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Tuesday, August 19, 2008



by Kelly Bennett, WORLDPAC Training Institute (WTI) Business Development Instructor

In this series of fictional letters from a new shop owner to his former boss, management trainer Kelly Bennett discusses basic business principles that apply to the automotive repair industry.

Ever felt like customers are from Saturn and salespeople are from Neptune? Understanding YOUR CUSTOMERS discusses how to get to your customers planet.

Dear Kelly,

Wow, this team building stuff is fun! I feel like I’m really starting to know my employees and understand what makes them tick. Now if I could only get a handle on my customers! How is it that you can spend a half hour trying to educate some people and they still need to think about it but others give you the go-ahead before you’re even through your salespitch?

- Erol

Dear Erol:

I’m pleased to hear things are going well with your employees. It’s really cool to build a team out of a bunch of people whose only connection is that they work at the same place. When you start to work together as a team, the atmosphere changes! You’re creating a culture.

Now, sharing that same kind of connection with your customers can be trickier. There is more of them, for one thing, and you don’t get to spend as much time with them. The one thing you learn pretty quickly in this business, though, is that people sure are interesting!

They’re wildly diverse and totally unpredictable. It’s going to be helpful to see each one in light of the four personality types we have discussed in the past: Analyzers, Drivers, Relaters, and Socializers . . . and each one reacts to situations differently.

Analyzers and Drivers

People tend to have a buying style that correlates to their personality type. I’m no psychologist, but it sounds like the customers you described who want to mull things over are Analyzers. And the kind that buy quickly tend to be Drivers. With Analyzers, it’s not that they don’t want to buy, it’s just that their brain won’t let them make a decision until they have all the facts. This type of customer requires time and uses lots of information to make a decision. The worst thing to do with these people is try to rush them.Typically their psychological need is security so you want to provide them with lots of knowledge and detail about diagnosis, parts and warranty.

Selling to “Drivers” has its own challenges. They really like to be in control, especially when it comes to price. They want information, sure, but they tend to do their own research and then make a quick decision based on what they find. They want you to stay on track when you’re selling, and they hate to be manipulated. They like it when you give them choices so they feel in control of the final decision.

Relaters and Socializers

Customers who are Relaters, on the other hand, base all their decisions on how they feel about things. They crave sincerity, and like to feel like you’re genuinely concerned about them and their safety.

Socializers buy from people they like. They tend to be impulsive, and they shop where they feel comfortable, and where there are people they feel comfortable with. They’re social butterflies. They want you to be friendly and enthusiastic. They don’t always want to hear the details. They’re just as happy to hear a joke. This type of person tends to get off track easily, so you have to work extra hard to stay on topic.

Know Your Customers

I bet you if you created a chart with these four headings – Analyzers, Drivers, Relaters, and Socializers – you could categorize most of your customers. The biggest difference is whether they use information or their feelings to make decisions.

The key is to spend quality time with your customers and ask the right questions. And this means we need about 10 minutes of their time when they’re at the counter with us. It’s tough because we’ve got other people waiting, and everybody wants to get on their way. We tend to rush through the check-in process.

This is a huge mistake, Erol. Sometimes they want something they don’t need, and sometimes they need something they don’t want. It takes time to sort it all out and make sure we’re really meeting their needs. In order to do our job properly, we need to slow things down a bit. We need to get to know our customers.

I have found that it helps if you let them know ahead of time that you’re going to need a few minutes when they come in. That way they’re already mentally prepared to answer a few questions. And the trick is to really, really listen to the answers. Not just the substance of it, but the tone as well. You’re trying to determine their personality type, their buying style, and what’s most important to them. This will help you relate to them. You don’t want to rush an Analyzer. You don’t want to be too technical with a Socializer. You don’t want to be too detailed with a Relater. You don’t want to be too forceful with a Driver. See what I mean?

Be Flexible

And sometimes our own personal style conflicts with our customers. In those cases we need to be flexible. We need to meet their needs, or they’re going to walk away frustrated. I’ve often thought I should write a book called “Customers Are From Saturn, Salespeople Are From Neptune.” Sometimes we have to make the trip from Pluto to Saturn in order to serve people properly.

By the way, Erol, remember I told you about the Strengths Finder website where you can find out what strengths you possess? Well, there’s an updated test which gives even more detail on how to tap into your fundamental strengths. It’s outlined in StrengthsFinder 2.0, a new book by Tom Rath. You need to buy the book in order to do the on-line test. It is worth it. The process of discovering your strengths and then learning to use that information is fascinating!

I learned that one of my key strengths is “Woo.” That means I love to meet new people and win them over. It’s given me some great insight into how to deal with people I’ve just met.

My service advisor, on the other hand, prefers to deal with people she has developed a relationship with. Maybe that’s why we’re such a great team. We balance and complement each other.

- Kelly

To learn more about Kelly Bennett's Business Development Classes, visit the WORLDPAC Training Institute (WTI).

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