What Sales and Marketing Can Learn From My Mechanic

After 13 years, and over 175,000 miles, it’s finally time to say goodbye to “Big Blue”. Big Blue is our Ford Expedition, and she finally “gave up” the ghost. We came to this conclusion as the result of a recent, routine oil change visit to my mechanic. He called and said, “I think she’s done buddy”. He went on to report the damage he had found, and told us the cost to fix it just wasn’t worth it on a vehicle this old.

We’ve taken our vehicles to Dave for a few years now. If you own a car, you know that having a mechanic you can trust is invaluable. But Dave’s worth is not just in his ability to fix cars. It’s much more than that. The fact is, Dave is a very astute, consultative, customer centered marketing and sales person. Here are a few lessons that marketing, sales and business people should take from Dave.

Make Your Buyer’s Needs More Important Than Your Own

Like many families, being down a car is a challenge. So, when Big Blue died, we went into scramble mode. We quickly jumped online, found a car on Craigslist, and took a test drive. We asked the seller if our mechanic could take a look at it. He said that wouldn’t be a problem, but only if the mechanic could come to his place. I thought, “I hope Dave makes house calls.” I called Dave, and explained the situation. He didn’t bat an eye. “No problem, I’ll pop over there after work”. I asked Dave how much it would cost me for him to do this, and he said, “I just want to make sure your family gets a clean, new car”. The thing is, he meant it. And he followed through, never signaling that doing so would benefit him in any way.

The lesson? Get rid of “So That…” thinking. Dave didn’t think, “I’ll help Jay out SO THAT I can make a few extra bucks.” He simply saw what I needed, and sought to help me. In the same way, look for ways to help your prospects and customers. Adopt a “Them First” mentality. It’s reciprocal…they’ll think of you first if you do.

Be An Adviser

Dave has never once sold me on anything. He’s never once asked me to buy something. All he does is look at the problem with my car, then tells me what he thinks I should do to fix it. Each time, his recommendation is a price-value equation. For example, when our other car needed new tires a few  months ago, he suggested a lower cost tire because of the age and mileage of the car. Dave doesn’t sell me. He advises me.

The lesson? It’s important to understand that no one wants to be sold. Buyers are looking for advice from trusted advisers. They want to be pointed in the right direction. They don’t want knowledge, they want wisdom and insight that, when followed, will improve their situation or solve their problem. Don’t be a seller. Be an adviser.

Take Care of Your Team

I’ve worked with many vendors who, with the goal of taking care of the customer, use and abuse the “back office” staff at their companies. For some, it’s a badge of honor. For others, they justify the means with the end being “The customer comes first”. Whatever the rationale, it’s backwards thinking. Again, they should learn from Dave. He has a staff of 5 or so. They’d do anything for him. He takes care of them in a myriad of ways: higher than average wages, better than average benefits, clean work environment. He even takes them on vacation once a year…and pays for it. He’s found a better way.

The Lesson? Take care of those who take care of you, and your customers will be taken care of.

If you’re in marketing or sales, learn from my mechanic: Be buyer centric, be an adviser, take care of your team. And if you need a good mechanic in West Michigan, give me a call. I’ll give you Dave’s number.