Note to Dealers and Managers: This article is for your service advisors, but be sure you read it and agree with it before you pass it on to them. This would be a great topic for your next service sales meeting.
As a professional service advisor, are you a salesman or a con man? The similarities between the two are obvious, while the differences are subtle.
(Obviously, I am using the word “man” to refer to both genders because “con person” just doesn’t sound right.)
Generally speaking, salesmen and con men look alike, dress alike, and talk alike. They have bright teeth, fresh breath, and outgoing personalities. They look the customer in the eye, listen attentively, and correctly communicate the primary item to the technician.
They always acknowledge customers when they arrive on the service drive, promptly return phone calls, and never keep customers on hold for over two minutes.
Salesmen and con men always do a walkaround, always escort customers to the waiting room while explaining the Wi-Fi password, and always do a courtesy follow-up call to ensure the customer was completely satisfied.
“The salesman wants what’s best for the customer; the con man wants what’s best for himself!”
Salesmen and con men both gather vital information from the customer… information on the car and information on the driver. So, here’s the difference: The salesman uses the information for the customer’s good. The con man uses the information for the customer’s harm.
The con man aggressively pushes the customer, through fear or intimidation, to perform unnecessary maintenance and repair. He lies and sweet-talks the customer into spending money needlessly. He doesn’t have the customer’s best interest at heart.
The salesman takes all the information from the customer and carefully reviews the inspection form with the technician to formulate an action plan to keep the customer’s car trouble-free and fun to drive. The salesman offers all of the technician’s recommendations to the customer. He proactively sells preventive maintenance because he realizes the more maintenance he sells them, the more money he saves them. (He understands that prevention is far cheaper than having catastrophic failure.)
Some of the nicest advisors I’ve seen are unwittingly con men. They think they are “doing the customer a favor” by not passing along all of the technician’s recommendations. In a misguided attempt to “save the customer money,” they never try to sell service or point out needed maintenance and repair. Failure to service a vehicle will result in failure, creating a safety risk and a financial burden—in other words, harming the customer—and that’s the definition of a con man!
Are some of you advisors starting to bristle and think, “Hold on, Charlie; I may not try to sell service—I may just be an order-taker—but to call me a con man, well, you’ve gone too far.”
Maybe you’re saying to yourself, “I might passively ignore what the technician says, I might be afraid of rejection, I might fear the customer saying no, I might not ask for the sale because I have ESP and I know the customer can’t afford it—but that doesn’t make me a con man!”
Yes it does.
Your passive nature, your fear of rejection, and your misguided belief that you know someone’s finances better than they do is keeping you from doing what’s best for the customer—selling needed, tech-recommended maintenance.
You are either a salesman or a con man; there is no middle ground. It’s black or white. Either you are helping vehicle owners by professionally presenting and selling all the needed maintenance and repair recommended by the technician, or you are hurting people by passively letting the customer experience catastrophic failure due to a lack of maintenance.
What if doctors followed this same logic?
- “I didn’t want to tell the patient that the tumor was malignant—he didn’t look like he could afford the surgery.”
- “I’m always giving him bad news. Last time it was his liver, the time before that it was his gallbladder; I just didn’t have the nerve to tell him he had a heart blockage.”
- “The melanoma on his arm is only a half-inch in diameter—it will probably be okay until his next annual check-up.”
- “She came in for a broken toe. If she’d wanted her blood pressure checked, she’d have asked for it. I only do what the patient requests.”
Obviously, a health care professional would lose their license for such absurd malpractice. Be sure that you don’t get accused of automotive malpractice by failing to inform vehicle owners of all their maintenance needs.
Who has the highest customer retention? The salesman does! (The con man hurts your brand and ultimately chases people away from your dealership!)
Who has the highest CSI? The salesman does! (The con man has lots of negative posts on social media because his customer’s cars break down due to neglect.)
Who makes the most money? The salesman does! (The con man might be a brief flash-in-the-pan, but in the end he alienates everyone.)
Who truly wants what’s best for the customer? The salesman does! (The con man wants what’s best for himself.)
Who has the greatest job satisfaction and the happiest disposition? The salesman does! (The con man hates himself for letting his customers leave the dealership with a false sense of security, when in reality, vehicle breakdown is on the horizon.)
The bottom line is this: the service sales advisor is a noble profession. It is an honorable job that helps people by keeping their vehicles in peak operating condition, thus allowing them to get to work, to school, to sports practice, to church, to the doctor, and to live better lives. Selling service matters!
In closing, I want to give kudos to Jeff Cowan for inspiring me about this concept of salesman vs con man. I recently attended one of his ProTalk Advisor training classes (which, by the way, was excellent) and when he touched on this subject it really struck a chord with me. I hope it did with you, too
Author: Charlie Polston
Charlie Polston is an Automotive Customer Retention and Profitability Consultant with BG Products, Inc. Charlie has been with BG’s Fixed Operations Division for over 34 years.