Two Ears, One Mouth

In our never-ending pursuit of happy and cooperative customers, who willingly listen to all of our varied service recommendations and such, we typically gain the experience of knowing exactly what most customers are going to say to us when we present them with our findings, right?

Since there are only a handful of items that we ever typically recommend to our customers, there are only a handful of responses they could ever typically give back to us. And, boy, do we hear them all, all the time.

This inevitable situation leads to an amazing ability to predict just exactly what the customer may respond with as an objection. That’s not a bad thing. It just shows that most customers stick to the tried and true. The unfortunate part of this is that this overwhelming familiarity, we all have with a customer’s response leads us to answer that objection before they have actually finished saying it. In casual conversation, interrupting people or cutting off what they are saying mid-sentence may or may not be seen as such a big deal, but in the world of customer service, it is most times the deal breaker!

Even though you may feel like you know exactly what the customer’s objection may be, interrupting the customer and not letting them finish their thought is always perceived as rude and uncaring. That is certainly not how you want your customers to feel now, is it?

Somewhere along the line, in my years of dealing with customers, someone gave me this bit of indispensible wisdom: “You have two ears and one mouth. Therefore, you should listen twice as much as you talk.”

Unfortunately, many are afflicted with the “one ear, two mouths” syndrome: They talk twice as much as they listen.

In short, all I can really say about this is that you will be absolutely stunned at the endless advantages you get in any casual or professional conversation if you just adopt the “two ears, one mouth” philosophy. Not only does it give your customer every opportunity to fully speak their mind about whatever it is they want to say, but by doing so, it also doesn’t usually leave them with anything else to say. This, of course, allows you a far better chance of getting your response out to them fully and uninterrupted.

There is a technique here: It is not simply keeping your mouth shut and patiently waiting to spring your pre-memorized response. No, you must actively listen to everything your customer is saying to you — they may throw a couple of twists in there. By listening and not talking, you can then have more time to fully formulate a custom response to their statement or objection. The other beautiful result of this is that the customer has an elevated sense of respect and comfort with you, simply because they perceive you are paying attention to them — which, of course, you are!

Also, while you are taking your time and letting the customer finish everything they are saying, the overall length of time it takes to complete your entire presentation is dramatically shortened. This is because it not only prevents you and the customer from endlessly repeating yourselves to make sure your points are being heard, but it also helps the customer reach a conclusion and make a final decision more quickly.

OK, so you’ve done this perfect so far, but the customer still gives you an objection. You may be thinking, “What is the point of this technique if I still get objections?”

Remember, very few closes work on the first attempt. Typically, the customer will offer a few objections you must answer to their satisfaction before they will agree with your recommendation to get that extra service today. The goal is not to achieve zero objections, but to answer the few objections that come up as quickly and effectively as possible, leading to a stronger and more obvious close.

Disarm the objection by agreeing with it. Agree with the objection? How can that work? It works like a champ.

For instance, let’s say you’ve communicated to your customer that their vehicle’s manufacturer recommends a transmission fluid exchange at 60,000 miles, and since they have never had that service performed on their 65,000-mile Canyon 4X4, you are recommending it. Your customer may say something like, “No, that’s OK. My brother-in-law is a mechanic; he can do that for me for free.”

How many times have you heard that particular objection? Probably too many to count; it’s an oldie, but a goodie.

So, you’re thinking: How does agreeing that the customer can get the service work performed somewhere else help me to get services done here?

The technique here is to flesh-out their response and follow it to its logical conclusion — the conclusion that results in their supposed “mechanic brother-in-law” not actually doing the work for them. There are several possibilities here:

  1. Their brother-in-law actually is not a mechanic, or anything close to it. Maybe, he has a mismatched set of worn-out old tools he inherited from his grandpa, and he’s been fixing the family’s cars for years, with varying levels of success.
     
  2. Or, maybe he is a mechanic — a good one. Maybe he works all day mechanicin’ on cars from early morning to sundown all week long!
     
    Surely, at the end of the day all he wants to do is work on someone else’s car instead of relaxing. I know that in my youth I worked as a carpenter, and when I came home and someone asked me if I would build a bookshelf for them, I was not very inclined to do so.
     
  3. Or, just as likely, there is no phantom, brother-in-law the mechanic! It may just be the typical story customers say that gives them an easy excuse to say “no.”

It doesn’t matter. None of the possible realities of the above objections are important. What is important is that you quickly and subtly get your customer to get back to thinking about the recommendation, not the objection. Here’s how you do that. Respond with something like this: “Wow! Your brother-in-law is a mechanic? That’s fantastic! I’m sure that saves you and the others in your family a lot of time and money on getting work done on your cars.”

This sets up what is called an “ear-worm,” something that is heard by your customer and becomes the only thing they can think about right now. Your phrase of “saves a lot of time and money” only makes the customer realize that whenever their brother-in-law works on their car, it never saves them time. It actually takes a lot longer, because they have to wait until he can “get around to it.”

While that is rattling around in their head, continue on with something like this: “And if your brother-in-law is as good a mechanic as you say he is, he will surely understand the importance of actually doing this transmission service. If for any reason he doesn’t have time to get to you right away, considering you are past due for the service, or if he doesn’t have access to the correct machines for this kind of service, feel free to just come back in, and I will be happy to perform that for you!”

What are the “ear-worms” in that last section? Well, let’s see:

  1. “If your brother-in-law is as good a mechanic as you say he is” is one of them. The customer never said he was a good mechanic, and your use of that phrase may just remind them that maybe he isn’t such a good mechanic.
     
  2. “If he doesn’t have the time to get to it” is another. Maybe he is a good mechanic, and maybe he is busy all of the time. Your customer may not want to wait to get it done.
     
  3. And of course the “access to the proper tools or machines” illuminates the need for this service to be done by a professional with proper tools and equipment.

You will find out if you just take the time to let your customers actually finish whatever it is they are saying to you, and then to answer any objections in a positive, agreeing manner while still providing them with a reason to get it done in your shop today, you will find your ticket averages soaring.

The New Year is upon us all. Let’s make it a great one by making it happen. See all of ya’ next month!

Kit Sullivan

KIT SULLIVAN began as a lube tech over 25 years ago and is one of the most knowledgeable and respected experts in the fast-oil-change arena. From location manager to general manager of a 50-plus unit chain, to owner of his own six-unit chain of lube shops, Sullivan has mastered every area of successful lube shop operation. Known for his excellent training seminars, as well as assistance in developing new products tailored to the industry, Sullivan is a popular consultant and can be reached at: quicklubekit@aol.com