Auto Shop Coaching Blog

How to Master The Art of Persuasion

People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.Maya Angelou

What’s possible if you become a master of persuasion?  As I ponder this question, I’m reminded of something that happened back when I was a shop manager in need of a new car.

The shop was 45 minutes away from home, so I was looking for a reliable and dependable vehicle.

The plan was to get a car that I could drive until the wheels fell off!

My first stop was to the Honda dealer.  The salesman told me all about the affordable price, and superior fuel economy, while I was test driving a blue Honda Accord Ex.

It made sense logically, but I left without buying and went to the Toyota dealer.

At Toyota, the salesman and I looked at a black Toyota Camry LE and he told me all about the smooth riding long wearing tires, and how that model was ranked as the #1 mid-size car according to Consumer Reports.

The Camry seemed to be a logical choice, but I decided to keep looking.  On my way home I stopped by the local BMW dealer just to window shop.

The salesman had me test drive a silver BMW 325I, and asked me to imagine the look on my friends face as I drove by in my “Bimmer.”

I threw up an objection by mentioning that my financial documents were at home.  He responded by allowing me to drive the BMW home to get the necessary paperwork!

This may surprise you, but I decided to purchase the BMW!  Later, whenever people asked me why, I would tell them about how well it handled on the highway, the ABS brake system, and its durability.

In reality, I made an emotional decision that I used logic to justify.  Your customers are just like me. When they make a purchase decision, emotion is The Ultimate Driving Machine!

So the key to mastering the art of persuasion is to focus on making emotional connections. Keep reading as I use logic to justify my previous statement!

What Science Says

By now you’re probably thinking, “Nice try Twiggs, but my customers are different!” Well, according to research conducted by Harvard University professor, Gerald Zaltman, they aren’t!

His study found that 95% of all purchase decisions take place unconsciously.

In other words, we tend to arrive at purchase decisions based on an intuitive emotional response that we later explain using logic. 

When it comes to automotive service, is your shop merely the logical choice?   You’ve been in business for 30 years, your family owned and operated, you’re cheaper than the dealer, and you even have Wi-Fi in your waiting room!

et In spite of these logical reasons, you have customers who leave your shop without buying, because they’ve decided to keep looking. 

So what can you do to master the art of persuasion?   Read on to discover the three building blocks of effective persuasion as outlined by the Greek Philosopher Aristotle in his book, Rhetoric.


The Greek word that Aristotle uses for Authority is Ethos.  This refers to the perceived credibility of the individual or business.

We tend to be persuaded by people we perceive to be an established authority and will defer to them when making purchase decisions.

Advertisers leverage this principle by having your favorite celebrity in their commercial driving the car they want you to buy.

Your accountant may tell you it’s not in the budget, but the authority of the celebrity could sway you to make the purchase anyway!

At your shop, getting (5) star internet reviews, writing blog posts, (the root word for authority is author!) and being interviewed on your local TV & radio stations, are ways you can position yourself as the automotive authority in your community.


The Greek word for Logic is Logos.  This is where data, facts, and reason are used to persuade. Yes, logic does factor into the persuasion equation.

However, my previously mentioned Honda and Toyota salesmen would agree that attempting to persuade solely on logic is a recipe for failure.

In a selling situation, the features of a product or service represent the logic, while the benefits tie back to the emotion.  

Here’s the most common mistake I come across when I roleplay selling scenarios with service writers: They use what I’ve coined as, “The all AND nothing approach!”

They run down the list of ALL the features and say NOTHING about the benefits to the customer.

I recommend using the 30/70 rule of selling by talking about the features 30% of the time and spending 70% of your time FOCUSED ON THE BENEFITS!


The Greek word for emotion is Pathos.   This involves persuading through emotion and empathy.  The BMW salesman convinced me to purchase the car by focusing on my favorite radio station: WIIFM: What’s In It For Me! 

He recognized that I wasn’t just buying a car.  I was investing in status and prestige.

Your customer listens to WIIFM as well.  As a result, she’s not really buying what you may think.  For example, she’s not just buying front brakes.

She’s investing in her daughter’s safety while she’s away at school.  She’s not just buying four tires.  She’s buying a secure trip to soccer practice.

This makes visiting the car with the customer a critical step in the process.  At the car, you have a golden opportunity to ask questions to discover what she really wants and to tailor your conversation accordingly.

We’ve already established that emotion is the ultimate driving machine.  Focusing on what they really want will ensure that you make an emotional connection with your customers.


So, there you have it.  Making an emotional connection by leveraging the 3 building blocks, will allow you to master the art of persuasion!

I’m living proof that this works.  Recently while shopping for a car, my wife persuaded me to buy a shiny, silver Toyota Camry!

P.S. To get your copy of the 7 Specific Triggers that Lead to a Yes Response, email me at

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Eric, the Accountability Coach, is an Executive Coach at ATI and has coached since 2009. Eric came to ATI having managed over 60 different automotive repair facilities and having supervised over 500 employees at a given time. He loves seeing members progress beyond what they thought was possible and improve their shop to the point where they can leave for weeks at a time and come back to a business that's better than when they left.