Not long after I first started writing, a colleague an experienced and well-respected trade journalist within our industry told me: “There is nothing to learn from a ‘positive’ response to anything you ever have to say! Positive feedback just confirms what you already believe to be the truth, what you already believe you know.”
I remember thinking to myself, “Well, that doesn’t make any sense …” But, I folded it up and filed it away for future reference, or, at least until my own experience either confirmed or denied it.
After a few years and countless phone calls, letters and e-mails, I found out that to a very large extent, my friend had been more than just a little “right.” No matter how much it may frustrate you, no matter how much pain it might cause, most of the time, the only time you ever learn anything substantive from someone else regarding something you’ve said or done is when that person disagrees passionately with you enough to share their displeasure and, their frustration (about you) with you.
However, as with any rule, there are those rare exceptions.
In an e-mail that referenced the “These Are Legitimate Questions” column I wrote for the November issue of Counterman, Brent Kawaguchi, of Fast Undercar, Salem, Ore., provided anyone on either side of the parts counter (or, anywhere else within the automotive service aftermarket, for that matter) with a blueprint and explanation for positive, powerful and virtually “indestructible” relationships. “Indestructible” relationships very likely transcend the kind of tenuous and sometimes superficial kind we’ve all become too accustomed to and familiar with in the past.
He started out describing the responsibilities of a “sales rep,” and by sales rep I’m reasonably certain he was limiting his comments to those individuals representing distribution, particularly, those representing jobber stores and warehouses.
However, I think his “job description” is equally appropriate for any customer contact/sales-related position anywhere in the aftermarket “to impart upon each customer the values and benefits of the company they are representing ... and, to establish a relationship with each customer.”
Elegantly simple, powerfully comprehensive.
But, he went on to suggest that by “establishing a relationship, a line of communication and trust is formed. Through this line of communication and trust, a sales rep can identify the particular needs of each customer. By identifying these needs, they can then be addressed, strengthening the bond between customer and supplier.”
He agreed that there are variations in the role each sales representative is called upon to perform, but recognized these variations are directly attributable to the individual needs of a customer.
And, while it is true, the variations can be infinite depending upon the wants, needs and expectations of that individual customer, the role of the sales professional remains constant to identify and address those wants, needs and expectations.
Brent ended his e-mail by suggesting that the answer to the final question posed in “Legitimate Questions” was rhetorical.
“What can they do (shops and shop owners like me), what can we do, to meet you half way? What can we do to make you more effective? What can we do to help you help us become more successful?” I wrote.
He said he believed the questions had already been answered, both within the body of the piece itself and through his e-mail. “Just as with anything else in life the need to effectively communicate is the key to success,” he wrote.
I believe his response was so universal in scope and so appropriate in content, I have shared what Brent had to say with everyone here at the shop not just so that we can communicate our wants, needs and expectations more effectively with our distribution partners, but that everyone here recognizes the critical importance of doing the same for anyone and everyone who depends on us to solve a problem, meet a need or exceed an expectation.
Mitch Schneider co-owns and operates Schneider’s Automotive Service in Simi Valley, CA. Readers can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.