12 Steps To Selling Service

The magazine’s service coach breaks down a service-selling process that can deliver a 30 to 50 percent closing ratio.

July 2013, Auto Dealer Today - Feature

by Don Reed - Also by this author

Don Reed is the CEO of DealerPro Training Solutions.
Don Reed is the CEO of DealerPro Training Solutions.
Do you have a fixed-ops sales team or a fixed-ops administrative staff? Is your customer-pay traffiincreasing, stagnant or decreasing? Are your CSI scores above average? How about the netprofit in your service and parts departments?

Is it a minimum of 20 percent of gross profit? Your answers to these questions will determine whether or not you’ll outperform what your operation achieved last year. Based on what I’m seeing in the marketplace, I believe most dealers would answer “No” to all of the above. In fact, many advisors and managers look at selling on the service drive as a bad thing. So how do we turn it around? Well, all you have to do is look to what’s happening on the showroom floor and on the lot.

To build your fixed-ops sales team, you need to train your people on the 12 steps to a sale. Hey, these 12 steps have delivered closing ratios in the range of 25 to 30 percent or even higher for top sales teams for decades, so they should work for your service department.


Make sure to put on a smile when you say to the customer, “Good morning and welcome to our deal- ership. What brought you here to- day?” Sounds simple, right? Well, what you’re doing with that very simple statement is selling the customer on the fact that you’re glad they are here and that you greatly appreciate their business.

I’d also suggest that your advisors schedule appointments at 15-minute intervals so they can spend some quality time with each customer. You’ve heard the old saying about first impressions, right? Well, the CSI process begins right at this moment.


Service advisors must be trained to be good listeners, to read body language and to be effective communicators. They must also be able to ask qualifying questions that begin with “Who,” “What,” “Where,” “Why,” “How,” “When” or “Tell me about.” Doing so will allow the service advisor to accurately qualify their customers’ needs, write a proper repair order (RO) that effectively communicates to the technician what work is needed, and confirms to the customer that you understand their needs. This step becomes part of the customer’s vehicle walk-around.


A properly trained advisor must select products or services based on vehicle condition, mileage and service intervals. He or she must then advise the customer by making recommendations. Most customers will have a concern or a request, but they do not know which products or services will correct their concern or fulfill their request. That’s where the advisor comes in.


On the blacktop, you want your sales team to present every feature of the vehicle and explain the benefits of those features to build value in the product and distinguish it from the competition. Advisors must do the same thing, and we must use a menu presentation to do it.

Today, we have electronic menus that enable an advisor to make visual presentations of service benefits. They can include short videos and audio explana- tions of features and benefits. These menus can also be printed with pricing options from which the customer can choose. And as we all know, when you give a customer multiple options, he or she is more likely to choose something.

STEP 5: DEMONSTRATE THE PRODUCT OR SERVICE The videos some of today’s service menus tout are great ways to demonstrate recommended services. Point-of-sale materials are also good. I recently visited my dealer for some routine maintenance. While standing at the cashier’s window, I noticed on the counter a display showing the benefits of replacing a cabin filter. It was a nice display, but why is it at the cashier’s window? My repair order was closed and I was at the counter to pay my bill.

Point-of-sale displays should be at “the point of sale.” That means advisors should have them at or near their work station to demonstrate the need for replacement. Remember, a product demonstration is no more than a show- and-tell exercise.


This can consist of more than one proposal for a service advisor. There is the “primary item” proposal on the original RO, plus the printed menu proposal. There’s also the estimate proposal for the primary item once diagnosed, as well as the estimate proposal for any additional repairs or services found during your multipoint inspection. All of these proposals should always be in writing.


If the previous six steps have been followed, this step will close the sale and “ring the cash register.” This step should not take a lot of time if you have followed the road to a sale. I’d like to point out that a good service selling pro will spend about 80 percent of his or her time selling and only about 20 percent closing. Your former administrative staff, however, is most likely spending 20 percent of their time selling, which, of course, is why they have a very high percentage of one-item ROs.


Just like on the showroom floor, this skill requires some serious training. The advisor must know how to identify the real objection as opposed to accepting excuses. And he or she must always have a Plan B and must be able to justify a “Yes.”


Most dealerships probably do not have a sales manager in their service departments, but they should. In smaller stores, this should be your service manager. For medium-sized stores, it could be a senior advisor who is a good closer. For larger operations, it should be a full-time position.

Whenever an advisor gets a “No” from a customer on a mechanical repair, especially if it is safety or performance-related, the advisor should turn over the sales opportunity to the sales manager, who should then conduct a thorough presentation to the customer on how the repair will improve safety and/or performance before asking for the sale again.

If followed, this process should increase sales as well as CSI — that is, if you’re selling the customer benefits and not just a price.


We call this step the “active deliv- ery,” which simply means the vehicle should always be brought to the customer. The customer should never be made to walk to their vehicle. And once that happens, review all lines on the RO (condition, cause and correction), along with the total charges. Also make sure the customer’s next service appointment is set before he or she leaves so the seed is planted for future service requirements and recommendations. Lastly, thank the customer for his or her business.


Advisors should be trained to ask this question to every customer: “Who do you know — maybe a friend or family member, possibly someone you work with — that could benefit by bringing their vehicles to me for all of their service needs? Here at ABC Motors, we service all makes and models.” This is a great question if your dealership has a quick lube operation.


Every dealer will have a customer who declines repairs. But all that means is those customers must be followed up with for future appointments. Maybe their reason for declining the repair has to do with money, but that won’t always be the case. That’s why you need to follow up with service reminders, seasonal specials, tire specials and more.

Train your fixed-ops sales team on the process I’ve outlined and you will see your customerpay traffic increase, your CSI rise and your net profits soar above last year's.

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