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Improving Shop Closing Ratios

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Obtaining and growing sales numbers is no easy feat for auto repair shops. A full, well-executed suite of marketing tactics will initially get customers through your door, but it’s your staff’s actions from that point forward that will solidify the sale.

Excellent sales skills are one area of business that shops across the country struggle with, says Jeremy O’Neal, founder of consulting firm Advisorfix.com. On average, shops nationwide only close on 30–40 percent of overall repair recommendations on each repair order. Although shops might land jobs for repairs that customers initially inquire about, they’re unsuccessful at selling other repair needs found during the process.

Your office staff needs to remember they are salespeople just as much as they are repair experts, O’Neal says. Good salespeople should be closing on 65–75 percent of all repair recommendations. If your shop’s closing ratio routinely falls below that benchmark, you’re letting a significant amount of revenue walk out your door.

Improving your closing ratio requires expertise with a set of savvy sales and communication techniques during customer interactions. O’Neal outlines 10 tips that all shops can easily implement to prevent customers from shopping around, and, ultimately, to consistently boost work volume and sales numbers.

TIP #1: BEGIN WITH THE RIGHT MINDSET.

When it comes to auto repair sales, top performers should understand the power of positivity and trust, O’Neal says. Service advisors need a positive outlook throughout the process and focus on becoming a trusted advisor for customers. The objective for each transaction is to help clients protect the investment they have in their vehicle in the most affordable way.

“Shops tend to be too focused on their own sales goals and forget about what the customer wants out of the repair,” O’Neal says. “When you’re too focused on selling, that’s when you alienate your customer and get more sales objections.”

Shops that demonstrate care for customers and an understanding of their needs have greater success developing relationships with new clientele, which drives sales and repeat business.

“It’s a mindset that makes a big difference,” O’Neal says.

TIP #2: DO A VEHICLE WALK AROUND.

Walk around the vehicle with every customer during the initial intake process. Physically look at the vehicle to obtain typical information like the mileage and VIN, and assess its overall condition. Look for basic exterior maintenance issues, such as premature tire wear or worn wiper blades, that could become additional items to add to the repair order.

O’Neal says the walk-around process, which only takes about three minutes, greatly improves opportunities for sales during the initial write-up. It shows customers that you genuinely care about them and their vehicle, and gives an opportunity to spend more time with each customer to build relationships.

TIP #3: IDENTIFY THE CUSTOMER’S VEHICLE TIMELINE.

Every customer has a timeline in mind when they want to consider getting rid of their vehicle, O’Neal says. Understand that timeline, and identify exactly what customers hope to get out of their vehicle.

For example, some shops might be inclined to help every customer get 250,000 miles out of their car. But if your customer only needs to get 100,000 miles out of it, the suggestions in your repair plan may not align with the customer’s needs. That causes customers to feel like you’re suggesting things that aren’t required, leading to them questioning your advice.

O’Neal suggests asking the following questions to identify each customer’s timeline, which can be answered within about 30 seconds:
• How long have you owned the vehicle?
• Have you experienced any major issues?
• How long do you plan on keeping the car?
• Do you have a total mileage target?
That information allows your staff to align repair and maintenance recommendations to the customer’s goals and objectives. The information can also be stored in the shop’s management system so staff members can properly and efficiently advise customers the next time they come in.

TIP #4: ENSURE THE VEHICLE IS FULLY INSPECTED.

Have technicians look at the entire vehicle and outline all safety concerns.

“Treat the car like a patient in a doctor’s office,” O’Neal says.

The best shops, he adds, fully disclose everything that the vehicle needs up front, which pays huge dividends when it comes time to sell the work.

TIP #5: USE TECHNOLOGY AS VISUAL AIDES.

People are visual creatures—a majority of information they consume is through their eyes, not their ears, O’Neal says. Fifty-five percent of what influences sales are based on visual elements.

The problem for shops is that repair sales are often conducted over the phone after the car has been taken in and the customer is no longer at the facility.

O’Neal suggests using technology to bring visual elements back into the equation. Shops can capture digital photos and videos using a smartphone, and instantly text or email them to customers so they can physically see the damage. Visual services such as Virtual Vehicle MD have also proven to be beneficial.

“People believe what they see, not what they hear,” O’Neal says. “It makes the sale for you when customers can see exactly what’s wrong with their car.”

TIP #6: MAKE A GREAT SALES PRESENTATION.

Prepare for every sales pitch in advance. Don’t just take a repair packet from the technician, tally up the total cost, and contact the customer without thinking about how to present the information.

Before every sales call, review the customer’s original concerns, mentally rehearse the sales presentation, visualize exactly how you want the sale to go, and prepare for how you will respond to any sales objections. O’Neal offers a few tips for making the call:

Make sure the call is uninterrupted. Conduct the call in a quiet area where other customers or staff members won’t distract you.

Present the customer with “out-the-door pricing.” Quote the final, total cost that customers will ultimately pay, including taxes and fees. Don’t quote a job at $1,900 if you know it will actually be $2,150 after other costs.

Fully disclose all repair and maintenance needs. Be sure to always convey everything you found on the customer’s vehicle that warrants attention using the inspection report prepared by technicians.

TIP #7: USE PERSUASIVE LANGUAGE.

Eliminate words from your sales pitch that create doubt for customers, including “should,” “recommend,” “might” and “maybe.” That language is self-serving for shops, and causes customers to rethink the legitimacy of the advice. Customers perceive shop “recommendations” merely as attempts to sell extra items.

Instead, O’Neal suggests using words that build value, positively influence the sale, and cause customers to take action. A few examples: “areas of concern,” “my concern for you,” “it’s in your best interest,” “based on the facts,” “save you time,” and “save you money.” You’re conveying the same information, O’Neal says, but in a way that improves your credibility.

TIP #8: RESOLVE TRANSPORTATION ISSUES.

Help customers obtain a rental vehicle. If customers are concerned about getting their car back at a certain time, identify whether they need their car specifically or just some type of reliable transportation, O’Neal says. It helps shops make a lot of sales when they can efficiently solve transportation dilemmas.
It’s up to every individual shop to decide whether to provide a free loaner vehicle or not. If you decide to do that to help reduce the customer’s costs, O’Neal suggests building that business expense into your labor rate and marketing budget.

TIP #9: DON’T TAKE THE FIRST “NO.”

In the sales world, you have to go through seven “no’s” to get a “yes,” O’Neal says. Don’t stop the sales process after the first “no,” like many service advisors do.

Keep the conversation going after a customer declines your repair advice in a way that’s not pushy or applies uncomfortable pressure. To do that, try to understand why the customer objects to your advice, which will most often be due to time or budget constraints. If you can understand the customer’s thought process, you might be able to make further suggestions to alleviate those concerns.

TIP #10: MONITOR, IDENTIFY AND PRACTICE SALES RESULTS.

Practice this process habitually, O’Neal says. Constantly monitor what sales objections you’re getting and identify weak areas within your staff’s sales skillsets that are causing those objections. Practicing those weaknesses will eventually allow your staff to obtain better results.

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