Selling Maintenance and Repair During Tough Economic TimesPosted 5/4/2009
By Bob Cooper
For those shops struggling in this economy, here are some pointers on how to sell maintenance to your customers.
You've seen all of the headlines in the news recently regarding mortgage meltdowns, stock market struggles, and layoffs continuing to rise - not to mention the wild swings in the price of gasoline. Clearly, many people are legitimately concerned about the stability of their financial future. Although you and I know American consumers can best control their vehicle expense by taking good care of their vehicles, the reality is this: When times are tough, the first place people cut back is on what they perceive to be nonessential expenses. That list may include luxury items, entertainment, travel, insurance, preventative health care, and in some cases, preventative maintenance on their automobiles. Add to that: vehicles are being built better, so repairs may 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.
When it comes to marketing your business, 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 do the repair again for years to come.
In regard to the skills you'll need, the first skill you 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 that whoever picks up that phone has the 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 advisers 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 can discuss those lost leads with your service advisers on a regular basis to identify the most common sales objections they are encountering. You can then help your advisers learn how to deal with those objections.
The next skill your service adviser will need is the ability to think in terms of maintaining vehicles rather than fixing vehicles. The way you can accomplish this goal is by having meetings with your service advisers 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 adviser can't clearly tell a customer how much money they're going to save by performing the recommended maintenance, there is no reason for that customer to buy. We can't forget that in order for customers to say "yes" to your service recommendation, they're going to have to want that $375 service more than they want the $375 they have in their pockets.
When selling maintenance, your service advisers should believe their recommendation is a great value for the customer, and they should believe the customer is going to authorize the service. They should use a well-thought-out sales presentation that incorporates an assumptive close. Here's an example of one we use in our master's course for service advisers: "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 30,000-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 to say something like this: "John, let me tell you why I suggest these services. What I want to do is help you spend less money on gas; I want you to be able to get top dollar 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 _____ p.m. 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 being able to offer financing options, which are always great sales tools, remember that during tough times the last thing people want is more debt. So you need to sell your customers on how they'll actually save money by authorizing the service, and by doing so they'll reduce the risk of going into debt later with a major repair, or by having to purchase 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. I'd suggest that you discuss these recommendations with your employees, role-play your sales presentations, and then have your service advisers 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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