Broski: The Difference Between Selling a Customer and Helping a Customer

July 3, 2023
A look at customer services from two different perspectives and how each affects customer behavior.

One method is short term and the other is long term. One maintains or loses business, the other increases business. One method for the service advisor takes effort and can cause stress while the other is easy and fun. I’ll make my point through two stories: one was buying my bicycle, and the other buying a new phone with accessories.

The Bike Shop

The spokes were getting rusty on my old-school touring bicycle that doubled as a grocery getter, with a rack on the back. I would occasionally ride on a dirt road or over the grass on my bicycling adventures. I stopped by a local bike shop and inquired about the bike I thought I wanted, a 10-speed with drop-down handlebars. After I started hemming and hawing about the bike he showed me, he asked what kind of riding I did. After hearing my answers, he said, “Let me show you something else.” He called it a hybrid. He explained the much wider tires and handlebars that were wider and went slightly up for more turning leverage for my type of riding (which to my surprise turned out to be true). He explained all that and more. And that was it: he never asked for the sale, he never “closed” the sale like all the traditional (shall I say “old-school) sales books say to do. Looking back, I realized there was no place to say no. He simply guided me down the path that made sense, along with some bike stories.

He didn’t ask for the sale; he didn’t have to. I knew what was next. Just like our customers know what’s next: say yes and pay for it.

I asked about a kickstand, which aren’t cool on road bikes. He said, “We’ll put one on.” Simple. And of course, they put on a rack. That all-black bike looked beautiful! And rode even better. I’m still ecstatic over three years later and my sales guy, Cody, still remembers me. Again, there was no place for me to say no to him. He was never selling me; he was just solving my bike-purchase situation. Just like we should be helping a customer solve their check engine light situation; helping, not selling.

I stopped by some time after that purchase to ask about a headlight because I occasionally ride at night. He suggested only one. But he was right about everything else so I bought it. I rode at night with two lady friends who had average headlights. Mine lit up the whole road enough for all three of us! (I may have bragged a little.) I gave him a great review because he deserved it. Now when I walk in, whether three or six months later, he greets me with a warm smile: I get taken care of.

The Phone Store

Conversely, there was the phone store purchase. I knew the phone I wanted. My sales guy mentioned it included a discounted price on the latest smartwatch. I wanted one because it can continually measure my heart rate on an uphill bike ride and other cool things. He then mentioned I qualify for a good price on their internet service, half of what I was currently paying. And then his sales skills got the best of me. He mentioned a deal on a tablet. My laptop was acting up so I was interested. It was discounted half price, $300. A new tablet would cost at least $800 so this was sounding good. It was big, very light, with a beautiful picture on it to lure me in: I was hooked, though it still needed a stand and it a keyboard. The additional internet would be $10 a month, which he carefully never mentioned.

Luckily, that store didn’t have the tablet. I had to go to another store near work the next day. But that time delay allowed me to connect the dots. It would be over $1,000 with the monthly internet connection after 3 years and I wasn’t getting a laptop with good word processing and other good programs on it.

More manipulation was coming. He told me he was aiming for a manager position and that any review from me less than 5 meant he failed. How could I ruin that? It’s similar to industry articles that suggest the overuse of positive affirmation to lead customers into a purchase: manipulation.

I went back the next day to remove the tablet from my purchases. He said nothing. Had he really thought the tablet was in my best interest, he would have asked why and then reminded me of the reasons for suggesting it in the first place. He was quiet. Apparently, he just wanted the commission from the additional sale. He put himself first over me, the customer. I now have a bad taste for that company.

If we take care of our customer’s best interest, from a place of trust, they will take care of us by easily saying yes to our service and repair recommendations—and in turn by referring us.

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.

Sponsored Recommendations

Find the right shop management system to boost your efficiency

Find the right shop management system to aid in efficient scheduling, communication and payment processing

Craft a strategic marketing plan

Develop strategies and communicate them to your staff to keep you on track

Establish and track your KPIs: Technician Productivity

WHAT IT IS: Technician productivity refers to the time a technician is available to work measured against the actual time spent working on positive cash flow repair orders. Tracking...

Empower your technicians with the right tools for efficient repairs

Foster a highly motivated and efficient team to get vehicles out the door faster