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Kyb’S Mcgovern Tells Auto Pride: Language is the Culprit in Lost Sales

By Mark Phillips

Mac McGovern believes the key for suppliers to sell more parts to repair shops comes down to language. It’s both about how counterman refer to technicians and how repair shops approach their businesses.
Mark Phillips

“The parts industry’s responsibility is to teach the repair shops how to approach the customers,” said McGovern, who owned his own repair shop for 30 years. He’s now director of training for KYB America. His address, “Parts people are from Venus, Installers are from Mars” was delivered at Auto Pride’s annual meerting at the JW Marriott resort in Orlando, Fla., April 9-13.

“There’s a problem up on my slide,” he told the audience. “It’s the word ‘installers.’ A lot of people find that offensive. They have thousands of dollars of equipment. They know more about telematics than you can imagine. When they hear they’re called ‘installers,’ what do you think they think of you?”

“If you want them to respect you, go to training and communicate with you, at least call them by the proper name — technicians.”

One of the biggest drivers of new business for parts suppliers is language. “Any part that can be replaced on a vehicle can be a maintenance item. It’s a matter of language,” he said. “All you have to do is get the shop comfortable with the language and they can sell it.”

McGovern said parts suppliers’ basic belief is that selling more parts is good. “On the repair shop planet, selling more parts is bad,” McGovern said.

Technicians come to work thinking they only need to replace parts when they fail, not when the performance of the car isn’t as good as it should be, he said. “We’ve groomed a whole generation of technicians whose whole focus is ‘fix the car.’”

Their second goal is to make the customer happy by doing it cheaply. The last thing they consider is try to earn a profit, McGovern said. “Most shops don’t understand that order needs to be reversed.”

How a repair shop communicates with customers determines how many parts are sold and installed. Words like “worn, loose, wasted, fried” often used to describe the reason to replace parts means little to a motorist. “That’s the language often used by the shop and it doesn’t tell the customer anything,” McGovern said.

Once when McGovern owned his repair shop, he decided to outfit the cars of his three technicians with new shocks and struts. His technicians tended to drive the rattiest cars of all his employees. But the day after the new shocks and struts were installed on his technicians’ cars, they had a eureka moment: Their cars were riding fantastic. They finally understood they didn’t need a part to be broken for it to be replaced.

Soon, McGovern’s sales of shocks and struts shot up for a simple reason: His technicians realized the value of replacing them in their own cars. “The person who needs product training is the tech,” he said. “They must understand the value of replacing a part.”

Parts professionals can help move more parts by helping repair shop owners build a new business plan. “Let them understand you know how to sell. You have a wealth of knowledge,” McGovern said. “You need to find out why they’re not selling. Once you get to the root of the problem, you can begin to fix the problem.”

Don’t start by trying to change the world. Just start with one product category. Take just fan belts and ask why they’re not selling more of them. They’re not going to sell anything until they’re comfortable with it.”


Attendees of Auto Pride’s annual meeting were hoping that the remainder of 2008 would heat up, much like the local weather. To do so, the focus for the organization for 2008 will be on training.

“When we talked to our members, the word ‘training’ kept coming up,” said Melissa Jolls, marketing consultant of the Branford, Conn.-based organization. “Those organizations that train more see an improvement in their bottom line.”

Much of that training should involve helping repair shop owners in their business. Matthew Winslow, of Automotive Training Institute (ATI), which provides 256 seminars a year with six trainers, said. “The problem with most shops is they are focused on repairing card,” Winslow said. “They only look at gross sales. But at the end of the year, they have little to show for it.”

There are two “killer” problems, Winslow believes. “Cars are harder to fix and they are more reliable,” he said. “Today’s repair shops need to focus on convenience, integrity, passion, commitment and competence.”

In other business, Auto Pride awarded its service center of the year award to Ken Poirier of Poirier’s Service Center, Pompano Beach, Fla.

“He displays all of the Auto Pride customer service signage,” Jolls said. “His proactive way of doing business is why he’s one of the best.”

“I think I have good relationships with you as part professionals, which is very, very important,” Poirier said. “I don’t have to worry about, ‘Am I getting the right price and the right service?’”

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