Selling Maintenance During Tough Times

Here in the U.S., we have experienced a mortgage meltdown, we’ve seen wild swings in the price of gasoline, and as we look ahead there is nothing but uncertainty. Clearly, many people are legitimately concerned about the stability of their financial future. Although you and I know the American consumer can best control their vehicle expense by taking good care of their vehicles, the reality is this: when times are tough, the first expenses people are going to cut back on are what they perceive to be nonessential expenses. That list includes luxury items, entertainment, travel, insurance, preventative health care, and you bet: preventative maintenance on their automobiles. Add to that, vehicles are being built better, so repairs are going to become less commonplace, and service intervals are being pushed out. In a tough economy like we have today, you need three things. You need to have the right marketing programs in place, you need the right people, and without a doubt; you need to master a number of different skills to increase your auto repair sales.

When it comes to your auto repair marketing, you should consider offering attractive, promotional discounts, and whenever possible, use phrases like “money-saving” in your ads. If you are using the right pricing systems in your business, these discounts aren’t going to cost you a dime. You have my promise: They’ll just be factored into the overall cost of operating your business in the same way your advertising budget is. Fortune 100 companies do it; you should too.

You should also consider offering longer warranties on your repairs. Not only are multiple year warranties a great marketing tool, but during tough economic times like today it’s a great sales tool when you can tell your customer they won’t have to worry about paying to have the repair done again for years to come.

In regard to the skills you’ll need, the first skill set you’re going to need to master is your telephone skills. With today’s anxious, price-conscious callers you’re not going to have a “second chance”, so make sure whoever picks up that phone has a natural talent, the ambition to do a really great job, and the necessary skills. At Elite we also encourage all of our clients to have a company policy that requires their service advisors to track each lost phone lead and make a note with each of those leads as to why they feel they lost the lead. As a business owner, you need to then discuss those lost leads with your service advisors on a regular basis to identify the most common sales objections they are encountering. You can then help your advisors learn how to deal with those objections.

The next skill your service advisor will need is the ability to think in terms of maintaining vehicles rather than fixing vehicles. You can accomplish this goal by having meetings with your service advisors where you “run the numbers” on some of the more common vehicles you service. This way they’ll know just how little it will actually cost your customer over the course of a year to take good care of their automobile, and how much money they’ll save at the same time.

Look at it like this: if a service advisor can’t clearly tell a customer how much money they’re going to save by performing the recommended maintenance, then there is no reason for that customer to buy. We can’t forget, in order for the customer to say “yes” to your service recommendation, he’s going to have to want that $375.00 service more than he wants the $375.00 he has in his pocket.

When selling maintenance, your service advisors should believe their recommendation is a great value for the customer, they should believe the customer is going to authorize the service, and they should use a well-thought-out sales presentation that incorporates an assumptive close. Here’s an example of one we use in our sales courses: “Hi John, this is Bob at Elite Auto Service. Do you have just a couple of minutes? Great! Mike’s completed the inspection on your Camry, and if now’s a good time, I’d like to go over the results with you. First of all, we completed our 21 point safety inspection, and I’ve taken a look at all your service records, as well as what Toyota recommends. And I have some great news for you John! All that we’re going to need to do today to protect you, your Camry and your warranty, is our thirty thousand mile service, a transmission service, and we’re going to need to _________. That’s it John! I’ll be able to have you ready to go by the end of the day, and the total for all of these services is only $ _______. All that I need is your go-ahead, and I’ll get Mike started on it right away!”

If they give you an affordability objection, all you will need to do then is say is something like this: “John, let me tell you why you need to go ahead with these services. What I want to do is help you spend less money on gas, I want you to be able to get top buck for this car when it’s time for it to find a new home, I want you to have good, safe, dependable transportation for you and your family, and I don’t want to see you have to deal with the cost and aggravation that comes along with preventable failures. John, the maintenance schedule that you need to be on boils down to just $ ____a day. And when it comes to your car, and your checkbook, that’s one of the best investments you could ever make. To do everything that we talked about, including the sales tax, is only $ ____ , and I can have you wrapped up by _____ pm. You want to save money, right John? Well then let’s go ahead and do these services. You have my promise: it’s the right thing to do for you, for your Toyota, and for your checkbook.”

In regard to offering financing options, which are always great sales tools, remember that during tough times the last thing people want is more debt. You need to sell your customers on how they’ll actually save money by authorizing the service, and by doing so they’ll also reduce the risk of going into debt later with a major repair or the purchase of a replacement vehicle. The next skill you’ll need to master is taking a tip from your dentist and scheduling that next appointment at car delivery. You’ve worked hard to gain that customer, so don’t let their next service become fair game for your competitors. So do this: discuss these recommendations with your employees, role-play your sales presentations, and then have your service advisors tape-record their service recommendations so you can sit down with them and review their performance. First impressions are lasting impressions, and you only have one opportunity with each customer to do a great job, so make it count. If you do, your customers will be thrilled with your service, your sales and profits will go up, and you’ll stay a step ahead of your competitors.

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