‘Educate, Offer and Ask’
It’s a simple, easy-to-learn sales approach, but it works!
Every employee in your shop is a salesman! Granted, they may have other job titles – such as technician, manager, service adviser, receptionist, cashier or lube dude – but everyone has to understand his or her role in the sales process.
Let’s establish from the outset that “sales” is not a dirty word, selling is not an evil practice, and a salesman is not an unscrupulous person.
The only thing you have to sell is time (labor). But really, there are three categories of time: repair time; lube, oil and filter (LOF) time; and maintenance time. There is, frankly, not much salesmanship involved in repair time … the customer comes in with something broken and you fix it. Likewise, there is no salesmanship involved in LOF time … the customer requests an oil change and you write it up.
Repair time is largely controlled by fate. If the majority of your revenue comes from fixing broken stuff, then you have to hope a bunch of stuff breaks so you can stay in business. LOF time is determined by mileage; a customer only drives a finite number of miles per month, so the time interval between oil changes is out of your control also.
Thank goodness for maintenance time; it is your lifetime annuity stream. There is no limit to the amount of maintenance services your shop can perform, but it requires selling skills. In other words, maintenance time must be sold.
Most people do not like rejection; in fact, fear of rejection is the primary reason most of your employees don’t even try to sell maintenance services. I’ll prove it to you: AutoInc. recently published its annual “How’s Your Business? 2011” report that showed the average ASA shop was only getting 39 percent of its work from maintenance services (AutoInc., December 2011).
The report went on to say that 57.4 percent of vehicle owners are performing regular preventive maintenance on their cars. That’s great news, but it gets even better, because 69.3 percent of the customers are not planning on a new vehicle purchase anytime soon!
What we have here, my friends, is a perfect storm: the overwhelming majority of your customers are holding on to their vehicles and willing to invest in maintaining them to avoid breakdowns.
However, just because your customers are willing to have maintenance services performed doesn’t mean they are going to come into your shop asking for it. Maintenance services have to be offered to your customers; maintenance has to be sold.
For the past 30 years, I have been teaching a very simple, easy-to-learn sales approach to automotive professionals across North America. It is called “Educate, Offer and Ask.”
Step One: Educate the customer. Get the current odometer reading, the time interval since the last maintenance service occurred, and a visual sample of the fluid. “Mr. Smith, your F-150 currently has 65,000 miles on the odometer; your last transmission fluid exchange was at 35,000 miles and your fluid is starting to get dark.”
Step Two: Offer the preventive maintenance solution. Give customers a copy of your service schedule, direct their attention to your menu board, or review the multi-point inspection form with them. “Mr. Smith, we offer a complete transmission service that includes cleaning up your system, flushing the old fluid and contaminants out, and refilling it with fresh, new, fortified fluid.”
Step Three: Ask for the sale. This is the most important step in the process, but this is the one most often omitted. “Mr. Smith, can we go ahead and perform a transmission service on your F-150 today?” By the way, after you ask for the sale, be sure to shut up and let the customer respond.
You can do all of these steps in about 60 seconds! It is quick, easy, powerful and effective. Whether you’re selling a tire rotation, a power steering flush, a new set of wipers, a fuel injector cleaning service, or a complete wash and wax … the process will work!
And according to the AutoInc. report I cited earlier, more than 57 percent of your customers will say “yes” … that is an impressive closing ratio; one out of two will purchase service if you ask them to!
I’ve dedicated my automotive career to teaching service managers and advisers how to sell maintenance services. Each month I conduct a live, online webinar that focuses on one aspect of service sales.
The free webinars are a quick 45 minutes and start at noon (central time). Upcoming topics include “Power Steering and Brake Fluid Exchange” (March 28), “Automotive Industry Trends” (April 11), and “The Automotive Business by the Numbers” (May 9).
Editor's Note: This article is one of several management articles that will be contributed to AutoInc. this year by Automotive Management Institute (AMI) instructors. In 2012, AMI's knowledgeable instructors will continue covering a variety of topics designed to educate and train today's service and repair professional in AutoInc. To learn more about AMI, its courses and instructors, visit www.AMIonline.org. AMI administers the distinguished Accredited Automotive Manager (AAM) program.
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