The 74 Year Old Virgin

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I have spent 30 years waiting; waiting for the chance to show my wares to quick lube owners, managers and others. While my opportunity to sell was coming, I spent a lot of time in waiting rooms.

Before smartphones, there wasn’t a lot to do during this downtime, so I would watch consumers and engage them in conversations, trying to learn what they were thinking, why they were there and why they had choose that location for service?

I still love to do this. Recently, I met a rare woman, Joyce. Joyce was rare because she had never taken her vehicle to any automotive facility before. Her husband had always taken their cars in for service, but he was no longer capable to do so. Joyce’s husband had used his trusted local mechanic for the past 20 years. Now, it was Joyce’s turn. She was concerned because she didn’t know if she needed an oil change. Her carwash removed the window reminder sticker, and she was in the dark. Joyce had seen this quick lube and pulled in. Her first time for any automotive service, let alone a quick lube. She commented on the women working; she liked that and loved the one who greeted her and showed her in. As we sat enjoying a nice cup of coffee, I explained what was happening through the big window. She was impressed with the scope of the inspection. She had no idea this was being completed. She liked the transparency and that she could see what was being done. Her comfort levels were building.

I explained, they would fill her in on their findings and warned her the review would cover a lot of information presented in a brief period of time. I reminded her she had the power to slow things down and ask any questions she wanted. When it was time, she asked me to join her. (This was my first time as a consumer coach during a presentation, too.) She knew I was a salesman, and this was my customer.

The manager took us to her open engine. He went and started directly with what he felt she really needed most, a brake fluid exchange at $99. She immediately buckled, tried to be polite but her defense was up. Now, her vehicle really did need this service, but it was not happening today. I suggested he review what they inspected and what was good but she didn’t need today. She relaxed a bit. Now, back to her needs. She needed all the services he recommended, but she was not having it. More than once she literally waved him off and chanted the dreaded customer mantra, “just an oil change.” He pressed on. I reminded her he had a responsibility to inform her of the complete findings. He showed her the in-cabin filter. It was ugly. She suggested it could be vacuumed. He said that wouldn’t get rid of the mold and mildew, so she said yes. She asked for pricing and a list of things needed for future consideration. It was stressful for her, but it was over.

She explained what she was feeling — lots of pressure. He went too fast. She couldn’t understand what he was saying most of the time. It was loud and using the engine as a visual was not useful. “He was just pointing to a bunch of caps,” she said.

Ultimately, she said she would return to the shop because she loved the greeting and special good bye this center used.

This manager was bright, successful and friendly. However, Joyce was but one of 45 that day. Most consumers feel different levels of pressure. It never hurts to take a deep breath and try to see things from their viewpoint.

As the year ends, I wish you and yours a blessed holiday season and a very merry Christmas! 

DAVID PRANGE is currently assistant to the chairman at Next Generation Mfg.  He can be reached at 630.699.6813 or:

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