It’s oe of the most important positions within a jobber store, yet it has gone underappreciated for decades.
Across the country, a parts counterperson could be male, female, young, middle-aged or approaching retirement. The experience level of many counterpeople can vary widely from extensive to, unfortunately, limited–or even none at all.
However, while there are provincial education programs, it is common for working counterpeople to have received no formal education for the position.
Since the invention of the automobile, training for the position has largely been of the sink-or-swim, trial-by-fire method– a curiously informal approach, considering that most jobber business owners believe that the performance of counterpeople can make or break a business.
Take a look at a typical advertisement for this position in the year 2009:
Wanted: Parts Counter Person
Must be reliable and self-motivated with the ability to multi-task. Additionally, sales skills, computer skills, inventory management experience, customer service expertise, a positive attitude, and a basic understanding of automotive systems are also required. A professional appearance is essential, along with the ability to work with both wholesale and retail customers. Excellent verbal communication and effective listening skills are required, along with experience in working under pressure and setting priorities.
The ad is seeking much more than a counterperson. It’s seeking a professional.
And, moreover, it is seeking a trained professional.
Changing the cultural perception of an industry position that is relatively underappreciated depends squarely on addressing the level of training the industry is willing to invest.
Accordingly, the CARS Council is developing 16 online courses with Durham College in Ontario to address the most critical training needs for these important jobber-store team members.
At the first CARS Inside/Outside Sales Training Curricula Development Project Advisory Committee meeting in June, there was a consensus amongst the members that times have changed and the role of a counterperson has never been more significant. Additionally, it was emphasized that within today’s highly competitive environment no one can afford to employ a counterperson who does not possess the requisite professional skills.
The courses are all focused on providing training that can improve the current skill level of parts counterpersons to the level of formally educated Parts Counter Professionals.
The first course focuses on the general responsibilities of the parts counterperson, but also sets out some firm guidelines for proper customer communication, such as:
Tip #1: Customers should be addressed within the first 30 seconds of walking into your business.
Greet them first with a smile and eye contact, followed by an appropriate verbal statement such as; “Hi and welcome to Parts Auto…I’ll be right with you.” A smile communicates you are happy to see them, eye contact establishes trust, and a verbal acknowledgement lets them know their needs will be handled as soon as possible. They feel like they’re going to be taken care of, and it is how our customers feel about doing business with us that either keeps them coming back…or not.
While it has been said that it’s not the level of technical information that’s important as a Parts Counter Person, the ability to understand the basics combined with the knowledge and smarts to find the correct information is vital.
Tip # 2: “I don’t know,” no longer exists in your vocabulary.
The wrong part equals an empty service bay, lost money, downtime, and an inconvenienced customer on both sides. The course will address the basics of several vehicle systems, including brake, engine, and transmission systems. You’ll learn the fundamentals of the disc versus drum braking systems, receive a crash course on hybrid engine technology as it compares with the internal combustion engine; a technological section will include comparative information on manual, automatic, and CVT transmissions.
Selling skills are critical for Parts Counter personnel, and building relationships for the long term, not just a quick sale, needs to be a priority.
Tip # 3: Learn as much as you can about your customers.
“People don’t care how much you know until they know how much you care.” Knowledge is power. The more you know about your customer, the better you’ll be able to service him.
It is critical to acquire the necessary skills to listen effectively, ask for the order, and upsell successfully.
Sales skills are not just about moving product; they are also about knowing how to handle potential situations that arise from errors, malfunctions, and unmet customer expectations.
Tip # 4: Communicate warranties, refunds, and return policies at the point of sale.
A dissatisfied customer is the result of unmet expectations. When a customer needs a part in an hour but it’s not going to make it onto the delivery truck until tomorrow, there’s going to be a problem. Discuss delivery schedules and advise the customer of delays.
There are also some common problems to which all counterpeople can succumb from time to time. Ways to avoid these form part of the course wrap-up.
Tip # 5: Pay attention to details.
Things like lost or misplaced orders and spelling mistakes ruin your credibility and the chance to win over customers for the long-term. If they don’t feel you’re doing the best for them, they’ll find someone else who will.
Overall, the focus of efforts to improve training at the counterperson level will go far in helping businesses attract and retain great people who will focus on the customer’s needs and increase the overall level of professionalism displayed to the public.
This article was produced by Durham College Corporate Training Services, Curriculum Development Team exclusively for Jobber News Magazine.
For more information on inside sales training, visit