Auto Shop Coaching Blog

How to Sell Automotive Repair to a Bottom Feeder

“How much business is an inaccurate assumption costing you?"

A plainly dressed woman wearing a baseball cap walked into an upscale handbag store looking to make a purchase. She came in carrying a worn-out handbag that appeared to have a lot of miles on it.

She gestured towards the most expensive bag in the store but before she could speak the salesperson gave her the following response:

“Nope, it’s too expensive. Look at these bags instead.” The customer asked a second time to see the handbag that was secured behind a screen and was again refused by the salesperson who would only show her the options that she believed were in her price range.

After asking a third time and being refused, she left the store without buying anything. The plainly dressed customer with the high-mileage bag was Oprah Winfrey who has an estimated net worth of three billion dollars and a Twitter following of 41 million people!

She posted a tweet about her experience mentioning the handbag store by name! The salesperson had mistakenly profiled Oprah Winfrey to be a bottom feeder.

A “bottom feeder” is a term in the retail industry that describes someone whom a business representative has profiled to be a low potential customer.

To save their time for “the good customers,” the representative will short-cut the normal sales process by only presenting the lowest-priced offerings to this individual.

Oprah’s story teaches us that this attempt to save time can cost you on your bottom line! How much business is an inaccurate assumption costing you?

Count the Costs

Some of my discussions with a shop owner will begin with him complaining about his low net profit results. As we review his repair orders from the previous week, he tells me he doesn’t offer the courtesy check to “certain types of customers” who drive older, high mileage vehicles.

These conversations have taught me that there’s a direct relationship between the inaccurate profiling of customers and low net profit.

In other words, if you embrace a profiling philosophy, you’re likely to become unhappy with your profit performance!

Don’t believe me? Well consider the following questions:

  1. Would you refer your family and friends to a shop that treated you like you were a bottom feeder?
  2. What if the customer, whom you’ve profiled to be a bottom feeder, turned out to be a billionaire?
  3. How would you feel if she “tweeted” about her experience to millions of people mentioning your shop by name?

Stay with me to learn about something specific that you can do instead of profiling your customers.

Consider the Possibilities

The story is told of a rookie service advisor named “Cindy” who was new to both her shop and to the automotive industry. There was an elderly customer named “Sarah” who had a history of never approving the estimates that were recommended on her green Geo Prizm with 180,000 miles on it.

As a practical joke, the service manager along with the lead mechanic decided to give “the newbie” the estimate to present which totaled four thousand dollars. The manager and tech listened to the presentation from the office while laughing to themselves.

They laughed as Cindy approached the counter. They laughed as she presented the “complete pile,” as she learned from Randy Somers in ATI’s Service Advisor class. The laughs changed to a collective gasp when Sarah responded with the following statement: “OK, go ahead and do it!”

This story is filled with possibilities. It’s possible that Sarah didn’t purchase in the past because the shop treated her like she was a bottom feeder. It’s possible that Cindy was too new to know that Sarah wasn’t “the right type of customer.”

It’s possible you can succeed like Cindy if you focus more on the process than you do the profile! Consider the possibility that YOU may be creating some of your “bottom feeders.”


So, there you have it. If you count the costs and consider the possibilities, you can sell automotive repair to customers whom you previously considered to be bottom feeders.

Unlike Oprah, you can’t give everyone in your “audience” a car. But, if you focus more on the process than you do the profile, you can leave them feeling like a billion bucks!

P.S. Email etwiggs@autotraining.netto receive an updated checklist of the estimate presentation process!

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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.