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Upselling aftersales isn't rocket science

Every time you go shopping, you are a target for upselling. Extended warranties, in the news lately because of alleged sharp selling practices, are probably the most high profile example. Supermarkets are experts at passive upselling. You go in for essentials and come out with much more. In fact, supermarkets actually measure average purchases per customer – the so called 'shopping basket' – and work very hard to get this average spend up.

Why, then, is upselling apparently far rarer in aftersales – service, parts and bodyshop? Come to that, I can't think of too many aftersales operations where they measure the 'shopping basket'.

Talking to service receptionists during dealer visits, and on training courses, the reasons for this lack of upselling are not hard to find. Sure, if vital work is discovered on a customer's car, they will make every effort to contact the customer and upsell. But less vital work is just noted on the invoice, pointed out to the customer on collection, and no attempt is made to sell the work. Why? Because the majority of aftersales counter staff are neither incentivised to sell nor are they properly trained to upsell.

Incentive bonuses, based on sales, are a must if you want aftersales counter staff to sell, yet only a minority receive them. For franchised dealerships, the 2003 RMI/Sewells Pay Guide found that fewer than 20 per cent of service receptionists were incentivised on sales, around 25 per cent of parts counter staff, and absolutely no bodyshops receptionists. More than that, the average value of these sales-related incentives was so low as to be derisory.

Setting up a sales-related incentive bonus is not difficult. I have found that periodic upselling promotions, of relatively short duration (say a week), work best because these keep everyone focused. So you decide on the upselling promotion, set up achievable sales targets and a monitoring mechanism, and spell out the bonuses that can be earned. It is best to graduate the sales targets and resulting bonus so that everyone earns something. And don't be stingy!

Selling and upselling aftersales isn't rocket science, and opportunities arise every hour of every day. The biggest problem you might have is your staff. “Selling is not in my job description, so it's not my job!” In that case you must make sure that it is in the job description!

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