The primary responsibility of a service advisor is to sell service. According to my good friend Robert Atwood of NADA University, your advisors are either “order takers or order makers.” Well said. If your advisors aren’t intentional about seeking out service sales opportunities, then they simply are not doing their job. You would not tolerate a new car salesman who won’t sell cars, so why would you tolerate a service advisor who won’t sell service?
There is no need to overthink this; you need your best and brightest sales professionals on the service drive. They must be effective observers, effective communicators, and effective closers. This is not negotiable; if they won’t offer all the maintenance services recommended by the technician and ask the customer to buy, then they can’t work on your service drive.
So what can you do? Well, you could fire them. Ultimately, you may have to, but hopefully that will be the last resort. Let me suggest the following action points:
1. Create a sales culture in your service department. Set sales goals and benchmarks. The centerpiece of a sales culture is accountability. It flows from the top with dealers, general managers, and service managers all bought in. If there is no accountability, then you’ll just have to settle for mediocrity and “hoping for the best.”
The responsibility of creating a sales culture falls squarely on the shoulders of the leader. The leader is either the drive manager, the service manager, the general manager, or the dealer. One of you has to step up and say “We are going to do this, and it is going to succeed!” The process must begin with the leader looking in the mirror. Once you fix the guy in the mirror, everything else will work itself out very quickly.
2. Implement a pay plan that rewards advisors for selling service. One savvy service director I know created a pay plan heavily weighted to customer-pay service sales. If his advisors just wrote up warranty and internal tickets, they’d starve. But if they proactively sold customer-pay work that has been recommended by the technician, then they’d make a great living. Because of his leadership, the service advisors “get it,” they are doing it, and everyone wins.
3. Focus on teach service advisors’ selling skills and word tracks. The product they are selling is, of course, time. However, that’s not what vehicle owners are buying. Customers are buying convenience, lower cost of ownership, reliability, trouble-free operation, power, performance, better fuel economy, and comfort, just to name a few.
Salesmanship is a learned skill; it is not something with which people are born. New and used car salespeople spend hundreds of hours in sales training. They are required to attend a sales meeting at least once a week, sometimes daily. Yet most advisor training consists of “Here’s the computer, here’s the phone…good luck.” Unless you’ve poured the selling skills into them, you can’t expect sales results out of them. There are hundreds of advisor training courses and training tools available. If you can’t train them, then hire someone who can. It’s worth the investment.
If, after implementing these three steps, you still have advisors who aren’t producing, then they are in “the wrong seat on the bus.” They will need to be relocated to an administrative or support position that doesn’t require selling skills.
Either that, or you will need to “throw them off the bus” and fill the position with someone who will confirm to your sales culture. By doing one of these two things, it should reduce your tendency to want to “throw them under the bus” and it will reduce your stress and frustration. You’ve got to do something — these are proven ideas that work. (Don’t forget the part about looking in the mirror.) Happy sales to you!