Auto Shop Coaching Blog

Wait a Minute — I’m Supposed To Sell?

Since the beginning of time, there have been salespeople. That’s right, whether exchanging stones of different sizes, trading pelts for goods, or using currency like we do today, there were and always will be salespeople. There are good and bad examples we can reminisce about relating to personal experiences we had or characters in movies and TV shows. Then there are the great examples of salespeople that impressed us with a new product, idea, or way of life that we didn’t know we needed. Whether the transaction went down positively or negatively, that salesperson had one goal — to sell something.

Ideas to grow your businessNon-ATI Members: Discover more valuable tips and strategies to effectively train advisors, improve sales, and increase profits in ATI’s shop owner events. Register at

What Is a Service Advisor’s Primary Job?

Regardless of whether a service advisor has been working with us for ten years or three months, we can’t misconstrue that an advisor’s primary goal is to sell. Along the way, they should be ensuring that customers leave happy, informed, and promote your business to their friends and family. But all those perks lead right back to — sales!

Keeping their eyes on the prize should discourage advisors from thinking it’s ok to monotonously answer the phone, write estimates just to do it, and bump fists with customers. These are bullet points of the job description, but they’re not the job. Let’s take a look at how we can refresh stale advisors and positively affect new ones.

What Kind of Advisor Do You Have?

An easy way to evaluate how a service advisor perceives their position is to simply ask the question, “what percent of your job is sales?” I’m not suggesting this question as an idea; I mean it literally — ask them! If their response is anything less than 100%, there’s a disconnect present.

An answer other than 100% may be a bigger problem than the advisor — it could include management and even an owner. Clarify your expectations of the position, put goals in place, and set time frames for improvement. If we project a meek sales presentation, or worse, are afraid to ask for the sale, our staff will copy what they see. This problem is the epitome of the phrase — “Lead by Example.”

If, after inner-reflection, we conclude that our own salesmanship is stunted by fears or an inability to convey we’re pursuing a sale, we have to fix ourselves first. Are we asking leading questions, making leading statements, controlling conversations, using the sales tools around us, including courtesy checks, DVIs, and margin matrices? If any of these have gaps, let’s fill them now and get our advisors onboard.

How Can Your Advisor Be Better?

Next, let’s determine what tools will make our advisors better. Are they acclimated to our digital scheduling methods? Speaking of schedules, are they using exit appointments to ensure year-round car count consistency, so we don’t have lulls that make us say, “oh, it’s just that time of year when we slow down.” Are DVIs inconsistent from tech to tech? Are techs getting vehicles done by the promised time, or do the advisors need to have uncomfortable conversations with customers?

Are advisors allowed the autonomy to solve customer issues, or are they required to come to us for advice or approvals of remedies? Are phone calls recorded so we can play them back later and go over what we could’ve said in a better way? Does our POS system populate scheduled maintenance accurately according to time and mileage intervals? To yearn for great results, we have to offer great tools and paths to get there.

Let’s try cut-and-dry tactics! Receive a phone call? Get an established appointment. It serves no purpose to have a 12-minute conversation, give the customer repair options, our location, and why we’re different than the competition, and then end without offering a time slot. New customer walk in the door? Impress them, explain our value propositions, appeal to their needs. Why aren’t they going to their old shop? Is there value in explaining which two of the three repair options they might fit into — fast, cheap, or quality? Is there a loyal customer’s car in our bay? Sit next to them in the waiting room, ask what’s been going on, explain the great state of their car, and describe what their current needs are.

We should understand that regardless of encountering a new or loyal customer, being consistent in how we treat them, conveying inspection results, and the “kiss” goodbye all help keep them coming back.

How to Determine Next Steps

Not all people are meant to be service advisors. If we show our staff best practices, review their shortcomings to become better, and give them time frames of improvement expectations, we’ve done the most we can from our standpoint. If they make improvements based on what we’ve taught, great, let’s attend to what’s lagging now. If there’s no improvement whatsoever, at a certain point, we have to realize we’ve led them to the water, but they’re not drinking it. In this case, we have to figure out the next step, most likely sourcing someone new — everyone’s favorite topic in 2021!

Non-ATI Members: For more tips on effectively training, selling, and increasing your profits, check out our shop owner events at

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Koole Bolina is a Performance Coach at ATI and has been in the automotive industry since 1998. Starting with a personal interest in automotive repairs, he continues to be part of car clubs, drag racing and keeping up with industry trends. Koole loves to positively influence those who want to do better, be better. If the industry we happen to do business in is the automotive field, that makes it all the better.