The Service Value of Sales Prospects

In the past, dealers may have believed the value of a sales opportunity is only realized if the customer purchases a vehicle. Today, however, in an era where extracting as much value as possible from every facet of the business is imperative, many dealers are realizing the value of the information each customer provides. They understand the necessity of integrating sales prospect information into their marketing database and, more importantly, the necessity of a comprehensive marketing strategy.
 
Take for instance service marketing opportunities. Dealers typically rely on customers who have purchased vehicles from them as the main feeder business for their service departments. Due to the recent decline in auto sales, however, many service departments are experiencing a corresponding reduction in revenue. According to a recent press release issued by J.D. Power & Associates, “Dealer service traffic volumes are expected to decline by approximately 20 percent between 2009 and 2013, resulting in a 25 percent decrease in service dollars.”
 
Tough times call for creative measures. To attract new service customers, store managers need to collaborate and brainstorm to come up with ways to synergistically increase business. Many dealerships have already discovered that used car leads from third-party providers can be turned into new car sales and vice versa.
 
Why not get even more value from these leads by turning them into service business? Good dealerships “no-sale” nine times as many internet leads as they close sales. Those same no-sale leads, however, may own another older vehicle that is a prime candidate for servicing. And it’s not limited to just internet leads. When sourcing floor or phone customers, salespeople should be encouraged to get potential customer email addresses, so they can send coupon offers for service specials. Prospects reluctant to give their email address to a salesperson, may concede in order to get a “deal” on service.
 
Even if a customer has purchased a vehicle at a rival dealership, you should compete for their business by offering a service package designed to win them over to your service department. In lean times, aggressive service departments will be the ones to reap the most new business. Service managers should be regularly sending out emails, coupons, testimonials, and information on service packages—all designed to be competitive with the quick-lube service centers.
 
If a new or used car lead does close, another standard sales practice should be to offer your new customer either a free service or coupons for a series of discounted services in a package. This seems like such an obvious and almost effortless synergistic marketing opportunity, yet it’s surprising how many dealerships don’t do this. Often, new vehicle owners wander out the door with absolutely no information about the service department or incentive to return.
 
If a dealership can successfully find ways to leverage unsold prospective customers and unlock each lead’s true value, they can take it a step further by expanding their lead sources. Internet sales managers might be able to get additional lead budget dollars, if part of this investment can be absorbed by the service department as part of their marketing spend.
 
By trying some of these techniques, your dealership may see a spike in its service business, at a time when it’s needed the most.
 
Josh Vajda is a highly regarded sales and business development executive at AutoNation, where he currently serves as the director of Inside Sales. He can be reached by email at VajdaJ@autousa.com.
 
 
 
 

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