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Business Management 101
By Dave Deegan
How do we close the sale on a rebuilt engine, get the work in the door and turn shoppers into customers?
These are the basic questions business owners have asked themselves since the first shingle was hung, and the open sign was placed in the window. Is the automotive industry any different? Not really; the foundation of every business is sales and profit. For the next few minutes, let us focus on the sales aspect.
First of all, let’s establish the fact that a certain percentage of customers are price shoppers. They are only interested in finding the lowest price. Your opportunities are limited with this customer, but I recommend you try anyway.
What about the average car owner who has a problem and is simply trying to find out what the repair or engine replacement will cost? Often times, this customer has limited knowledge of their vehicle and even less understanding of how the engine support systems work. Many times, they assume that the quality, warranty and overall product at all repair facilities is a constant. As we all know, this is not the case. So how do we turn this price shopper into a buyer?
By sticking to sales basics, more often than not, you will find an increase in the number of telephone inquires that will be turned into long lasting customers.
It has been our experience that the customer has usually had someone tell them what the problem is: a blown head gasket, a lower end noise, a bad lifter, a valve ticking, etc… sound familiar? During this initial telephone call, there are several basic guidelines we follow that will open the door for the sale.
First, the customer needs to feel that you know what you are doing. After getting the primary information about the car, ask some specific questions, like, "Tell me exactly what happened when you were driving the car," and emphasize exactly. Now, listen carefully to what the customer is telling you. Ask more questions about the problem and be sure to use the customer’s name. Get more information about the overall situation such as: Who usually drives the car? How many miles are on the vehicle? Have you had other problems with the car? Is it in good condition? Did you buy the car new? Had you planned on keeping the car? If you are asking the questions, then you are in control. More importantly, you are establishing a rapport with the customer. Customers want to know that their situation will be handled correctly and that they will be satisfied with the results. Let the customer know that your business is professional, experienced and warranties its work. Be friendly and enthusiastic in a professional manner. Take a genuine interest in their situation while being positive and upbeat. Use empathy not sympathy!
Offer the customer a solution that will get them into your shop. If the problem they are describing seems multifaceted, give them an option that will give them confidence, such as, "Maybe the best thing to do right now is to confirm what repair is actually needed and to do some thorough diagnostic work."
This approach instills customer confidence in that you know what you are doing, you have experience and expertise, and they are in capable hands. Remember, most people have a limited understanding of what is under the hood!
Do not diagnose the problem on the phone! What you don’t know is that the customer has an inner ear condition and doesn’t hear well. What sounds like a slight ticking noise to our "hearing impaired" customer is actually a rod knock that is on the verge of creating a window in the side of the block!
Now to close the sale. This portion of the sale is by far the most uncomfortable for shop owners. We as shop owners must remember that "profit" is not a bad word, and dropping the price will only cause more headaches. When you are giving the estimate to the customer, establish with them that your price may not be the lowest in town, but the work is of the highest quality. Let them know that the objective of your business is for them win. If they win, you win. We do not ascribe to the philosophy of matching the lowest price. We are not non-profit organizations but entrepreneurs in capitalism.
To sum it all up, remember to be G.R.E.A.T. with the customer – Sound Genuine, be Responsive, have Enthusiasm, Ask questions and take Time to listen to what the customer has to say.