Why Every Organization Needs a Sales Engine

Aug 26, 2020

A few weeks ago, I got an oil change in my Land Cruiser, and the dealer threw in a lesson on sales at no charge.

It didn’t start out well. I pulled into the huge service garage, and no one was there at the bays to check me in. Strike one. I parked, found an employee (with “Manager” on his shirt) who, while fiercely typing, looking only at his screen and never looking up at me, mumbled, “I’ll get you a sales apprentice.” Strike two.

After talking with the sales apprentice (a title I still don’t get), I headed into the waiting room where about a dozen other people were already waiting. You can easily picture the scene. Most were sitting there looking at their phone or watching afternoon television shows.

After a bit, I notice that at irregular intervals, a smartly dressed man comes out from some hidden area of the building holding a tablet or a notebook, walks up to a customer, and says “Excuse me. Are you _________________?”

Then, they begin the sale. “Our technician,” says the employee (with a soft smile but a note of seriousness), “is recommending ____________________.” You need a new hose, your rear tires have excessive wear, your head gasket cover is beginning to leak. That sort of thing—like your 2014 Camry was a small child, and in need of a lifesaving vaccine.

It worked every time. The customer listened, nodded along, semi-understanding, and agreed to the recommendation.

I couldn’t wait for my turn. The man approached me. “Excuse me, sir. Are you Mr. Graves?”

“I am.”

“Mr. Graves, our technician is recommending that we replace your radiator hose. It could go out in the extreme summer heat that’s coming.”

“No thanks.”

“Well, sir. That’s totally your choice, but it is something that might go out at any time and we would hate for you to be stranded.”

“I understand, but just the oil change today.”

Now, I’m not saying they were lying. I have no reason to doubt the suggested repair was not needed. I simply wasn’t going to buy into their level of urgency that afternoon. I would handle the problem on my terms. I had come in for an oil change. I would leave with an oil change, and nothing else.

I love experiences like this. I learn so much through observation and that afternoon was no different. I actually was reminded of two truths when it comes to good sales:

  1. You need a sales engine that drives predictable revenue.Everyone knows car dealers make their money on the service side of their business. Oil changes weren’t keeping this place in business. It was obvious that someone had said, “We’re going to drive some revenue by upselling people.” They had designed the whole thing that way, inserted an expert (“our technician”) into the equation, and it was working. Every successful business must figure out its sales engine to be sustainable.
  2. You need happy customers that are willing to repeat and share their excitement. The first two people I met were so focused on their task at hand that they pretty much ignored me. They failed to understand that every touch point with a customer is part of the sales process – not just the revenue pitch. And then, when I got inside their system, they came off a little too slick for my preference. The quiet, overly concerned tone and the squatting down next to me for the private conversation all felt manufactured. It wasn’t as bad as this world-famous scene but they could have done better.

Again, I’m not saying they were disingenuous. Some auto shops certainly are, which is why one survey found 78% of customers suspected they are paying too much for car repairs and 40% were certain of it. All I’m saying about this shop in this blog is that it was full of planned and strategic salesmen.

I have said for years, “Every organization is perfectly designed to get the results it gets.” This shop was designed to sell additional services on the spot. It begs the question: How planned and strategic are you in what you are offering? Every organization has an offering. Ask yourself:

  1. Is your staff and team trained for great customer experience? Jeff Bezos said, “We see our customers as invited guests to a party, and we are the hosts.” Make sure your team doesn’t lose themselves in their task list and ignore the live human in front of them.
  2. When was the last time you had a creative idea about how to drive more revenue or engagement? How old and tired is your revenue model? It’s not about simply talking about it better; it’s about a truly good (and new) idea. If it’s been a while, devote some time to some out-of-the-box thinking.

You never know what you’ll get when you go in for an oil change. Maybe next time I’ll rotate my tires, too.

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