Over the past couple of years, I have debated whether or not I should write this article. I finally decided I should.
On any given day, the Jeff Cowan’s Pro Talk Office manages a couple hundred incoming and or outgoing telephone sales calls. In addition, we field at least a few hundred more text and emails. Most of these revolve around one of two things. Us answering questions for, solving the concerns of, and servicing our existing client base, or us trying to turn prospects into clients. Many of these prospects reach out to us for help.
We love what we do. We love talking with people from all walks: dealerships, independent shop owners, chain store executives, etc. We love hearing their concerns, how passionate they are about solving those problems, and how they are working to be the best they can be. We take great pride in showing them how we can quickly solve their problems with world-class solutions that will allow them to maximize sales and produce customer-paid repair order averages in the 2.5-hour range, including oil changes with an effective labor rate that is 90 to 95% of their door rate. Solutions that will show their staff how to get and maintain perfect survey scores. We show them how we routinely help their contemporaries get customer retention in the 80 to 85% range within twelve months. We show them how to do what everyone talks about but very few are capable of doing: develop a world-class service department that has a staff of experts who consistently deliver truly world-class service. When we further explain how our Pro Talk experts who have done the job and spend 85% of their time daily on service drives working with real customers developed and continue to develop our processes and trainings, they instantly realize there is a lot of time, money, and people involved in delivering what we deliver. The excitement we hear from these prospects is rewarding in itself. You can hear and feel great relief on their part as they realize that there are real answers to their real problems. There is someone who has the products, methods, processes, content, and experience to make things happen and make them happen quickly. As we approach the end of our presentations, we then start discussing training options that start at $900 and can add up to many thousands of dollars depending on the size of a service department, the number of employees being trained, how many areas of the department we will be working in, and how many days we will be onsite to get the job done. Frankly, our average sale is $25,000, give or take.
Most see the value and move forward. But a growing number are pushing back. Why? The service advisor, service manager, service department training industry has been dumbed to a low level because everyone and their brother thinks they can offer it. Plus, most of what is being offered is poorly written, poorly presented, poorly delivered, and rarely followed up on, and it very rarely delivers any type of result that is worthy of conversation.
What is worse is that sometimes big, multi-hundred-million dollar companies, such as F&I companies, offer the training as a way to earn your business in another department, many times for free or for doing very lucrative business with them in your F&I department. A few years back, several of these companies jumped into it and jumped into it big. Today, they are pulling back and moving away from that. Why? Their training did not work and started eroding away at their reputations. Auto manufacturers are in the game too. Their tactic is that you have to take the training as part of your franchise agreement or some bogus certification program they have. Let’s be clear about this: they do not do those because they care—they do it because they make a ton of cash off of doing it. Talk about a captured market. They are not offering these services because they will get you gigantic increases. You must actually have training that delivers gigantic increases for that to be a reason, and they don’t.
Vendors of all types that offer a wide range of products for your service drive oftentimes offer free service advisor sales training to go along with the products you purchase. In reality, this usually is little more than product training for what they sold you. If it is actually sales training, it is rarely effective because it is not presented correctly and/or not installed effectively.
Many times, ex-service advisors and service managers leave the retail side of the business and open up their own training and consulting firms. Many of the people who do this are very talented and have proven they know what they are talking about. But just because you are a great manager or advisor does not necessarily mean you have the ability to create original content and/or teach it. For the rare person that can do it, the next problem is being able to keep the content updated relevant. Then, they must have the skills to market their services, sell their services, and generally run a consulting business, which, like running a service business, is not as easy at it looks. At the very least, it takes a sizable staff, in my opinion, to make everything happen that needs to happen, and that takes income. In short, many start their businesses but either go out of business in nine months or basically become someone you can call to sit in for a manager or advisor who is off on vacation.
The biggest problem with all of the various types of service training I have just described is that, since it is usually poorly presented, it’s boring to the end user. Students quickly start to dread it. Managers find it impossible to hold people accountable to poorly written and presented training, and so the end result is zero results in any category.
Oftentimes, by the time a client gets to us or one of my true competitors and we discuss our fees, the business owner is hesitant to invest the money. They think, if the training I got for free did not work and people did not like it, why would I pay for training, especially pay what you are asking? Because they got what you usually get when you get something for free: nothing. If you want the results, if you want the content, if you want the experience, if you want big payoff, then at some point you will need to “pay in” and invest money for those results.
I do not apologize for our fees. I get up every day—oftentimes seven days a week—and go to work. Same with my trainers and, at times, even the office staff. We do not live in castles on massive hilltops; we do not have drivers and maids that take care of us. We are hard working, dedicated people who bust their butts to deliver processes and trainings to you that not only work, but that give the biggest return on your dollar compared to nearly every other thing you could be and are investing in for your business.
I am proud of my business, and I am proud of the people that work with me to make it all come together. I sometimes get criticized for the amount that I pay my team members. It is a fact that I pay them better than anyone in our niche of the business. But to deliver the best, you have to have the best people, and to get best people, you have to pay them the best—and I do.
In the end, it is going to get down to three questions; 1. Do you really want to get the best numbers in all categories? 2. Are you willing to invest real money to get those results? 3. Would it be a smart investment in any category, under any circumstances, to invest $25,000 and get an immediate return on that investment that would average about 1.2 million dollars or substantially more a year increase for that investment? (It’s a real question). To maximize your opportunity, at some point you will have to invest something. Just like free costs you nothing, free will also get you nothing.
By Jeff Cowan; Copyright WM Jeff Cowan; 2019 All Rights Reserved