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Team work is needed to make the most of upselling

Successfully selling a vast array of upsell products takes skill and judgement.

Some should be offered as a matter of course: payment/income protection insurance, service plans, warranties and finance packages.

However, there are other lucrative opportunities that should not be missed.

Oil top-up packs, smart repairs and tyres should all be offered to a dealership’s captive service customers in order to gain extra revenue and improve customer service.

If a customer already comes to the workshop for servicing, the convenience of being able to get tyres replaced or a scratch repaired on site rather than going elsewhere could outweigh any additional cost concerns if the up-sell is pitched correctly.

Even the weather can help.

June’s heat wave, for example, resulted in a 128% surge in air conditioning servicing at Nationwide Autocentre.

Mark Taylor, its commercial director, believes awareness is growing of the need to service air-con systems to keep them most effective.

Nationwide Autocentre staff are required to ask every customer when they last had their air-con serviced.

Although Taylor would not disclose profit margins – Nationwide Auto-centre offers a full air conditioning service for £69 – he admitted it is “very profitable”.

Optimum success at upselling for workshops will only be achieved if the technician, service manager and service receptionist work together.

The receptionist and technician are both ideally placed to spot opportunities - the technician from physically inspecting the car for damage or worn tyres, and the receptionist from gently probing the customer about their lifestyle, their use of the car and any issues with it.

The most important part of an effective sales technique is to know what the customer will and will not respond to, and tailor the approach to match.

Adrian Brabazon, Castrol’s franchised workshop and OEM marketing manager, said incentive schemes can be linked to service receptionist roles to ensure that upselling becomes part of their role.

“Castrol works with one dealer group in the south-west that operates a league table for capturing legitimate upsell opportunities for all of its advisers.

"The best performers are rewarded on a monthly, quarterly and yearly basis, which has been extremely effective,” said Brabazon.

At Shell Lubricants, UK marketing manager Justine Clare advised dealers to be clear on the benefits to the customer of whatever they’re selling.

“Customer perception can be everything. If the customer doesn’t understand what you’re trying to sell then you’ve lost the battle,” Clare said. “Upselling additional products should always be about adding value for the customer.”

Sales of top-up bottles of oil is one area where dealers ought to improve. Research for Mobil 1 revealed the extent to which franchised workshops are missing out – 65% of all packs are sold at petrol stations.

Graeme Cassidy, Mobil 1’s UK national accounts and OEM manager, said this begs two questions: why they were not already carrying a bottle and why had the dealer failed to sell it to them in the first place?

Cassidy said: “Motorists are holding onto their vehicles and are becoming more conscious of the running costs, so they are more liable to buy cheaper oil. It is not only important that service advisers convey the associated benefits of using a top grade oil, but that customers understand the false economy of cheap oil grades.”

Targeting premium tyre sales is easy for dealers. Vehicles passing through the workshop are relatively new and may still have their original tyres.

Dave Croston, general sales manager for tyre maker Continental’s car dealer division, suggests dealers view replacement tyres in the same way as replacement parts – they use OE parts for service and repairs, so should also recommend manufacturer-approved tyres as replacements, rather than cheaper alternatives.

Croston said they should talk about how and why those tyres were approved for the specific car by its maker, emphasising the safety, grip, fuel efficiency or durability benefits.

“A customer should leave knowing that the tyre they have bought suits their requirements and is not simply a black and round item they have had to buy.”

Best Practice

Top performers always upsell once they have closed a sale.

Average salespeople, too often, stop selling at this point, which is why they are average.

They do not want to jeopardise the deal by trying to sell more to the customer.

However, you must remember once the deal is done people are happy and excited and therefore more receptive to the sale of additional items.

The customer is a different person at this stage both mentally and emotionally.

Top performers recognise that people’s barriers drop and if they handle the upsell opportunity properly it will be seen as helping rather than hindering the process.

A good discipline is to assess the customer’s profile and the vehicle they have bought to identify upsell opportunities. Is it an estate? Will they need a tow bar? Topbox? Do they need sat nav? If the vehicle is a hot hatch what is the choice of alloy wheels and interior design? What bodykits are available?

A dealership with a poor record of upselling will find the lack of extra profitability will make strict margins even tighter.

Sewells’ Best Practice Guide to Selling Skills for Car Sales Professionals recommends putting together a list of 20 to 50 accessories for your customers on their new or used car.

It should be in price order with a brief description of each and a weekly payment equivalent.

One way of knowing what accessories a customer will probably want is to look at their part-exchange.

If it is a van with racking think about upselling storage.

A car which appears looked after may create an opportunity to sell paint protection or a range of manufacturer approved valeting products.

Warranties, service plans, finance and insurance should be offered to all customers as a way of tying them into the dealership and aiding retention.

  • The above advice was written with the help of Sewells’ Best Practice Guide to Selling Skills for Car Sales Professionals. To order your copy call 01733 468254. 

Case study: Helen Hildreth

Another family trip to the Walt Disney World Resort in Florida is one of the things which incentivises Helen Hildreth to sell service plans.

The customer services representative at SG Petch in Darlington puts the commission she makes on the plans towards taking her three children, aged 11, 13 and 17, and husband back to the fun park.

It may not be the most unusual incentive, but it does show that it is not only dealerships that can benefit from upselling.

Hildreth, who attended one of The Warranty Group’s service plan training courses in November, said: “Putting money aside for the trip excites me from a personal point of view and is not just monetary.

“I guess if I did not have that goal I could stop when I had sold two service plans, but I would probably have another aim anyway and think it is good to have them.

“The plans are easier to sell now because people do not have much money. They also help with retention as well.

“My goal is to put away about £300 a month, but the commission depends on how many we sell.”

She was sent on the TWG two-day course by SG Petch which sells Fiat, Mazda, Hyundai and Kia. Her training group of four men and another women learnt how to sell service plans and the benefits to the customer.

Hildreth said: “You do not want to sound like you are reading off a script when selling the plans or the customer will not feel like an individual.

“The dealership is extremely good at wanting it to work and I now sell about 30 plans a month.

“I personally think the best time to sell them is on handover because the customer is excited about their new or used car and you can explain how the car will be looked after and it will see them through in the long run.

“It bemuses me some dealerships don’t push service plans more.

“I sell service plans because I believe in them and never come across like I’m taking money off a customer for no reason.”


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