Service Advisors Can and Should Be the Best Sales People

Adam Wright NewsletterWhenever conducting training, I like to start with a very straightforward question.  As a dealership – whether in service, parts, sales, even detail or the office – what do we sell?  Think about it for a second before you look at the answer.  Service personnel usually give variations on “technician’s time” or “maintenance/repair”.  Parts people – that’s easy to guess.  The only ones who consistently gives me the answer I’m looking for are the sales people.  As a dealership, we sell cars and trucks.

I ask everyone this question because it is my belief that many fixed operations departments lose focus on the ultimate goal of selling more vehicles.  In most stores the emphasis on sales is clear – how many general managers and dealers truly have a service first focus?

This leads to a second question – given that a healthy dealership needs to continue selling vehicles, why are service consultants looked at and treated any differently than sales people?  Customers will spend more time with the service department than sales during the life cycle of their vehicle.  Between advisors and the sales team, they represent the two most important customer facing positions in any dealership; and they have more in common than you might think when you take a deeper look.

Similarities between Service and Sales

  1. Long hours
    Working in the automotive industry is hard work and requires long hours.  It’s common to see both sides putting in 60 hours on a weekly basis, many of which come on the weekend.

  2. Time constraints
    Same idea – different presentation.  In service, it’s getting vehicles in and out of the shop as efficiently as possible.  In sales, it is moving a prospective buyer to a done deal and driving off the lot in a new (or used) car in a reasonable amount of time.  Very few guests really want to spend a minute more than they have to in a dealership; regardless of how good the coffee is.

  3. Importance of phone etiquette
    Both sides spend a large amount of their day on the phone.  Whether outbound or in a dealership simply cannot afford to have people who haven’t mastered the basics of phone etiquette.

  4. Goals for sales/production
    A well run department will have monthly, weekly and sometimes even daily goals for productive team members.  The big difference is that sales teams will meet every morning to discuss progress towards those goals and game plan for reaching them.  Why not do the same for our service advisors?  And the technicians? 

Now granted there are certainly several important differences between service and sales, the immediate product is very different. The actual structure of a sales person’s day is light years from that of an advisor, and production is typically tracked differently.  Even taking these differences into account, it is plain to see there are benefits to taking steps to minimize the gap between our service advisors and sales professionals.

Below are several steps to take towards this end.

  1. Involve the service personnel when conducting the daily sales meeting.  Include and discuss the progress towards monthly goals for both departments.  Create “teams” or “groups” with an advisor and a few of your sales people on each and make a competition. From start to finish, a well-executed meeting can clock less than ten minutes.  This approach will go a long way towards eroding the long standing service vs. sales mentality that is not only pervasive, but detrimental to any store.

  2. Train the departments together.  If there is a new initiative or training program in one area of the dealership, bring in team members from the other and include them.  Service consultants at many stores are severely undertrained, especially in the art/science of selling and the importance of process consistency.  There are numerous ways that general sales training would be a huge benefit to those in service.

  3. Give your service advisors book reports.  Yes – this might bring grade school flashbacks, but there are good reasons schools make everyone read Shakespeare.  For this report they won’t be reading the classics.  Instead assign them selections from the wealth of modern “sales” book.  There are many available, so pick one or two and assign reading and reports to each of the advisors.

  4. Live cross training.  Pair a service advisor with one of the dealership’s top sales people and have him/her be a shadow for the day.  It is a totally different experience for the advisor to take part in the routine of sales than to hear about it.

Remember – training is an investment in the future.  Spend time now and see what happens!

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