Remember, Dan, that we are retailers, too,” one owner told me repeatedly. “Instead of retailing hamburgers, clothing or electronics, we're selling tires, auto repairs and maintenance. It still requires solid salesmanship.”
The sheer volume of auto service competition today can be very intimidating, he added. “When consumers drive down the highways, they have countless choices of restaurants, retail sellers, outlets — all kinds. But they also have a huge selection of auto service providers out there.
“We can't afford to scare away prospects because our facilities look dirty, threadbare or unfriendly,” he explained.
Yes, some businesses may appear passable on the Internet or social media. But when the potential customer arrives, the facility must welcome him or her instead of repulse them.
A solid start toward rejuvenating your image may be a thorough cleaning inside and outside of the building, including maybe repainting it. Is it time for updated signage, too? Be sure to cut the grass, remove any weeds on the property; discard any debris or old cars.
Some customers may seem perfectly content with your business' existing image. Yet this look may not be enough to continue attracting fresh prospects in a super-competitive marketplace.
Meantime, you're welcome to send me before-and-after photos of renovations and improvements you've done at your dealership or service shop. And remember: Work hard, be proud.