Auto Service World
Feature   September 1, 2008   by J. D. Ney

Shop Equipment: Lessons from the Past and Present

The first story ever to be printed on the lead page of Jobber News was entitled “Show Your Customers that Modern Shop Equipment Will Increase Sales.” The article begins: “Golden opportunities are opened to the jobber’s salesman every day in the field of shop equipment–golden opportunities which are frequently missed entirely by the salesman through lack of sympathy with this class of business or through failure to fully understand the importance of shop equipment as an infallible ally in increasing automotive markets.”

The sentiment still rings true today, where shop equipment remains a forgotten well of possibilities for the outside salesperson. Perhaps, though, the idea of getting a little more proactive about equipment sales should not come as a new idea, seeing as the above passage was published in December 1931. So, in the spirit of revitalizing some under-utilized markets, here are 10 quick tips the outside salesperson or counterperson can use today, to help increase their sales of shop equipment.


Know the details

Modern lifts have come a long way from the car goes up, car goes down features of yesteryear. In fact, many lifts produced today are highly customizable and feature a bevy of bells and whistles, mostly designed to increase shop productivity, efficiency, and safety. For example, some features to read up on are: dual controls (one on each post), integrated air/electric connections, OSHA-compliant lockable disconnect switches, a tool storage rack, and electronic locks.

Assess your customer’s needs

Selling lifts into shops involves asking a lot of questions to qualify what they want versus what they need, and then coming to a conclusion and suggestion to fulfill their true needs. Some of the important questions to ask are: What range of vehicles do you work on (types and weights)? What limitations do you have with the equipment you are currently using

The ergonomic argument

Vehicle lifts are designed to safely raise vehicles to a comfortable working height and keep them there. Ergonomic working heights and conveniently located tools and controls can lead to less strain on technicians’ bodies, as well as fewer injuries and accidents. This results in healthier employees and fewer lost work hours. Over time, many facilities also see their workers’ compensation premiums reduced.

Inground vs. surface

Plenty of shops balk at the cost of an inground lift. However, according to manufacturers, they can actually help turn a greater profit, by virtue of the fact that they can take up less space. What’s more, because a shop can get, for example, 12 inground lifts into the same space as 11 surface lifts, the added revenue potential attained through the one additional lift, can more than offset the additional cost associated with the installation of an inground unit. Suffice to say that this area is at least worth a conversation with your lift suppliers.

Scan tools:

Assess need (again)

Much like we saw with lifts, it is important for jobber salespeople to accurately assess the needs of their customers when in your facility? What percentage of trucks do you see? How important to you are safety, longevity, security, and support after the sale?

Ensure versatility

For most shops, lifts represent a massive investment. As a result, most are looking for a lift that is flexible and versatile. Many shops are looking for lifts with a higher-rated capacity, because they are working on heavier SUVs and trucks as well as passenger cars. Some new lift designs offer the flexibility needed to compensate for shorter or longer wheelbases. With adjustable lift arms, these new lift designs can be customized to still hit all of the manufacturer’s recommended lift points.

it comes to scan tool technology. We’re long past the time when an independent shop could simply go without a scan tool of some kind, but many don’t realize the degree to which those tools need to be upgraded. Start with questions like, What sort of tool do you use? How is it working for you? Are you looking to upgrade? How often are you using the tool? Is it giving you information or just codes? Start the conversation from there, and suggest solutions to solve the problems that your questions uncover.

Educate the customer

Scan tools today run the gamut from simple code readers to fully integrated, tablet-style computer tools with a myriad of peripherals and accessories. As a result, their costs go from a few hundred dollars to thousands. Obviously not all of your clients are going to require the top-of-the-line tool, but they probably do need to know what’s available to them. In the same vein, there is no need to waste time talking about a full-blown super-tool if the guy already has one. He may need upgrades, though, so be sure to keep up to date.

Get proactive

There is an old saying, cribbed from that popular baseball movie, that “if you advertise, they will come.” Conversely, if your customers have no idea, or aren’t frequently reminded, that you can be their source of scan-tool products and upgrades, you’re not likely to get the call. Something as simple as a flyer that goes out with all of your deliveries and sits in a stack on your counter can be enough to really make an impact on sales. “Oh, by the way, did you see the special we have this month on tools in the flyer? Check page two,” can often be enough to start the conversation and generate a sale.

Use the Manufacturer

Most scan tool manufacturers would jump at the chance to help you sell more of their stuff. However, many of them say that jobbers and sales reps seldom take them up on any of the assistance they are willing to provide. Talk to your manufacturer’s representative about promotional material, training, or point-of-sale material, and you’ll be surprised at what you’ve been missing.

See Into the Future

Scan tools themselves are an evolving product. We’ve seen them go from code readers to diagnostic tools, but according to manufacturers, the future of the scan tool market is in their accessories. New generations of tools feature scopes, fluid mixture analysis capabilities, and wireless access, all in one rugged tablet-style PC unit. These tools are bound to be complicated but powerful devices; but you’ll have to know all of their ins and outs if you hope to sell them. As a result, make sure you get your product knowledge session, and don’t be afraid to ask manufacturers for tips and refreshers. Believe me, they want to help.

Even after an increase in awareness, equipment may still end up low on the list of sales priorities. When part sales are what the business relies on, then shop equipment will always get relegated to the “when I have time bin.” However, given a chance and the proper support, you could begin generating some serious icing on the cake for your overall business. As Jobber News once reported: “While it is an undeniable fact that there are many alley garages that can and do turn out good work, we still thoroughly believe in that good old saying, ‘The well-equipped shop gets the business.'” That’s also from 1931, and seems perfectly applicable today.

Special thanks to Rotary Lift, SPX Service Solutions, and John’s Auto Supply, Smithville, Ont. for their help.

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