As human beings we spend the majority of our day in “automatic” mode with our brains “programmed” with automatic responses. It makes perfect sense when you consider that our breathing, blood pressure, temperature control, heart rate and nervous system are all fully automatic. Doesn’t it make sense that much of our day-to-day communication is on autopilot as well?
Want proof? What are your answers to these questions?
• What do you eat at the movies? (Popcorn)
• What color is a Ferrari? (Red)
• How much does an alignment cost? ($89.95)
• What is the most inexpensive tire, 225/65R16? ($71.50 out the door)
Did you have to think about it, or did the answers just show up automatically?
Those answers reflect how we’ve been programmed to speak. We take both good and bad habits and turn them into “automatic behavior” and “automatic speaking.” It’s part of being human.
By the way, automatic by definition: done or occurring spontaneously, without conscious thought or intention. This is applicable in both our business and personal lives. It is important to continue the good habits that help attain success and it can be difficult to modify or change the “bad” habits that can hinder or impede us from achieving our goals.
We all know how challenging it can be at times to be a service writer. The service writer must manage simultaneous conversations with technicians, customers, vendors, and owners. The “Chaos of Commerce” illustrated in the cartoon here shows how demanding the position is. So working on automatic is usually the default mode we find ourselves in as service writers.
When a service writer who is well trained and has strong sales skills is in automatic mode, the results are most always positive (high closing percentages, revenue and higher average repair orders).
On the other hand, service writers with minimal sales training often make the same mistakes over and over again. Customers call, and the service writer provides some information and pricing, but they lack the training and skill to get the customer into the store. As this happens frequently during the day, week, month and year, a significant number of missed opportunities accumulate. This can translate into hundreds of thousands of dollars in missed opportunities and lost revenue on an annual basis.
The first and most important step to change or modify this automatic behavior in the store is to become a listening organization. Only by listening can you can find out where you are to begin your journey. Through call tracking programs you can listen, analyze and train employees. It is powerful and impactful to have an employee listen to calls and receive feedback on successful elements of the call as well as areas for improvement. Since the service writer is in automatic mode, they are often unaware of the mistakes they make, so regular feedback about sales calls will help break these habits.
Listening organizations are passionate about winning each sales opportunity, while others can appear to be more apathetic as to the outcome. When an individual is in automatic mode, winning business tends to become secondary to providing the information that is being requested. The call becomes a simple exchange of pricing and technical information, and there is little chance of getting the customer to initiate a commitment to come in, unless the price mentioned is clearly the lowest. The service writer is often unaware of the missed opportunity – after all, they did their job by providing the information or data. The problem is that information and data does not by itself inspire someone to take action.
Proper training and practicing are both mission critical to the growth and development of a service writer. There are consultants, sales trainers, and services out there to help. Employees, managers and owners can attend classes to help grow and develop strong communication and sales skills. The goal is to assimilate the best practices and turn them into a new automatic mode. Over time, that new way of doing things becomes second nature while many of the previously missed opportunities become appointments and sales.
Management and ownership participation is also very important to help facilitate the culture change at the service counter. Managers and owners need to be personally committed to the training process and culture change, or the changes you desire are not likely to become the new normal. When the sales team (from top to bottom) creates a united front and operates together, success is pretty much assured.
Training employees can often be a challenge. Handing them a script and instructing them to use it rarely works for long, and it really isn’t effective. It’s quite obvious to us when we’re customers that we’re being subjected to the delivery of a script. A more effective method is to memorize simple talking points and sales moves, then program them into the machine. Once those are learned and programmed effectively, employees can tweak them and make them their own.
Confidence, passion and empathy can also have a big impact on which direction the call takes.
Michael Jordan and Wayne Gretzky, who are two of the best athletes to have ever played their respective sports, had one major trait in common. They had the determination to practice what they felt were deficiencies over and over again in order to perform at a higher level. The same is a necessary component within the tire sales world. In many but not all cases, employees that have an exceptional level of knowledge about vehicles and tires are promoted to the service counter. The common deficiency with the above employee is little or no sales experience. In automatic mode, he or she is very comfortable to speak with customers about vehicles, technical matters, sizes and prices, but the communication and sales component is usually overlooked. They stay stuck in automatic mode, talking about information and data.
When an employee is taught the right way to interact with others, it can have a profound impact both their personal and professional life. As the employee embraces this type of training and works on replacing old ineffective habits with new more powerful “moves to the hoop,” they experience a big boost in their personal confidence and sales performance. When peers see the change, it often becomes contagious.
As part of our business, our team has listened to more than a million phone calls to tire dealers and auto service providers, about half of which were sales opportunities. There is a clear difference between companies that are going through the motions in automatic mode compared to companies that are listening and refining their approach on a regular basis. The results are clearly illustrated in appointment closing percentages as well as retail tire sales.
Advertising to make the phone ring is expensive, so it is of the utmost importance that the service writers make the most of each opportunity when they engage the customer on the call. If your shop’s current automatic mode is producing a closing percentage of 80%, then don’t change a thing. If it’s not, it may be time to default to a new approach.