Are you managing your sales counter?

Dec. 2, 2013
I have never met a great relationship-based salesperson who didn’t need a sales manager to keep them consistent. Selling is not like riding a bicycle; there are good days and bad days.

I have never met a great relationship-based salesperson who didn’t need a sales manager to keep them consistent. Selling is not like riding a bicycle; there are good days and bad days. Most of this swing in performance comes from the fact that selling is emotional, and our emotions can swing violently from day to day, as you may have noticed from your service advisors. In addition to emotional changes comes the need to focus on the relationship, the delivery, the estimate and which services are needed. This is why service advisors need sales managers who can act as a coach and give feedback on what the service advisor might be missing when their numbers go into a slump.

We all blame it on things out of our control. However, after over forty years of helping service advisors sell, I can tell you the vast majority of the time it is something they used to do that they are no longer doing. We have been teaching shop owners how to sales-manage the front counter, and it can make a huge difference in stabilizing sales and helping your service advisors grow so you can have more free time to run your business or your life! Our Director of Client Fulfillment at ATI, Bryan Stasch, teaches this to shop owners, and I want you to listen to a few things from his class that might help your front counter. Bryan was a very successful shop owner and service advisor prior to joining ATI.

Sales management is not something you typically hear or think about in the auto repair industry. But think about it this way: you only get so many opportunities (car count) each week to generate the sales needed and the gross profit dollars needed for your business. So why not manage your sales and your service advisors? Each week, month and year, your service advisors should have a set of expectations for performance. Total sales, car count, average repair order (in both dollars and hours per ticket) and profit margins should be part of those expectations. Trust me; it sure beats hoping for the best and wondering why it didn’t happen. But this article is about sales management so we will focus on total sales and your average repair order.

The Inspection Process
So let’s start with your inspection process. First question, does the inspection report match the car? Now, I know what you’re thinking: “That’s a good question and how the heck should I know?” I knew that because of all my experience working with shop owners: the value of repair order and courtesy check audits is often underestimated. We are big believers in audits, and it’s amazing what you will learn about your business in the process. The integrity of your pricing policies, your estimating process, your service writer’s confidence in the products and services you provide and so on, are all suspect in lack of sales and average repair order.

Now back to my question, “Does the inspection report match the car?” If yes, thank your technicians. But if not, you need to review your orientation process, your training process, technician buy-in and the accountability behind it.

The Final Repair Order
Second question, does the customer’s final repair order match the courtesy inspection report? If the inspections match the car, did the information found during the inspection make it to the customer? And for this exercise, I don’t care if it is sold work, or listed as recommended services. At least you know it made it to the customer. And if more is listed under recommended than under sold, time for sales training and working on presentation skills. But if not, you need to work on your writers. What good was your inspection process if the information doesn’t make it to the customers? Focus on the buy-in to the role of a service writer, and then think about what the rewards are for doing well, and the pain for not doing at all.

Managing Estimates
Utilizing a “sales by category” or “job by category” report, just look at what work is being sold – brakes, filters, fluids and so on, just to keep your inspection process honest and your service writers focused.

Just to give you an example, think about the last time you sold a set of shocks or struts. And think about how many opportunities you have each week to sell struts. Let’s say you have an average car count of 40 cars each week. And think that each vehicle has at least one shock or strut on each corner, so the math says that you had 160 opportunities to sell shocks or struts. How many did you sell? If none, I would question your inspection process to see if you are finding them in the inspections. If not, revisit your inspection process. If yes, then on to the repair orders to see if the writer is even estimating them or asking for the sales. Again, if asking for the sale and not getting the jobs sold, time for sales and presentation training.

And the math works for any category; car count times the number of “X” per vehicle tells you how many opportunities. The real question is – ARE YOU TAKING ADVANTAGE OF THE OPPORTUNITIES?

Then review your findings, inspections, sales and missed opportunities each week in your one-on-one with your writer. Now that is sales management, and you are doing your part to see that your service writers are successful.

At ATI, we have our clients track their estimates and audit their inspection process to see that they are taking advantage of opportunities as well as keeping their crew focused. If you would like a copy of our Electronic Tracking Checklist, we have put it up on our site for a limited time! Simply go to to receive a copy to try out in your shop this week.

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