A Soul Can Lead to a Sale – A Parts Manager’s Manifesto

If you can’t run into your customers at Walmart on a Sunday night and feel comfortable, then you’re not doing it right. The soul leads to the sale.

I’ve been thinking lately about what it means to be a parts manager. How do we stay relevant? Every year, my team has to fight with online shopping like Super ATV and Amazon. How do we compete with a nearly perfect website that loads in seconds and is “open” 24/7? What is the industry going to look like when more and more of our road reps are taken away from us? Last year, we lost Tucker in the transition to Turn 14. This year, we lost most of our road reps for Western.  

In a world where it’s so much easier to go shopping on our phones and have it show up to our house, why do people still come into the dealership? It’s the relationships built between dealership employees and customers.    

The people at the counter and on the phone are the ones who can make or break the parts department. We need such a unique blend of knowledge to be successful. To know enough about machines to be dangerous and give advice, but not be an actual mechanic. We need to know how to sell our product and close the sale. We need to know about gaskets in a transmission we have never taken apart. Or how to install the latest accessory we have never touched. We need to know how to read the parts diagrams and know that an axle has five different names, depending on what brand you’re dealing with. Then, there is the training. Over the years, the only way I’ve been able to build a successful department was with a culture of training.  

On everything from batteries all the way to learning about water pumps on new hybrid machines at Kawasaki mechanic class in Orlando, there isn’t a week that goes by that my team and I aren’t sharing the latest “thing” we learned. Sometimes it is faster to look up All Ball’s parts on the website. Other times, it’s new release notes on the latest Dunlop tires. Those notes and helpful resources are what live in my powersports playbook for my team to access. But, there has to be more to the foundation than just training. 

There needs to be a soul in the department too. Sure, a nice loading website can be informative and helpful, but an honest human who has the customer’s best interest in mind, instead of just being optimized to make a sale, can stand out. Over the years, I’ve really built my department around the five principles below. They have become the fabric of how I want my department and team to be represented to the world. It’s the reason why we hit $1 million over the counter last year and continue to grow – with only four people. My staff loves their customers.  

We love providing solutions that can save them time and money. We give them honest feedback when they ask for our advice. We are willing to call and trade with other dealers when a part is on backorder to get things in faster. Our motto is if you can’t run into your customers at Walmart on a Sunday night and feel comfortable, then you’re not doing it right. The soul leads to the sale. 

We never have to worry about trying to convince someone that they are making the right decision. Instead, if we are doing it right, we give them the options, timelines and price, and let the customer decide. Sometimes, that means they don’t buy from us. But, they come back because they know when they ask us a question, we won’t lie to make a quick buck. 

Even though online sales are never going to go away, I hope that more parts managers can reinforce the soul of their department. I hope we can continue to show how our years of knowledge and next-level geekness can be an asset to our customers. We are willing to help and are most of the time more knowledgeable than a YouTube video. We care about them and are worth waiting till 9am on a Tuesday to talk to. 

The Parts Managers Manifesto

  • Focus on servicing your blend of unique customers and lean into your niche. They come to you for a reason.
  • Create sale packages that support your customers’ needs and take decision fatigue away from the transaction.
  • Be honest always. We are here to create a long-term customer, not just a short-term sale.
  • Know your department inside and out. Nothing lights the world more on fire than a parts department where everyone knows their craft.
  • The parts department is a team sport. We rise and fall together.

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