In Defense of Mechanics

They don’t often have the best reputation. People sometimes cringe at the thought of interacting with them. And it’s often a foregone conclusion that your wallet will be a little bit lighter after the exchange is over.

Now, I could be talking about accountants. Or even lawyers. But today I want to focus in on mechanics.

Not that I want to attack them. On the contrary, I want to defend them.

Do you want an air filter with that?

First, a clarification. I don’t mean to defend unscrupulous mechanics who just aim to rip off unsuspecting customers. I’m sure Dante, if he were alive today, would surely create a place in the fourth circle of hell for that crowd. Deservedly so.

No, the mechanics I want to defend are the ones who can see into the near future — my near future, your near future — and help us not be stranded on the side of the road in a rainstorm with only a toy spare and white-hot rage to keep us company.

A good mechanic isn’t just interested in what you (as the ‘expert’ who doesn’t even change your own oil) think you need. They’re interested in looking at what else might be about to go wrong and ruin your day.

Put it this way: If you bring your car in for an oil change and, unbeknownst to you, your fuel pump is about to go, wouldn’t you want to know about it?

Of course you would. You sure hope the mechanic working on your car would point it out and give you the chance to take action before it’s too late. If they didn’t, and your fuel pump went out during the evening commute a few days later, you’d probably be pretty upset. Why didn’t he tell me there was a problem?

Taking responsibility

A good mechanic isn’t focused on extracting as much money from you as possible. He’s focused on making sure your car stays on the road. To borrow a term from another industry, one might say that’s his fiduciary responsibility.

The same holds true for your own work with customers (heck, my work with clients too). The aim of sales isn’t to sell for the sake of selling, but to help. And by help, I mean looking at the client’s situation and recommending things that help them stay on the metaphorical road.

But notice what’s not happening here. We’re not trying to sell customers and clients every conceivable thing. We’re selling them what they need right now. A good sales ‘mechanic’ knows that a customer might need a new transmission in 3 years, but they need a new carburetor right now.

Sure, it would be nice from a financial standpoint for the mechanic to try to scare customers into buying every service under the sun, but the reality is that customers and clients have budgets and a list of priorities. They often can’t afford everything, but they can afford the things they need. And they’ll make room in their budget for those things.

The ethical imperative of sales (and auto repair) is to send out trust signals so that customers and clients know you’re only recommending what they need to buy right now.

Scorched earth sales

But wait a minute, you might be thinking. How do I know what they really need?

You ask. And then you listen. And then you ask some more. Repeat until you have sufficient clarity. Plain and simple.

I’ll tell you something important: Trying to squeeze ever last dollar out of a customer is a losing strategy.

You win when you give customers what they need right now, trusting that they’ll have a lot more needs in the future. It’s about developing long-term business relationships, not practicing scorched earth sales.

If you truly focus on helping your customers achieve their goals, you’ll achieve yours in the process. People like working with people — and companies — of integrity.

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