Ever been chatting with someone you've just met, and they say something like “Oh! You're a salesman.”? I find that laughable. Aren't we all sales people in one way, shape or form?

Young or old, male or female. It makes no difference. My seven-year-old is constantly selling me. “Dad, can we get an ice-cream? You said that after swimming we could get one…”

That's why I laugh harder when I talk to a service technician and he says, “I could never be a salesman!”

Hell, they're selling all the time. They're selling that service advisor on the recommended services for the vehicle on the hoist. They are selective on the items they are selling. Are they selling the advisor on that unusual driving noise that they heard when they drove the car in the shop? I wish the answer to that one is yes. But, but unfortunately, they are more likely up-selling the advisor on the easy maintenance jobs for which they make good time and don't risk a “comeback”

Why is this happening? First, it's not happening with every technician in every shop. However, for some techs it may boil down to a little of the “Flat rate/maintenance hungry mechanic syndrome.”

Every shop will suffer from a little “F.R.M.H.M.S.” You can't blame a technician for it. Maintenance and customer pay work equates to a good 70-80% of the revenue in a typical import or domestic store. I'm not saying maintenance jobs are being over-sold. It's just that some techs may search harder for the jobs they can do in half the allotted time.

When I hear from technicians that they are not salesman, it makes me think that their job is to sell the advisor on fluid flushes, unusual noises, brake inspections, alignments, fuel system services or whatever.

Selling the advisor is one thing. How about selling the customer, even though, technically that's the service advisor's responsibility?

In some cases customers would like to speak to the technician directly. That's why General Motors in some of their dealerships promotes an open-door policy with respect to customer access to the back shop. Dealerships provide smocks, hard hats and designated walk areas for customers to visit the back shop.

Some dealerships promote an open-door if not an open-view policy to the back shop. Richmond (VA) Honda in the Richmond Auto Mall is one. With their recent renovation customers can see their car being worked on from the showroom cafeteria.

“Gone are the days of the hidden-from-view back shops” says Richmond's Service Manager Glen Goldhawke.

With an open-view policy comes numerous side benefits, among them a typically cleaner and more productive shop. If you know you're being watched there's less chance of loafing. There also tends to be more pride among employees, especially if the techs have name signs posted at their work stations. Like: “John Smith, 7-year master technician.”

The open-door policy fosters a new mentality that technicians should never think they cannot personally bring more work in the shop.

A service manager at a large Nissan dealership says all of his good journeyman technicians can do that.

Therefore, techs should get business cards with their names, years of experience and specializations. As an added bonus he has a stamp on the back of that business card which entitles the holder to a complimentary oil change.

This is one service manager who has not forgot the maxim: “Everyone wants a friend who is a mechanic”.

The more friends this mechanic makes the more likely they can be potential clients of the dealership.

Considering that a third of dealership employees are in the service department, it's about time that managers call technicians what they really are:

Technical automotive professionals who build customer bases and keep vehicles running safer and longer.

Unfortunately that's too long for a business card.


Dave Skrobot is president of dealer Strategies, a fixed operations performance company and an affiliate of Automotive Sales College. He can be reached at 1-888-681-SELL.