When I visit a dealership to help them devise strategies that will increase their accessory sales, several common themes appear. All (well, most) parts departments are heavily focused on selling accessories. That’s their job. Fewer stores have their sales teams focused on this part of their business, though most agree that this is something they should be practicing consistently. Almost no stores focus on the department that interacts with their entire customer base—the service department.
Last week I spoke to a General Manager who had recently taken over a new store. He lamented about how his service writers “couldn’t sell, and didn’t seem to want to, either.” Then he said something that got me thinking: “The best salespeople in a dealership should be our service writers.”
He told me that his plan was to revamp his team of service writers to make them more sales oriented. He was even considering putting some of his best salespeople into that position.
What a unique, yet obvious, idea.
Their relationship with customers - The most difficult (and expensive) segment to sell to is a brand-new customer, whereas the easiest sell is the customer who has already agreed to do business with you. A 2014 article on the subject in Forbes Magazine states, “If you have done a good job taking care of your customer in the past, and your products have performed well for them, they are usually willing to give any addition to your product line a try. Because the relationship is in place, far less (expensive) selling is required.”
Meet the author of this article Patrick Blackburn. Patrick manages all VPEs west of the Mississippi River, working to provide them with the guidance and tools they need to be successful as they visit automotive dealerships nationwide. See how our VPEs can help your dealership increase accessory sales with their consulting.
Yet most dealers continue to focus all (or nearly all) of our selling efforts in the front of the house.
Don’t get me wrong, it is absolutely critical to the long-term success of a dealer’s accessory program to offer customization to every new customer a dealership brings in. My question is, simply: “Why aren’t we putting the same energy selling to the customers who have already placed their trust in us?”
In most cases, your service writers have built relationships with their “regular” customers, and as a result a trust has developed between the two. This lowers a buyer’s natural resistance to being presented items for sale.
Customers want to customize. A recent NADA statistic showed that 90% of car-buyers will do some sort of customization, and dealerships currently don’t get even 10% of that business. This is low-hanging fruit. Your customers want to customize. Make it easy for them to do it from you, and do it from every room in the house.
They want to help the customer - Speaking of easy, make it easy for your service writer, too. The most common objection I get when I present the idea of selling from the service team is that they are too busy. We all know that our teams should never be too busy to sell or too busy to help a customer create the car that they want. They won’t be too busy if you make it easy for them. Providing good training and an easy way to present the accessories to their customers is a good start.
When your customers are able to create the vehicle that they have dreamt of, your retention rate will increase. They will know that they can count on you to provide the right product and the right price, installed correctly. Customizing is fun, and fun is a good experience for your customers to have when they visit your dealership.
They will work with the program - Most service writers are paid on gross, so there shouldn’t be too much reluctance to rolling out an accessory-selling program. And since you’ll be paying them more, making it easy, increasing your (and their) retention rate, and creating happier and more loyal customers in the process, they should be able to buy in to the program with enthusiasm.
And if they don’t, maybe you need more salespeople in the position.