In the latest of our series, thanks to legendary service advisor trainer, Lloyd Schiller, of and Brooke Samples of Profit Blueprints, Brooke looks at the power of storytelling.

Storytelling is in our DNA; for over 20,000 years humans have learned and remembered through storytelling. Storytelling is a strategic learning tool that conveys Action – not Static Information.

As we grew up, fairy tales helped form our character. Think about “The Boy Who Cried Wolf” or “The Little Red Hen”, which reinforced the virtues of work ethic and personal initiative. Stories aren’t just for children; you can use stories to get your employees and your customers emotionally involved, rather than just providing them ‘the facts’.

Use stories to teach your employees

As you train your staff, think about how you can tie the point you want to make to a story and thereby increase the chances that they will remember the point.

Example: You find your service advisors are doing a poor job of presenting repair/maintenance estimates to customers with high-mileage or aged vehicles. Your advisors are making the assumption that the customer can’t afford the repairs or that the customer wouldn’t want to spend any money on a vehicle with 146,000 miles on it.

Here you could say: “Don’t put yourself in the customer’s shoes…just present the estimate and let the customer decide.” This approach usually works when the advisors believe in it. So start your training with this question: “Do you have a favourite memory of riding in a car or truck?” Then ask an advisor to share his or her memory or prepare to share one of your own. Tie that to the point that your customers may also have an emotional connection with their vehicles and that they may want to spend the money to keep the vehicles safe and running for years to come. Encourage the advisors to connect to their customer by asking them the same question: “Do you have a favourite memory of riding in this car/truck?”

When the advisor can see the customer is someone who cherishes her vehicle, the advisor should be more likely to present all the recommended work to her.

Use stories to inspire

If you want a quick way to instil your culture in your new employees, do what a Texas Dealer group does: they tell stories! They have a video with stories that embody their culture, including a story where a cashier took it upon herself to buy gluten-free dog treats because a regular customer said that was the only kind her dog could have.

If you want your employees to solve problems and take care of the customers (the point), here is an example (the story) from an Express Service Department. Just as the last locking lug nut was put in place (hand-tightened) after a tyre rotation, the lug nut key broke. Instead of telling the customer that there will be a problem the next time a tyre needs to be changed because the key broke, the technician tracked down a master key to remove the lug nuts. He explained to the customer what had happened and that, if the customer could wait another 30 minutes, they were going to get a new set of lug nuts to replace the old ones (the dealership absorbed the $40 and the technician’s time). The customer happily waited for the fix and will probably be a loyal customer for life.

Use stories to sell

Storytelling is more than a training tool; it’s also a sales tool. The reason storytelling works is that it helps build trust and makes data relevant.

To increase your sales, craft a story that reinforces the benefits of change. Example: Tom is a parts wholesale salesperson knocking on the door of a prospective client, Sue’s Paint and Body. As Tom starts to sell the great customer service your parts department delivers, Sue rolls her eyes and says “I hear that all the time.”

One of Tom’s responses might be “trust me, we do have great service.” Or he could respond by telling a story: Last month Ding & Dents was just hours away from delivering a repaired vehicle back to a customer when they realised that while the vehicle was detailed, the manufacturer’s emblem (escutcheon) had been scratched. They could have delivered the vehicle with the damage and had the customer return once the escutcheon had got there, but instead they called us. We had the part in stock and Lloyd, one of our wholesale counter people, jumped in his car and delivered it within 30 minutes.

For salespeople it’s easy to gather stories – just ask your customers. Call a customer from a few months back, see how they like their new vehicles and what they like about them – instant stories to use when selling the next vehicle! Encourage your sales staff to keep a notebook with stories they gather.

As a manager you come across examples of good processes and bad decisions every day. (The express tech gave his two-week notice, and on his last day he failed to fill a vehicle with oil; lesson learned!) Keep a log for when you need to tell a story to make a point.

Tips to create stories that make the point of the story ‘stick’ with your staff

  • Don’t start with “I’m going to tell you a story…” (Your customers and employees aren’t five years old). Start with a hook to get them interested: “Last week I saw something that changed the way I think…”, then share the experience.
  • Take no longer than 30 seconds to make a single point. Keep the point of your story to the last sentence.
  • Everything can be a story – but not everything is a good story. Make sure it makes the point you want it to make and that it adds a realistic context to the content of your training.
  • Make the story personal and easy to relate to for the most impact. Use storytelling to help prospective employees understand your dealership’s values or to convince customers why your dealership is superior to your competitors. Whether you want to train your employees or inspire a customer to buy from you – tell a story!

Lloyd Schiller
Fixed Operations Consultant

Brooke Samples
Profit Blueprints,

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