Auto Service World
Feature   April 1, 2001   by Auto Service World

MYOB: Counseling versus Selling

Recipe for Success

The better jobbers in the industry have realized that they must change the way they interact with the better installers if they wish to secure first-call loyalty.

One oversight of many jobbers is that they truly do not understand the installer’s business when it comes to gross profit management or increasing the efficiency of an installer shop. They are unaware how these will change the productivity and profitability level of any given installer. These things must be clearly understood by jobber management and sales representatives if they expect purchase levels to increase and to be paid in full each month.

Another weakness pointed out to me by the better installers is jobber salespeople who come into their shop with the mindset that they are going to “sell” the installer. The better shops do not need to be “sold” anything. They are very focused and clearly understand what they need and what they don’t need. One thing they are desperately searching for is value from their jobber. They are looking for a different level in the jobber/installer relationship. If a jobber does not recognize this, and deliver on the promise, I can assure you that they are not getting all the business from the installer and are missing out on tremendous profit potential for his store.

Answer these questions honestly: does your jobber business have the best installers within your trading area as first call? Do you get all their business? Why not?

Getting your head around the installer’s business can make a difference to how the conversation may go during an appointment with the installer client.

Consider discussing the following recipe for success with the installer, and council them to a higher business level. The better installers love getting their head into these topics:

1. Measure The Detailed Trends

Talk to installers on the importance of measuring their business. “If you can’t measure it, you can’t manage it.” When an installer’s business is measured properly, the installer can see the sales mix trends of the shop, which in turn will clarify why the gross profit percentage of the shop is at the level it is. They will see the type of customer/client base they are servicing, the knowledge level in technicians required for their shop, and also see what equipment and technical training is required. In economics they say that “the trend is your friend.” Well, in an installer’s business, the trend defines where the shop is definitely headed, which is like having a crystal ball to capture potential opportunities coming, or steer clear of any storms approaching.

2. Define a Market Niche

Who is the installer selling to? The fact is that not every customer is the right customer for the installer’s business. The installer must have a clear picture of the customer base he wants to build his business with. You can’t sell to everyone who comes through the door and still be profitable. The independent installer is not like a car dealership, or Canadian Tire, or franchise chain. They do not have the type of business to run based on price. Yet, in reality, too many installers do try to run on price and that is why they are not profitable and capable of paying all bills in full when due. Independent installers are in the knowledge business. They must sell their knowledge to people who are looking for service and quality customized to that given client’s needs. That level of expertise demands that you have a high level of knowledge, so why would you sell your expert knowledge at bargain basement prices? Define your market niche. Not all consumers want this level of expertise. To grow a profitable installer business, a focus must be instituted that makes them unlike the true competition.

3. Throw in an Assortment of Knowledgeable, Friendly Staff

Perception from the customer of the installer’s business is everything. The installer’s staff must understand that their appearance and actions reflect on the shop’s image. Consider how the dealerships market their technicians’ and service writers’ image in television ads: clean professional uniforms, clean cut, very professional looking, and they even “deliver the keys to their customer in the pool.” How can you not feel comfortable with that image? Also, the staff must be competent in the knowledge required to work on the customer’s car. Guessing and safari hunts due to lack of training waste too much time, create tremendous shop cost, and lead to client dissatisfaction and mistrust.

4. Mix in a Large Handful of Independent Personal Attention

The biggest advantage that the independent installer business has over the real competition is that he can get close to the customer. The installer must slow down and customize a maintenance package for the client based on the client’s real driving habits. The independent has the capability and potential to manage the client’s vehicle maintenance. This brings tremendous value to a client, because the client will get a better return on his investment with that vehicle. The independent can do this. They know, and remember, the client. The client is not just another number in the computer system. The client has a face. In other words, the independent installer can run a mini dealership concept, but with the independent personal touch.

5. Add a Heaping Dash of Quality

As a jobber, the worst thing you can do is play the white-box game with the installer. The better installers don’t want anything to do with white-box because they don’t play the price game. They know that when the part fails, the client does not return and blame the part, they return and blame the installer. Now the shop’s reputation is at stake. Lousy reputation, lousy client base. Lousy client base, lousy business profit. Take a look at some of your other installer customers and compare. When a jobber approaches the better installer to play this game, the better installer bows out, shakes his head as the jobber leaves, and says, “He just doesn’t get it, times have changed. When is he going to learn what it takes, and learn how to run his business?” Counsel installers to sell the right quality part for the job all the time. Quality and service are the two most important words to the better installers. This mindset, this ethic, this culture, leads the better installers to the same approach in running the rest of their business, including the jobber they choose to make their first call relationship with.

6. All Actions are Topped Off with a Commitment to 100%

Client Satisfaction

The better installers are truly committed to satisfying their customer. They charge the right price for this level of commitment and they never let their client down. They truly know who they are selling to. As a jobber, you should serve your installer client very well by truly supporting him when the installer runs into a problem with a failed part or issue with his client. Installers don’t argue with clients, as these installers are in the relationship picture with their client for the long term.. When you, as a jobber, are first call and getting 85% or more of an installer’s business, why would you ever argue over an issue with the installer? Do you, as a jobber, know who you are selling to? I have witnessed first hand a jobber arguing firmly with his first call installer, and I shake my head. This jobber was totally lost. To him, a sale was a sale was a sale, and there was no way the installer was going to win. That jobber lost big time as I know the installer moved to another company, one that had its act together, because they slowed down and took the time to understand that installer’s business.

Consider how you approach the installer and his business. Discussing, and resolving, real issues over a career is far more rewarding than just selling the moment on the job.

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