A Ford dealership has a world-class tire display in their service lane. It is an absolutely state-of-the-art setup with slick LED lighting and an uncluttered design. It must have cost the dealer several thousand dollars to install. The only issue is that they only sell two sets of tires a month.
The customer lounge of a rural Chevrolet dealership has beautiful acrylic stands holding vital fluids like gear lube, engine oil, and transmission fluid. The acrylic stands show “before and after” samples to illustrate the importance of fluid exchange services. There are also slick color brochures explaining the features and benefits of routine fluid maintenance services. They see about 600 customer-pay vehicles per month, but the issue is they only sell two or three fluid services a week.
A Hyundai store has a large HD flat screen monitor connected to a DVD player. They show a one-hour video with professional actors explaining the virtues of automotive maintenance—from cabin air filters to windshield wipers, to fuel injector cleaning, to tire rotation. The video is informative, entertaining, and well done. The only issue is they are averaging less than 1.1. hours per customer-pay repair order.
A mid-sized dealer group has invested over $50,000 in tablets for advisors to use on the service drive. The tablets are connected to the DMS system; therefore, they can check vehicle history, present a menu, estimate a repair job, and play brief videos to help customers better understand their maintenance needs. The only issue is their one-line-item ROs have gone up and 90% of their oil changes never get an upsell.
Here’s the point: slick displays, beautiful acrylic illustrations, professional videos, and user-friendly digital technology will not increase labor hours, keep service bays full, move parts off the shelf, or increase your gross profits. The reason is because all of these “display tools” will not sell anything, only people can do that!
Man to man, person to person, eyeball to eyeball—it takes one person asking another person to buy in order to make the sale.
(Even McDonalds, with their digital video menu boards, dynamic marketing strategies, and creative advertising realizes it takes a person saying, “do you want fries with that?” to another person in order to get the sale!)
Menus, banners, counter mats, tire displays, videos, and creative digital technologies are wonderful sales aids that are only effective in the hands of professional sales PEOPLE.
Let there be no misunderstanding: I believe dealership service departments should be on the cutting edge of the digital revolution. I believe service advisors should embrace a wide variety of graphic displays, menu boards, iPad video apps, and mobile technology. But none of these things will look a customer in the eye, lay out the issue, and ask them to buy. It takes a human being to do that.
Hey, aren’t you glad that’s true? That means service advisors and service managers who continually sharpen their selling skills are a valuable commodity. It’s called job security.
If you can sell service, you’ll always have a job in the automotive business. Producers, those who have learned to sell preventive maintenance, will always have an income that goes up every year. Displays will make every service sales person better. Displays will raise your closing ratio.
A display is the picture that’s worth a thousand words. The display will help with the sale, it won’t make the sale.
Look at it this way: if customers don’t know what you’re talking about—if they can’t picture it—then they won’t buy. Rather than ask for more information or raise an objection, most will simply default to “no.” Sale lost.
But if you show them, your chances of making the sale go up dramatically. When people get all the facts, they usually make the right decision—which is to say yes to the technician’s recommendations.
Service advisor sales trainer Jeff Cowan reminds service managers to keep their displays fresh. In a recent workshop, Cowan said, “Take a look at your sales aids from the customers’ viewpoint. Are the graphics faded? Are the displays outdated? Do the counter mats look tired?” Cowan’s advice is simple: keep everything fresh.
Take a serious look at your service drive and your customer lounge. Honestly, you’ve probably got some old posters, banners, and brochures that need to find their way to the dumpster. Frankly, I think freshening up your sales aids will have as much impact on your service sales staff as it does on your customers. Everyone likes the look and feel of new stuff.
Let me close with two of my favorite sales aids:
The Worn Parts Display
This is simply a small shoe-box-sized container with an assortment of worn-out parts. For example, you need a water pump impeller with the fins eaten away by acidic, corrosive antifreeze. This is a great sales aid for selling coolant fluid exchanges. Neglected antifreeze becomes acidic causing cooling system component failure. A coolant fluid exchange service keeps the antifreeze fresh and protects all the expensive parts of the cooling system.
Be sure your box has an intake valve that is caked up with carbon deposits. This is a common occurrence on gasoline direct injection engines. When you show your customers the intake valve, explain that deposits rob power and performance and cause the vehicle to use more gasoline. Explain how your air induction and fuel injection service removes those deposits, making their vehicle run like it did when it was new.
I’d also recommend you have at least one of the following: cabin air filter, AC expansion valve, wiper blade, piston ring, injector, transmission valve body, etc. Your worn parts display box is only limited by your imagination. It works because people can see it, touch it, experience it, and most importantly, understand it. Your closing ratio will go up and you’ll have an easier time cutting to the chase and making the sale. A quick walk through the shop and you’ll find most everything you need to fill your box.
The Multi-Point Inspection Form
Every dealership gives lip service to the multi-point inspection process, but few really use the MPI to sell service. The “display” is the actual paper form itself—the document the technician filled out. It should look greasy, wrinkled, and worn because it was actually completed in the shop by the technician. (If your inspections are done electronically then the print-out won’t be dirty and greasy, but it will still have a powerful impact if presented properly.)
Let me be clear: You must give a hard copy—a paper copy of the actual document—to the customer. Let them hold it as you review it together with them. The last two mystery shoppers I hired said that the advisor went over the inspection report with them verbally but they never saw the actual MPI form. That totally defeats the purpose. If the customers can touch it and see it at the same time you are explaining it, they will buy. Comprehension and understanding are necessary to make the sale.
In summary, God gave us five senses. The more of those your customer can use during your sales presentation, the greater your chances will be of closing the sale.
Happy sales to you!
Author: Charlie Polston
Charlie Polston is an Automotive Customer Retention and Profitability Consultant with BG Products, Inc. Charlie has been with BG’s Fixed Operations Division for over 34 years.