Service is Your Best Showroom
The other day, one of our representatives was showing a dealer how to use database analysis to sell customers in the service lane. Trying out the idea, the dealer talked to seven service customers in the lane and five of the seven bought new cars before noon!
You may not realize this yet, but the service drive is the new showroom! In a given day, more car sales opportunities drive into your service lane than will walk through your traditional showroom doors.
In fact, dealers who adapt this strategy consistently close 30-35 percent of service drive customers and end up selling substantially more new vehicles. The best your showroom team does is sell about 20 percent. Even fewer dealerships handle online leads very well these days. Dealerships only close about five to eight percent of internet leads, including those provided by the manufacturer’s website, their own website, and third party vendors such as Edmunds.com or Autobytel.
Service drive vehicle selling is powerful, because you probably have all the tools at hand to make a most compelling offer. There is something else to consider. Often, many customers in the service department would like to drive a new and improved model, because they wish they had bought a different color, more essential options or they need a vehicle switch, because their life situation has changed.
Here’s how you can start selling vehicles in your service lane:
- Identify in your database those customers arriving tomorrow for service. Dig deep into their individual records, looking for their equity positions or lease-term positions. What do your records say about these buyers? Are they payment buyers? What has been their vehicle’s service history? If they keep their vehicle until the end of its lease, will they be in a mileage-penalty position?
- Because you know the model this customer will bring into service in the morning, run some important calculations. Include the latest pricing for the proposed exchange model and check trade values; add any manufacturer incentives available for the suggested new model plus figure in current finance or lease terms and tax implications, and the current rate and tax implications.
- Your goal is to reach a new-vehicle price or payment that is close to the customer’s current monthly payment. You want to offer this new model option with virtually no down payment required. In other words, structure a deal so it is within a few dollars per month difference from what the customer is paying to drive their two or three-year-old model.
- Prepare comparison charts for each customer that you will greet in the service lane in the morning. These charts should clearly show new model offerings and new payments. Should the new monthly payment be greater, consider how you can build desire into your presentation. For instance, for lease customers facing mileage penalties, if the current contract is taken to term you should demonstrate how the new offer can avoid these end-of-term expenses plus give them the enjoyment of driving a new vehicle.
- Technology aids like data analysis software help identify the right customers to make the appropriate offers at the correct time. This software will make creating these opportunities easier, fun and more profitable. Using a well thought-out and scripted line of reasoning offers a logical and professional approach: “You are actually driving our ‘reserve inventory’ and when we discover a request or demand for a similar vehicle, I would like to reach out to you again, to see if we can have yours back.”
- Convenience tools like tablet PCs and iPads can put this data at your fingertips and help you avoid having to prepare charts beforehand. This can enable you to show model-price comparison data on highly visible screens right at the customer’s vehicle in the service drive. Handheld devices can also project a more credible and professional presentation to customers.
The service drive can be a highly profitable channel for additional vehicle sales. If you do not have a strategy and program in place to regularly present service customers with an opportunity to move up into a new model for about the same monthly payment, you could be losing many easily captured sales every month.
If I were a sales associate for your dealership and recognized this opportunity, I’d ask to have my desk moved to the service lane where I too might sell five of seven customers by noon.