Broski: Don’t Sell, Tell.

July 28, 2022

In this month's column, Victor Broski reminds service advisors that the job is about educating customers, not selling them service. He reminds advisors that the position is built on trust, not coercion.

You don’t have to sell anything—except yourself.

The customer already knows they have to take care of their car. They know it will need repairs and maintenance periodically. To me, it’s simple: their car needs this now to fix the problem (to get it back to normal). It also needs this by way of routine maintenance (every car owner knows that, too).

I don’t get it. I know I have to sell something, like leather treatment, by way of value and benefits. To me though, it feels like overselling and puts the customer into a defensive mode, thinking, what else am I going to sell them?

Regarding additional work, I don’t have to sell that either: it needs it. I explain how that particular system works, how this part fixes it, and how much it will cost. I may mention the downside of not doing it. 

Yes, I go against the grain and quote individual repair costs. The prevailing theory is they will be adding up the individual costs as you go, and may cut you off because it’s sounding too expensive. They are going to find out eventually, and I don’t want to look like I’m trying to sneak anything by them.

When the customer resists my repair suggestions, I love the line: “I don’t care what you do.” This really throws them. It takes the perceived sales pressure off.

The simple formula I use: now, future, soon. Here’s what your car needs now to get it back to normal; no selling, just explaining. Here’s what it will need in the future; no selling now, but it will need it. And the soon stuff, the additional work? They can do it now or soon. The customer loves those choices. And besides, who wants to bring their car back in two or three months? Plus, we’re “friends.” I’ve built trust. I’ve been transparent with pictures and video.

Remember, nobody likes to be sold. A cold call salesperson has to sell you on the need first before you buy. Car repair is different; the car is already at your shop because it needs maintenance or repair.  That is, the car needs work—or it doesn’t. There’s no selling needed. Yet service advisors are taught to “sell” benefits, value, and safety. 

If you have to sell the customer on the idea that they need certain work, then something’s wrong: they don’t trust you. And that’s your fault.

They brought their car in to do maintenance, fix a problem, or both. If you tell them what it needs and they doubt you, or need a second opinion, or need to confirm the cost … in other words, if they have objections, again, something’s wrong.

Many years back, I bought an automotive training audio on dealing with objections. I’m always up for learning more about being a better service advisor. But after eight minutes, I had to stop it. To me, it was going in the wrong direction. How did they end up in that situation in the first place—a customer objecting to their recommendations? Obviously, the customer didn’t trust the advisor. Otherwise, why would they take the time to verify your diagnosis or cost? And why are they going to you in the first place if they don’t trust you? Great location? Low prices?

It was a disappointing audio.

It’s hard for a customer to say no if you aren’t selling anything (you are advising). You are telling them what their car needs; what is wrong with their car. They have to actively process saying a no versus a knee-jerk no to a sales pitch. It’s all on trust. Pictures to customers help with trust but don’t define it. Trust comes from a relationship, which involves more than just their cars. Listen and learn, ask and learn. You will learn things to use with other customers.

Some customers would like to see what happened to their car. So, I ask, “Would you like to see your old parts?” Many times I hear, “No, I trust you.” This means the trust has already been built, pictures only help. Heck, I simply thought the old part would satisfy their curiosity and offer closure.

I’ve learned many things about people and their repair. Honesty was drilled into me at a young age. So, when I ask a customer if they want to see their parts, I always thought it was 90 percent for personal interest only and 10 percent for lack of trust. It just may be the other way around out there in the real world.

A used car salesperson is not finding you the car of your dreams, they are “selling” you a car they have on their lot. In a department store, the salesperson is “selling” you a mattress they have in stock versus one from another mattress store a few blocks away.

Use your people-person personality to create a real relationship with your customers. Take their car in, and tell them what it needs. Then get back to getting updated on your client friend. Finally,  go home smiling.

About the Author

Victor Broski

Victor Broski has more than four decades of experience in the automotive repair industry. He worked at five different German car repair shops, learning something from each. As a service advisor with a degree in speech communication, he figured out how to easily get customers to say yes to the additional (DVI) work and be happy about it. Victor learned that great customer service brings great customer reviews, which brings inquiring phone calls that convert to new customers.

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