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Relationships, Not Salesmanship, Make the Sale

February 7, 2012

By Joe Marconi

A customer arrives at your service counter asking for an oil change service and a tire rotation. Your service advisor carefully writes the repair order, informs the customer that a technician will be performing a multipoint inspection along with the service, ensures that he has all the necessary vehicle and customer information, and nicely asks the customer to have a seat in the customer lounge.

Fifteen minutes later the tech completes the multipoint inspection and brings the results to the service advisor. The technician is recommending a serpentine belt, cabin filter, and air filter. Your service advisor presents the recommended services to the customer, and the customer politely declines, saying that she will give it some thought and possibly bring it back for the work. The result; a lost sale. Does this scenario sound familiar?

So, how does a talented service advisor, who understands the importance of customer service, struggle with sales? It could be because the service advisor does not totally understand the concept of building relationships with his customers. Possibly, his previous training focused too much on, “making the sale”, rather than connecting with the customer as a person. What he may lack, as many service advisors do, is the concept that selling automotive service has a lot to do with building relationships.

Obviously you need to understand the products you sell, the features and benefits of the service, and the importance of being honest. But if you really want to go the top, you need to build relationships with your clientele.

Customers must be greeted and treated as close friends or a family member. If a close friend or a family member came to you with a car related problem, would they doubt your diagnosis or recommendations? Of course they wouldn’t. Friends and family members trust and believe in you. They know that you have their best interest at heart; it’s the reason why they come to you in the first place. The sale is not made due to salesmanship, but rather the relationship.

Building relationships begins the very first time a customer calls your shop or steps up to your counter. Effective advertising will bring new customers to your service counter. However, a company needs to ensure that a first-time customer doesn’t become a one-time customer. Repeat customers guarantee long-term success. Increasing the odds of getting consumers to return is heavily dependent upon the ability to anchor customers by building solid relationships. Each first-time customer must be greeted with enthusiasm and a smile. It is crucial that the service advisor engage in small talk, much like a conversation you would have meeting someone for the first time at a non-business event, such as a wedding or meeting a new neighbor.

Engaging in small talk is not limited to first-time customers. An essential part of delivering world-class customer service is how well you connect with the customer in a conversation. Small talk, combined with quality customer service, builds trust. When people trust you as a friend, sales are not sales, they are simply part of the conversation.

An important thing to note is that a sale is often made long before the service advisor walks into the customer service area and informs the customer that she needs front brakes. The ability to sell is directly related to the relationship the service advisor has with the customer.

Building relationships must be part of your marketing policy and must be a consistent theme, practiced by every staff member. How well you connect with the customer at each point of contact will make the difference later on.

Every business owner should ask themselves; “Can I positively say that the attitude and behavior of my employees creates an atmosphere that encourages consumers to return?” We need to remember that we may be in the auto repair or tire business, but we are retailers, and the strength of our companies is reliant upon how we deliver world-class customer service. Customer service drives sales and the level of customer satisfaction directly impacts those sales. A positive customer experience, reinforced by the relationship, will keep customers returning.

If you want to increase sales; know your products and services, convey the benefits of the service or repair you are recommending, always base decisions on what is in the best interest of the customer and above all, view every customer contact as an opportunity to either begin a relationship or preserve the relationship.

This article was contributed by Joe Marconi of Elite. Joe is one of the 1-on-1 business coaches who helps shop owners build more successful businesses through the Elite Coaching Program, and is the co-founder of autoshopowner.com.

 

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