-by Sally Whitesell
Have you stopped and considered how much money people are spending on their cars outside of the dealership? What if we could capture even a fraction of that number?
There’s a race going on between manufacturers to create the lowest maintenance vehicles. While this is great for customers, it’s not so great for our service departments’ bottom lines. I have heard more dealers than ever report that the walk-in traffic is down. Many of these dealers have high CSI, so we know that their clients are happy with the service they receive, so I can only attribute the decline to the fact that their customers now only need maintenance every six months to a year when they follow the manufacturer’s recommendations.
If you’ve invested the time and money needed to turn your service advisors into professional sales consultants, you need to utilize their skills to the fullest. Once they have mastered how to present and sell all of the recommended maintenances during the write-up, it’s time to teach them to offer more with every opportunity. That leads us to the big question advisors and managers are asking themselves:
“What else can we sell on the drive”?
You only need to look to your parts department for the answer: Accessories! I know what you’re thinking right now, “Sally you’re a genius! Why didn’t I think of that?” Ok maybe not. You’ve probably already had this idea and maybe even mentioned it to your advisors. If you’re really serious you may have included a spiff. But have you focused on developing the skills needed to sell accessories on the drive? This will require your advisors to consider their customer’s desires and emotions rather that just the needs of their vehicle. They will need to figure out why their customers will buy, what motivates them to spend money and what is important to them. In short, it will require very advanced selling techniques.
Your car sales teams are trained extensively to use emotions to sell. They know that as soon as the customer sees the car, touches the interior and takes the test drive they are getting emotionally attached. Unfortunately most service advisors don’t sell in the same manner. They rely on selling needs that are outlined by the factory, dealership or their technicians.
How do we teach them to focus on the desires and emotions of customers?
- First of all, they need to start building a relationship with the customer during the walk-around. This means asking questions to gather information. Most people love their cars, hobbies, jobs and families, so they will be happy to share if interest is shown. This will give clues as to what is important to them today.
- Listen closely to everything that the customer says about the car and how they use it, or look for visible signs such as personal items, hints about a family, or signs of a hobby or career that they use their car for. There will be accessories that will fit a want and a need such as a rack to hold bicycles or camping gear.
- Consider which accessories may fit the customer’s needs or personal style. You only need to look at your clients and their vehicle to know what they like. Do they drive a sporty car? Maybe they would like to add a spoiler or wheels. Do they keep their car nice and clean? They might like to add mud guards or a detail service. Many dealerships are now calling detail services “spa services.” Do you know that spas are one the fastest growing businesses today for people, pets and now cars? These types of references get the emotions going.
- Remember to sell benefits. Maybe the only benefit is that the car will look better and make the owner feel better when driving it. Isn’t this the benefit that prompts us to make most purchases? If you think about it, we would all drive a very small inexpensive car with no bells and whistles if it was only about getting from point A to point B.
- Make the customer aware that this is something that can be taken care of while they’re in for service. If not, schedule the installation ASAP. Remember that emotional purchases need to be closed right away. It’s like going through the checkout line and wanting a candy bar. If I can’t get it right now there is a good chance the desire will be gone later.
- Close the sale. Many advisors present accessories as something for the customer to think about. They hesitate closing a sale for a luxury item or they think they should put it off until the service is completed. If this is the case in your store, some serious closing skills will need to be reviewed and practiced.
How do you get started?
First, provide clean displays with great pictures. Better yet, have a new car nearby with a few good accessories installed. There’s nothing better than getting the customers’ senses involved. Give the price for parts and installation in one lump sum. Most customers just want the total price and breaking it apart can raise questions that could have easily been avoided.
Next, have a training session and ask each advisor tell your group about an accessory that they really like. Maybe they have it on their personal vehicle. Encourage everyone to give a reason they like the item. After everyone has shared one item, put a challenge in place for the next week. Whoever sells the most of their item gets a reward. I once watched an advisor sell three sets of mud flaps in one day because in his words, “they were an inexpensive solution to all of the mud and dirt splashes that ruin your paint and the look of your car as soon as you hit a puddle.” I know this isn’t a high-ticket item, but three sets in one day, five days a week, 22 workdays in a month… Are you starting to see dollar signs yet? Need a little more to get you excited? Just think what will happen when we add the second or third item! Watch out aftermarket shops, we’re going to keep it in our store!