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Back to Basics

by Art Little

Transmission Digest Magazine
This article appeared in the November 2012 issue of Transmission Digest.

When sales are down in the shop you have to look for the reason sales have fallen off. When I was a manager I would always just get back to basics. Usually I was short cutting one thing or another. So, I would just get back to basics and do what I know works. I know that contact sales works. Some managers believe in separating the customer from his car A.S.A.P. and selling everything over the phone . As a salesman, that never made much since to me. I was taught that you have to put on a thousand dollar pitch to close a hundred dollar sale. That is hard to do over the phone.

 I know this much. The managers that sell on the phone make less money than the managers that contact sell. I have tried it both ways.  When I call on the phone, the customer is sitting in his environment and all he has to do is hang up and I am done. He may be distracted and not able to focus on my service recommendation. He may not be able to take personal calls at work. Bottom line, the customer has control of me and he can easily postpone his decision. I don't know about you but, when it is my money on the line, I like to be in control of the transaction. If you can do it over the phone, my hat is off to you. I just don't get that warm and fuzzy feeling over the phone.

The contact sale involves selling to the customer eye ball to eye ball . It takes more work on the managers part but, when sales are down , you just have to get back to basics and work a little harder. Remember, nobody works until someone sells something.  It starts by getting up off your rear end and getting the customer involved in the sale. It takes more work to contact sell but, it gives the manager more control over the sale.

Contact sales is all about control. It is about controlling the sale from the time we make contact with the customer through car delivery. This type of sales approach is based on patience and is driven by the willingness to go the extra mile for the customer.

Instead of talking to your customers on the phone, invite them into your sales environment. Take the time to get to know your customers. Take the first road test with them. Take them under the lift and do a minor adjustment diagnosis with one of your techs. Invite them in the building room to see their transmission being dismantled. Let them see, touch , hear and smell the work going on. Do a final road test with them when you deliver the vehicle back to them. Engage your customers. Make them feel like they are part of the repair every step of the way. It makes the customer feel good. He ends up feeling like he had some control over his 3,000.00 repair. You can not get that done over the phone.

Rule number one in contact sales is to  be  available to your customers when they need your time and expertise. In other words , make yourself available to them when they need you. Don’t make them wait until it is convenient for you. That's is what managers that sell on the phone do. You have to look at this as your opportunity earn their business and give them the service they are asking for when they ask for it. Don’t ever make them wait if you can keep from it.

When customers call on the phone , take control of the customer by treating it like a personal phone call from one of your friends. Listen to them.  Make a recommendation for a free diagnosis so you can look at it and, as soon as they get there, get up and drive their vehicle with them. Don’t just just sit there and tag their keys and say “we will call you later”.

 Ask the customer to take a road test with you before he drops it off. This is a perfect opportunity to contact sell . Get in the vehicle with the customer and make friends with him on the road test. Put his mind at ease. Neutralize the selling situation. Listen to what the customer says is wrong and experience it with him. Ask him , is that what you are talking about? If he says yes, in the customer’s mind , he now knows, you know what the problem is. Taking 10 minutes of your time, when he gets there, to do that is a big deal to him. He leaves more at ease than if he had just dropped the keys off. You owe that to your customers. Now, he likes you and is starting to trust you. You are not just a voice on the phone. That’s a big deal.

You can not be lazy. You have to be willing to earn their business. Set up some sales tools at the shop to help you educate your customers. You might have some samples of burned fluid and clean fluid for the customer to look at that helps explain when a fluid change is required and when an overhaul is required. You  might have a better business pamphlet that you can pull out and read quotes from that help you in different situations  Pictures of a million parts inside the transmission is always a good sales tool . There are some really neat cut-away transmission  and torque converter samples out there that are great sales aids too. You can get creative with all sorts of sales tools at the shop if you start thinking about it.

Rule number two is to always try to get the customer in front of you before you give a price. If an internal problem is found , get with the customer and try to get him to the shop. If you are selling a transmission using an inspection service, sell the inspection over the phone and set a time for the customer to come to the shop and see his internal diagnosis. Wait until the customer arrives to begin the dismantle. Dismantle the unit while the customer watches. Believe me, when you let the customer see one piece, turn into 500 pieces , in 15 minutes , you will have the customers attention.

The bench sale is the most dynamic and effective sales tool we have in the shop. I have no idea why a manager would not use that on every sale. How do you describe that over the phone ? It should be our goal to get every customer to the bench to see his transmission dismantled. While that goal is not possible, we want to invite them all to come to the bench. When we do that we are showing the customer that we have an open door policy and we are not hiding any thing from them. Customers like that and it builds trust and credibility.

The bench is where the job is sold. It is the last step of the contact sale. For those of you that are new to contact sales, here is a procedure I use that works pretty good.

  1. Set a time for the customer to come in
  2. Ask him to have a seat in the lobby and i will get the builder ready for him.
  3. Tell the builder we have a customer waiting
  4. The builder finds a finishing point on what he is working on and gets set up to dismantle the transmission.
  5. When he is ready he lets me know and i go get the customer.
  6. Introduce the customer to the builder and i tell him that the builder is going to dismantle the transmission and tell us what caused the problem and what parts are going to be required for the repair.
  7. Go over the external diagnostic report to put everybody on the same page
  8. The builder dismantles the transmission  
  9. The builder explains what caused the problem
  10. The builder explains exactly what parts are going to be needed.
  11. The builder asks the manager if he can think of anything else
  12. The manager confirms the diagnosis and asks the customer if he has any questions.
  13. Thank the builder and take the customer back out to the lobby while you work up the price.

You have driven the vehicle with the customer and witnessed the problem with him. The transmission was taken apart while he watched. You explained what caused the problem to him. Because you took the time to listen to him when he came in, drove the vehicle with him and offered a clear, concise recommendation, he now knows what caused his problem inside the transmission and what parts he needs to fix it. Now you have taken the time to educate the customer and it makes the sale much easier for you. That is the pay back on the contact sale.

You invested the time with the customer early in the sale when he needed you to. You made him feel special by showing concern for his problem and taking your time to perform a road test with him and identify his problem. Then you took the transmission apart while he watched and did not try to hide anything.  You diagnosed the problem and explained it to him in a way the layman would understand. You earned the right to ask for the top dollar on the repair.

Rule number three is do not do a bench presentation and let the customer talk you into calling him later. That defeats the purpose of the contact sale. The last step is to work up the price while he waits and close the sale , eye ball to eye ball , at the shop. When logic and emotion peak, good closers, close the sale. You are there. Now is the right time to close the sale. Before he leaves, solve his problem so he does not go home and shop around on you.

 If you have laid the proper ground work, you can expect a high closing ratio and an increased repair order average using the contact sale. By being patient and going the extra mile for your customers, you have closed every door they could walk out of before you asked for the money. Here is the selling situation you have created.

  1. You have the customer in your shop, out of their comfort zone
  2. You have built credibility by going the extra mile
  3. You have confirmed the external diagnosis
  4. You know what caused the problem so it won’t happen again.
  5. There are no distractions
  6. He can’t hang up on you
  7. You have the cost worked up that solves his transmission problem
  8. The customer now knows how difficult the work really is by watching the builder
  9. The price is not as big of an issue in this selling situation because customers have less resistance when they know what they are buying and feel like they are getting their moneys worth.

When you look at  the advantage you build for yourself by using the contact sale technique,  calling the customer on the phone and trying to sell a 3,000 transmission repair to someone that you briefly met when they dropped off their keys seems a little dicey to me. I like my chances with the contact selling technique. It is just common sense.

Here is my point in this month’s article. You can sometimes increase sales without spending any more money on advertising by working a little harder on the leads you have. There usually isn’t any money when sales are down to spend on advertising. The contact sale doesn't cost you anything to try out. It is not an additional advertising expense. It is not an app on your smart phone. It is not a new Internet lead generator. It is basic customer service . Maybe that is what’s missing at your shop.

There is an old saying, “If you want to make a living you’ve got  to put on a good show.”. Sometimes the best way to increase your sales at the shop is to just put on your selling britches and sell your way out of it.

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