8 Keys to Selling Auto Service Professionally and Ethically
By Bob Cooper
1. Be prepared to cost-justify. When it comes to selling maintenance, one of the single greatest mistakes that shop owners and service advisors make is being unprepared to cost-justify the services. You’ll need to be able to quickly explain to your customers, in clear financial terms, why the service is a great investment for them. Here’s an example: If you estimate that a customer is going to invest $600 in maintenance over the course of a year, then you need to break that number down into a daily amount. This way, when you are recommending your services, you can remind them that although they may feel $600 is a good amount of money, they’re going to be able to benefit from the service for a long time. By following your maintenance schedule over the course of a year, your customers’ investment will end up being just $1.65 a day ($600/365). In essence, for less than a couple of dollars a day your customers will protect their warranties, protect the value of their vehicles, squeeze every mile out of every gallon of gasoline, reduce the risk of costly breakdowns, and will have the peace of mind that they’ll have safe, dependable transportation. If you are not prepared to cost-justify the investment, then you can rest assured that the only number your customers will hear will be the price of the service. This will not only lead to lost sales, but if your customers don’t experience a breakdown within the next few months (that is attributed to the declined service recommendation), then they’ll look at the service you offered as nothing more than an attempt at an unwarranted up-sell. At this point, you’ve not only lost the sale, but you’ve lost your credibility as well.
2. Know your customers’ buying habits. You’ll need to know your customers’ buying habits as well as their service histories. You should always request your first-time customers’ service records, and should ask them about their service histories verbally as well. This information can be extremely helpful during any sales process, especially when it comes to selling maintenance. Great doctors are always interested in a patient’s medical history, just as great service advisors are always interested in a customer’s service history. This information not only indicates which maintenance services are due, but will give you valuable insights to your customers’ buying habits as well.
3. Have the right tools available. People believe what they see, so whenever possible, you should get your customers visually involved. At Elite we are big supporters of complete vehicle inspections, proper documentation, and visually showing your customers what was discovered. Since third-party documentation is usually viewed as a credible source, you should use your customers’ owner’s manuals, their service records, and print-outs that show industry recommendations, maintenance brochures, and repair orders that show the high cost of repairs, failed components and fluid samples.
4. Emphasize the benefits. You’ll need to know the key benefits of every service you offer by heart. You’ll need to know, in very specific terms that your customers will understand, how they will win by authorizing the maintenance services that you recommend. You’ll need to make sure they know it can maximize their fuel economies, protect the value of their vehicles, protect their warranties, help them avoid unexpected and costly repairs, and provide them with peace of mind in knowing that they’ll have good, safe transportation. Not only should you know these benefits by heart, but you should write down the benefits of each of your most popular maintenance services, and then review the list of benefits before each and every sales presentation. When it comes to selling maintenance, the overwhelming majority of shop owners and advisors put the focus of their presentations on the parts and labor, and unfortunately, that’s a mistake. As is true with all sales, your customers will be motivated by the benefits they’ll receive, not the parts and labor that go into the job.
5. Let the customer know you have great news. When you call your customers, make sure you begin your presentation by telling them that you have some really great news. This will not only set the tone for your presentation and put your customers at ease, but it will send a strong message that as a professional, you feel the service you are about to recommend is truly a great value.
6. Use an assumptive close. Instead of asking your customers if they would like you to perform the recommended maintenance services, you should say, “All that I’ll need is your go-ahead, and we’ll get started on it right away.” Assumptive closes send a strong message that there is no logical reason for your customers to decline the services that were recommended.
7. Schedule the next appointment. There is no better time to schedule the next appointment than at the time of car delivery. Your customers are standing in front of you, they feel comfortable with you, and it’s easy for them to say yes. If your customers leave without making an appointment, then they’re going to be fair game for all of your competitors. In addition, taking good care of your customers’ vehicles is a process, not an event, so it stands to reason that you’ll need to see them again to perform the services that will be due at that time, to complete a periodic safety inspection, etc.
8. Never put money ahead of people. Here’s one of the best kept secrets to not only selling maintenance, but to building a great business. Customers are intuitive, and they can quickly tell if a service advisor is interested in their credit card or their well-being. If you sell from your heart, and if you never put money ahead of people, it will show through every single time. Not only will this help you increase your auto repair sales, but it will help you generate lifelong customers at the same time.
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