Smart service sales people make the most positive first impressions they possibly can.
They make the effort because a solid first impression is an essential tenet of successful selling — not to mention something their competitors often overlook.
Furthermore, savvy automotive service providers try to meet or exceed consumers' expectations wherever possible. Making a positive first impression is the initial step toward that important goal.
In my last column (“Never underestimate value of first impression,” July 4 Tire Business), I focused on how the “curb appeal” of your property and facility should welcome rather than repulse motorists. The overall appearance of your business could make or break that initial impression, so take the matter to heart.
For the sake of discussion, let's say that your building, grounds and signage were positive enough to draw the motorist to the door. (Experience shows that this even applies to referrals. Sorry, more than one referral has been scared away by a threadbare-looking facility!) Next, the sales prospect comes face to face with you and your staff. What happens then?
Now we'll change our focus from the overall facility to its crew. Try to be as impartial as humanly possible. Then take a long, hard look at the sales staff of your tire dealership or service shop. Or you might get reactions to them from trusted colleagues. At first glance, do your staffers make a positive, professional, welcoming first impression? What image are they telegraphing to sales prospects — motorists — who enter your business?
Let me offer some perspective before I continue. Forget the auto service business for the moment. Instead, just consider common social interactions. For better or worse, people begin judging other people the moment they lay eyes on them. If that occurs in the non-automotive world, rest assured that it happens at your business too.
Folks begin taking account of traits such as eye contact: Do you establish and maintain eye contact? If you don't, then you risk being labeled as untrustworthy or discourteous.
What's more, recognize that people who are meeting you for the first time quickly appraise your personal appearance. For instance, do you appear well-groomed or ill-kept — possibly even slovenly? To many people, good grooming telegraphs personal pride and self-confidence.
On the other hand, a messy appearance may suggest a careless, devil-may-care attitude. That's not the attitude a motorist wants when handing you the keys to a $50,000 piece of machinery.
The majority of people purchasing automotive services are women who, let's face it, tend to be much more critical of appearance than men are.
Personal appearance includes a person's clothing. Does your attire and your staff's project pride and professionalism? Akin to grooming issues, many people at heart do believe that “clothes make the man.” Dirty, worn, ill-fitting and/or inappropriate attire project a variety of negative traits that don't earn motorists' trust.
Remember that to motorists of a certain age, professional attire projects a minimum level of respect. But attire deemed improper presents a damning sign of disrespect.
The art and science of making a positive first impression is a big topic, but within this brief discussion, I should emphasize personal demeanor and overall attitude before I wrap up.
When your sales people project a sunny, cheerful outlook, it goes a long way toward calming concerned or upset motorists.
A helpful, sympathetic tone of voice and friendly body language are giant steps toward earning trust. Remember, you're asking a stranger to trust you with their automotive pride and joy.
Making a positive first impression can't address every issue facing your tire dealership or service shop, but most people aren't likely to spend money unless you win them over.
If you don't, there's lots of competition up the road eager to convince motorists of their capabilities.