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Shop Management/Marketing

The rules of selling in the automotive trades part 6

Terry Greenhut discusses using your voice to sell in The Rules of Selling Part 6.

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Use your authoritative voice. It helps you control the process of making the sale. Throughout every phase you must be the one taking charge. You have to come across as knowing exactly what you are doing and recommending without being viewed as a know-it-all. The best way to accomplish that and keep total control of the conversation is to use questions rather than statements; asking instead of telling.

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When you ask a question, you cause the other person to answer or at least think about an answer. That means that you are controlling the interview. The customer may try to take back control by asking you a question, in which case you would answer it and immediately ask another question to regain control.

Although people in general don’t mind being asked, they often don’t like being told. If you ask questions that lead people in the direction you want them to go, often they will think your idea was really theirs causing them to accept it. For example, one of my favorite leading questions is: “Quality is a major concern of yours, isn’t it?” The question works because the answer is obvious. Everyone will agree that they want quality. They aren’t going to say, “No, we’re striving to do business with the poorest quality shop in town.” Even those who insist they want the cheapest price will have to admit that they want it done right, so they want quality. The previous was also an example of the “Statement question close,” in which you tell the customer what you want him or her to know and then ask the question to get their agreement.

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 You may have heard that salespeople are always closing but it may not be the way you think. They aren’t always trying to close the sale, but they are always closing for some piece of information that will bring them closer to it. That’s why the best salespeople ask lots of questions and rarely make statements. Every good answer and agreement they get brings them closer to getting the big “yes” that closes the entire sale, so it’s important to get as many small agreements along the way as you can.

The statement question close can use a vast number of simple closing questions. Here are a few: Wouldn’t it? Couldn’t it? Don’t you? Hasn’t she? Don’t you agree? You can plug these and many others into your conversation without making customers feel you are putting them on the spot.

Another great questioning technique is the “Alternate of choice,” in which you offer two or three choices that are all positives so that any one they pick closes for you. The reason it works is that when offered choices people usually just pick one unless they are very much opposed to all the choices. Then they might come up with one of their own or cause you to have to offer a new set of choices. Don’t ever offer a choice between a positive and a negative because given the chance they will likely choose the negative because it avoids making a commitment. “Is the car drivable or should we tow it in?” Either answer gets the car to your driveway which is all you really wanted from that initial phone call anyway. “Would you like it done by 5 o’clock or would you rather pick it up tomorrow?” “Will you be taking care of it with cash or using a credit card?” Those are good closing questions because any answer they give closes the sale. So, any choice they make, you win, but they win too. By agreeing to do business with you they will be getting the quality they deserve for the money they spend.

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The selling process usually begins with a phone call from someone with a problem. If it’s transmission related or if they think it is they are often quite worried, maybe even scared because most people think that whenever anything is wrong with a transmission the whole thing needs to be replaced and it can run into thousands of dollars. That fear plus the fact that most don’t know the right questions to ask causes them to ask the only question they can think of; “How much will it cost?”

We are prone to think that they are price shopping, and some are, but most just don’t know what else to ask. They do know that everything in the world has a price so it isn’t all that strange that they should ask for it. The problem is that you aren’t ready to give it to them without having the opportunity to diagnose the problem for yourself. To do that you need the car at your shop, so your only goal is to get it there. Quoting any kind of a price at all will just make them hang up and call the next shop on the list. In fact, if you aren’t the first call, they made someone else probably gave them a telephone quote which is why they are calling you. So, the general rule is “No price quotes over the phone until after you have diagnosed the problem and priced the job out on your computer.

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To be able to give an accurate price you will often need a customer’s permission to remove and disassemble the transmission to determine which parts can be saved and reused and which need to be replaced so you will need to sell the customer on this additional step, but you don’t do that until the vehicle is in your shop and you have good reason to believe that the transmission needs to come out and be opened up in order to give an accurate quote.

We can see how complex the act of selling can be when we want to go about it the right way, but it is the way to close the most sales at the prices you need to be profitable. If you don’t want to put in the effort you can be like so many other shops that quote low-ball prices over the phone and are constantly fighting to make ends meet. It’s up to you.

A little story about quality vs. price:

My daughter and son-in-law have a mobile wood fired pizza business that they recently started. Their idea was to bring authentic Neapolitan pizza to the Tampa Bay area because with the demographic changing to include people who recognize really good food and are willing to pay for it, the timing seemed right.

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Both of the kids are trained chefs who have been in the food business for a long time. They know what quality looks like and costs to produce and know what they need to charge for it. When you import flour, tomatoes, different cheeses and a host of other ingredients from Italy and hand make the dough and Mozzarella cheese every day. like they do, you are producing a special product. Even the wood they burn costs twice as much because it’s kiln dried to burn hotter and get the oven temperature up to 900 degrees so they can cook a pie in about 90 seconds with a great charred edged crust that people go crazy for in Naples.

The kids spent a lot of time perfecting the dough and the cheese. They had several pre-opening parties to introduce their form of pizza and get lots of feedback before they ever stated to charge any money for their product.

Fortunately, the feedback was terrific. The people loved the pizza, all of the varieties of it; so, the business started up for real.

One of the first places they were asked to bring their trailer was the community in which I live. The president of the HOA approved it and one of the board members volunteered to let it be set up in front of her house. With 234 houses in the community the turnout was good. A lot of people bought pies and posted glowing revues on all the relevant social media sites.

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There was only one negative comment posted and it was by the woman who invited them to park in front of her house. The comment was only two words. “So Expensive!” That was it. Not “A little expensive but great.” Just, “So expensive!” A review like that says nothing but speaks volumes. My daughter was very upset by it. Her comment to me was, “If they want Domino’s or Little Caesar’s for $5.99, they aren’t going to get it from me. Quality costs money.” She sounded like she had just come from attending one of my seminars.

Of course, I told her not to be upset. “That woman did you a big favor. She just defined your business for you. Now the looki-lu’s and the cheapskates won’t bother you. Only legitimate customers who want real Neapolitan pizza will seek you out.” It’s the same thing I convinced myself of a long time ago. “Find yourself a niche and stick with it. If you want the best price, do the best work. Don’t compromise on quality to save a buck. Do the best job you can and don’t be afraid to ask good money for it. If the customer objects don’t give in and immediately lower your price. Handle the objection and try to get every legitimate dollar you asked for.”

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One of the worst outcomes of a customer negotiating your price down is that you might very well start the next customer at a lower price for fear of scaring him or her off. That results in a negative spiral that can be devastating. You always have to remember that if one customer doesn’t want to pay the price there are lots of others who will. Cater to them and you’ll do a whole lot better.

By the way, the pizza truck is doing great. Repeat customers track it on social media and often drive over an hour to find it and get a pie. Guess there are a good number of people willing to pay the price for quality.

***Autumn Special*** Now you can purchase one copy of Terry Greenhut’s 450 page book “How to Market and Sell Automotive and Transmission Service and Repair” for only $49.16. In addition you can now own the complete set of Terry’s 9 hour sales course “How to Sell Automotive Service and Repair for only $486.43 for the video DVDs or $278.37 for the audio CDs. To take advantage of any of these great opportunities text or call Terry directly at 914-882-3003 to place your credit card order. Don’t wait. Let’s make this your best year ever.

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