Auto Service World
Feature   July 1, 2015   by Auto Service World


It’s time to address some very important aspects concerning the changing of the guard in the aftermarket.
As many of our industry veterans transition to more, um, leisurely pursuits, they are taking their long years of experience and relationships with them.
It is important for all those entering the industry, and looking to make their way up the ladder, to understand that as many of our business communications have evolved towards electronics – email and online ordering – that inevitably, the personal relationships, experience, and trust that naturally evolve from personal interaction don’t come as easily as they used to. A LinkedIn connection does not a relationship make.
So, while from the outside, it may look like you are doing the same things as your more experienced counterparts – firing off emails, filling in RFPs, assembling PowerPoint proposals, and maybe more – the simple fact that you have not built up a history with those customers changes things quite a bit.
Even the more experienced among us have to admit that when dealing with an individual with whom we have a considerable history, in-person conversations and emails are naturally more friendly, discussions are more frank and effective, proposals are more targeted to the customer’s needs and capabilities. And they tend to be more successful for all parties as a result.
Trust is a key component to closing any deal. You can propose a really compelling arrangement, but if the customer does not trust that you will be able to uphold your end, you will be struggling to get it through. That trust is at the foundation of every successful business relationship. And before you can have trust, you have to have history.
The best among this industry can build that trust quickly; it’s not always a matter of years, though that certainly helps. But what is also true is that those who have a history of building relationships are better at building new ones.
A lot of this really falls into the basics of selling and account management, but without casting aspersions on the younger generation of aftermarket professionals, you can’t take it for granted that the basics are always in place. Frankly, that may have always been true to some extent; but just as frankly, the veterans of this industry are the ones who made sure they hit their marks, and succeeded as a result. That’s how they got to stay as part of this industry. Consider it aftermarket Darwinism.
And yet, despite the greying of this industry, there’s a noticeable shortage of active mentors for our 20- and 30-something aftermarket professionals. Much of the time, when veterans leave they take their skillset with them. And when they choose to continue their association with this industry beyond retirement, they often close their circle tightly, keeping those old associations alive, but seldom reaching out.
I believe it is important for those in a position to do so to take the role of mentor seriously. Reach out and offer what advice you can, and work to ensure that the next group of aftermarket leaders is given the tools to succeed. Lauds to those who continue to do so.
And, just as importantly, it is up to those at the beginning of their careers to take charge of their future and to demand it, too.
Veterans, you should consider it part of the legacy you leave to the aftermarket. It may well be the most important thing you can do for this industry – and for those who will lead it to prosperity in the future.
— Andrew Ross, Publisher and Editor

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