My dad, Paul Rupp Sr., was one heck of a salesman. My favorite picture of him is on my mantel at home, where he is leaning on the front fender of a brand new early 30’s Chrysler next to the one-foot diameter headlight. He has a great big smile and is wearing what appears to be a modern set of Ray-Ban sunglasses.
He looked great.
The picture must have been taken when he and a friend were at lunch. In the background are the flat plains of western Kansas where he worked as a new car salesman for a large dealership in Hays. My dad was so good, he sold himself to the dealership owner who set him up in a Massey-Ferguson farm implement dealership in WaKeeney. The implement dealership was a successful business for nearly 40 years (until the dying farm economy took its toll in 1981).
You should have seen him in action. Dad spent every morning at Helen’s Café having toast and coffee. As a 10-year-old I watched as he positioned himself at the counter in the middle of the local farmers to discuss mostly the weather, crops, livestock and where the weekend Catholic wedding dance was being held. My dad would listen carefully and mostly agree with everyone. He smiled and laughed a lot. It was quite a sight.
Back at the shop he would greet the farmers with that big smile and firm handshake when they came in for parts. He always wore a long, blue, professional-looking shop coat, kind of like a doctor wears, except there was nothing in the pockets but a small notepad and pencil.
He was always clean. Somehow he would get a farmer into his office to the comfortable chair next to his oak desk. If the office door went shut we all got excited, especially my mother who did the books and took care of parts inventory and such.
When not listening to farmers, Dad would go across the street and polish the monstrously big red hoods on the tractors and combines, along with a little
Windex on the glass and some shiny stuff on the tires. The equipment came alive. He would start up the big equipment regularly to make sure everything was in working order should the critical “test drive” around the lot be needed. He rarely drove anything around.
He did not need to; his gift of salesmanship was enough to initiate the forthcoming repeat business from service and replacement. Our family, many employees and farmers alike relied on his abilities indirectly.
I do not know where he gained this knowledge or if it was a gift, and no matter how much I have denied it for myself, I still have his blood. The older I get, the more sense it makes and I see the big picture like he did.
I have taken a few sales courses over the years including Dale Carnegie Sales Advantage, RL O’Connor Group, a few books like the “Dale Carnegie Gold Book,” the “E-Myth” and lots of trial and error. I have used what I now know to great success. Whether it be selling an alternator or the scheduled maintenance concept of caring for your car, all the same basics apply.
Following is a section from the New Concept Auto Service customer service manual which is written to describe what a service advisor is expected to do. The example given is based on someone walking in the door, but the same principles apply to the telephone. Some of it may seem obvious and fundamental, however, having a set of guidelines makes New Concept consistent and adds credibility.
The New Concept customer service process is broken down into six steps: initial greeting; what they want; who they are; what I can do; ask for the job; and ask again.
When someone walks in the door always smile, look them in the eye and say “Hi, what can I do for you,” and wait for a response. No matter what is said first, do not criticize, condemn or complain. Show sincere appreciation and become genuinely interested in them and what they have to say. As soon as possible find out their name, repeat their name in your mind or jot it down. People just love to hear their first name spoken, it’s the sweetest sound. Never interrupt, let the other person do a majority of the talking and compliment the other person’s ideas. Keep your comments short and in terms of the other person’s interest, no personal opinions. First impressions really are everything.
What they want
When the person begins to speak, begin writing or typing everything said which is pertinent. Listen carefully to find out exactly what concern they want solved. When it appears they are done speaking, pause and ask if there is anything else. This is the point where you can find additional concerns which need to be addressed as well. Finally, pause and ask again until there is nothing more.
Who they are
Find out pertinent information like name, address, phone number, email, year, make and model of vehicle. Ask specifically how New Concept can contact them that day and ask for a second way to leave a message if needed. During this process, take note of one personal item (children, work, hobby, appearance) about the person. Observe something that stands out and compliment the person. Note this and it will help you to remember the person uniquely. End the conversation by summarizing what will be done, at what price and by when. Say thank you.
What I can do
Once the solution to the concern is determined, the estimate is usually conveyed over the phone. When the person answers, introduce yourself and state you are with New Concept Auto Service. Ask if now is a good time to talk about their vehicle. Always address the customer’s initial concern first, followed by other safety and reliability issues, ending with any outstanding scheduled maintenance. Tell the customer you will first go over all the vehicle needs and then go over the cost. Once the customer knows what all needs to be done, give them the subtotals for each procedure to include parts, labor and tax. Let the customer decide what the grand total is, depending on what they decide to do. Have the grand total ready should they ask how much to do it all. If the customer agrees to the estimate, summarize again what will be done, for what price and by when. Say thank you.
Next week I’ll share our final service steps and how my dad knew instinctively how to not only close a sale, but to earn a “job well done” from a satisfied customer. Until then, have a great Father’s Day.