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The secret to selling automotive maintenance

Learning this lesson now can quickly change the effectiveness of your sales staff.
Friday, August 1, 2014 - 07:00
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If you want to stabilize your car count and hold on to your customers through their purchase of new cars, you are going to have to be proficient at selling maintenance. I was listening to a story from Nebraska shop owner and ATI coach Rick Johnson, who explained how he coaches service advisors to learn the secret to selling more maintenance. Let’s hear what Rick has to say.

As I talk to shops every week, I often am surprised at how a few shops can sell a lot of maintenance and others will tell me that no one is buying. I hear that all the customer wants to do is just the oil change or just fix the check engine light and that’s it. I ask them if they are making estimates on the maintenance and they say yes, but that no one is buying. They have all the reasons not to buy memorized, it seems: Christmastime, tax time, too cold, too hot just to name a few. The shops that are selling very often are located in the same state and sometimes the same towns as the other shops that have customers who aren’t interested. I find that intriguing, don’t you?

This got me to thinking back to when I was the service advisor in my shop and how things changed before my eyes. When I first opened my shop, I never had to advertise the first few years and we were always booked out two or three weeks. Ninety-nine percent of the cars were still carbureted, and most customers just handed me the keys and said something like, “I think the carburetor needs cleaning and possibly a tune-up.”

We would bring the car in and sure enough the carburetor was in need of a cleaning and kit, and the spark plugs were black and worn. I would call the customer and tell them what it needed. Nearly every time I got the answer to go ahead, it needs it. That was that! They did not ask for an estimate, did not need explanations of what or why — just do it. Man, those were the days, right?

Sell Yourself First
Then right before my eyes, along comes fuel injection and cars being built better and having fewer breakdowns. My schedule went from being booked out three weeks, to me being happy if we had work lined up for today and a few jobs tomorrow.

I knew I had to do something, and the industry started talking a lot about the need to sell maintenance. I bought a transmission flush machine and started selling transmission flush service. As time went along, I bought all styles of flush machines and tried to present and sell as many services as I could, as long as they were needed. I did pretty well with some clients, but with a lot of them, I just could not seem to get them to buy, and I didn’t know why.

Then one day my flush equipment dealer told me about training it offered to learn more about the flushes. I decided to go, as I realized I needed to learn more about the flushes since I could not sell a power-steering flush or brake flush or an intake cleaning to anyone, it seemed: Christmastime, tax time, too hot, too cold, you know the story.

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