Sales. It's a Matter of Trust.

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Someone said, “Trends aren’t a good thing; they tend to make everyone look the same.” Having said that, there appears to be a trend developing in fast lubes to stock the least expensive oil to promote loss-leader oil changes. As you consider the possibility of that trend, you may want to ponder another thought that someone offered about sales, “If 80 percent of your sales come from 20 percent of your services, then just offer the 20 percent.”

In other words, if the intent of promoting loss leaders is to create the opportunity to sell the 20 percent, which are those services that produce the biggest part of your sales, wouldn’t it make more sense to educate your customer base? This can be done by routinely educating them on every visit about the real value associated with the products and services that fall in the 20-percent category.

I guess the point I’m really driving at, when you cut through all the jargon, is this: if each of us is a customer, and we all are, then we should ask ourselves one basic question, “How do we like it when someone tries to lure us in with something cheap just to sell us something more expensive?” The answer, “We don’t!” And as a result we won’t return.

On the other hand, if we take the more direct, and I would say honest, approach by simply teaching a customer the reason a certain product or service is in their best interest, they realize why they came to us in the first place. It’s not to be sold on something they don’t need, it’s because they know we’ll only sell what we would use ourselves. If you follow that philosophy in your fast lube, I submit your customers will learn an even more important fact when it comes to your business. They’ll learn that sales aren’t a matter of money; they’re a matter of trust.

In this column, we’ll discuss the advantages of taking the direct approach by educating your customers through the three-step process of knowing our products, removing uncertainty and destroying the myths when it comes to the products we sell.

Knowing Your Products

Not many of us would purchase a product or service from someone who seemed uncertain about the benefits of the product they’re attempting to explain.

Not long ago, I went to purchase a gas fireplace. The salesperson said, “This one is the best on the market!” When I asked, “Why?” he said, “Because it’s a quality-built product.” When I asked, “What constitutes ‘quality’ built?” his response was, “Because they use only the finest materials.” I could go on, but the point is the salesperson was able to speak only in generalities and catch phrases. It was obvious he knew nothing about the product. By the end of the conversation, it was just as obvious he didn’t want to be talking about a product he really knew nothing about.    

Making certain your fast lube’s sales staff can professionally explain the benefits of a particular product with accurate, product-specific information is not only professional from your customer’s perspective, it’s an essential part of helping your staff feel good about themselves and the job they’re performing. Catch-phrase sales presentations are not acceptable and will not build customer trust or loyalty.

Combining knowledge about your customer’s needs and wants with precise product and service information will help you maximize sales during the much-anticipated summer ahead.

Removing Uncertainty

Removing uncertainty with respect to any part of your service or products builds trust and leads to customer retention. But, when your customers are not too familiar with particular services or products, like synthetic oils for example, uncertainty is invited.

For example, if your technicians talk with your customers about synthetics in generalities by saying something like, “Synthetics offer significant advantages to your vehicle in preventing engine wear; it’s a proven fact in a variety of tests, under a wide range of conditions,” that’s not likely to build confidence or trust.

On the other hand, the customer’s impression would be much different if your technicians are prepared to advise them about the specific things to look for in a synthetic oil by saying something like, “Mr. Jones, here are a few facts about synthetic oils that may help you understand the choice of oil I’m recommending. Here are some important points:

“Horsepower: The right synthetics maintain horsepower at extreme temperatures.

“Standards: Choose a brand that meets the world’s toughest standards for gasoline engine protection.

“Stability: Synthetics provide stability under extreme conditions (heat, load, speed), which cause conventional oils to break down.

“Acid neutralization: The right synthetics neutralize acids in the engine that can cause rust and corrosion to vital engine parts, such as cylinders, bearings and hydraulic valve lifters.

“Additives: Choose a brand that offers additives that neutralize corrosive particles by preventing them from grouping together to form sludge.

“Confidence: Choose a synthetic that can be used with confidence in any passenger car gasoline engine, new or old, regardless of oil previously used.”

Obviously a technician may not review the entire list of benefits, but to have that knowledge and to be prepared to present it to your customers makes a huge difference in their level of trust.  

Destroying the Myths

Once again, if your service staff is selling products like synthetic oils, it’s also important to remove any misinformation the customer may have. For example a technician may say, “Mr. Jones, there are a few misunderstandings about synthetic oils I can help clear up. Here are some common myths along with the actual facts:

“Myth: You can’t blend synthetics with conventional oils.

“Fact: When synthetic oils are mixed with conventional oils, it’s referred to as synthetic-blend. Blends offer a higher level of protection than conventional oils, but full synthetics offer the highest level of protection.

“Myth: Synthetics cost no more to make than regular oils. It’s just another way that oil companies make more money.

“Fact: Synthetics cost more because they are more expensive to produce due to the necessary additives, which give them their beneficial qualities.

“Myth: Oil is oil, and as long as it gets to the engine parts it doesn’t really matter what kind you use.

“Fact: The right synthetics pump more quickly to vital engine parts to help reduce engine wear.

“Myth: A good-quality conventional oil will perform as well in extreme hot and cold temperatures as synthetics.

“Fact: At very high temperatures, synthetic oils remain stable and conventional oils break down. At very low temperatures, synthetic oils remain fluid while conventional oils thicken.

“Myth: Conventional oils have an equally long performance life as compared to synthetics.

“Fact: Conventional oils break down faster than synthetic oils.”

Trends

If trends tend to make everyone look the same, I suggest you may want to think twice about looking the same as those who choose the loss-leader approach to sales. Just know the benefits of your products and services and be prepared to explain those benefits to your customers.

The great movie director, Frank Capra said, “Don’t follow trends; start them!”

When it comes to influencing fast lube trends, the most significant of those should start at your service center by making a concerted effort to help your staff know their customers and the products and services those customers need. It really is a matter of trust. 

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