Selling in the Service Lane: Good or Bad Idea?
Selling in the Service Lane: Good or Bad Idea?

It is easy to get caught in a rut. We all do it. Most of us have a mental list of the items we need to focus our attention on, but sadly, they never get done because we get caught up in the routine demands of our daily schedules.

The life of a dealer is very similar. The dealership is set up to run a certain way, often with inherited processes that have been in place for decades. This is especially true for those who are part of a family-/legacy-owned franchise. And they have made money doing it this way!

Needless to say, it can be challenging to “teach an old dog new tricks,” especially if something was attempted haphazardly and did not produce the anticipated results. Selling in the service lane fits this description, I believe. It is something most dealers have made an attempt at, but it really hasn’t taken off like it should.

Let’s examine the positive side of this equation for a moment. How many cars come through the service department in a weeks’ time whose owners did not take advantage of a VSC? At the time of purchase, Mr. Customer was probably eager to get out of the office and into his new car. Though the F&I manager did a masterful job of presenting the products (which they all do, right?), Mr. Customer decided to decline the products.

Now he is in the service department and must face the reality of his decision to decline the VSC and prepaid maintenance. I don’t know of a more perfect opportunity to sell him; and yet hundreds of people come through the service lane without dealers making ANY attempt to sell them something.

Agents, this is where you come in. One of the ways you can create income development for the dealer is by teaching them how to effectively sell in the service lane. Now, before you say “This can’t be done” or “We’ve tried it before,” hear me out. Yes, it is true that this is very tough to do. If Mr. Customer did not buy the service contract at the point of sale when it could be rolled into his payments, and now he must come up with $1,600 cash, it is very tough to convince him to pay that much.

Most customers will probably say “No thanks.” However, there are those who will say yes! Even if 90 percent of customers decline, that leaves 10 percent who agree; it’s a numbers game. And the good news is you don’t have to advertise or beat the pavement to bring customers to your lot. These are people who have already decided to do business with the dealer, and they are coming to bring their cars for servicing. Why not sell them something?

To be effective at selling in the service lane, consider these following hurdles that need to be cleared. At the beginning of this article, I mentioned dealers who have haphazardly tried selling in the service lane. In my opinion, the ones who have been unsuccessful have failed to clear the following hurdles:

  • Incentive. Let’s face it, you have to make it worth the service writers’ time to even make an attempt at this: $25 or a set of steak knives is not going to do it. Provide real incentive. Offer them great money. Get the service writers excited about the possibility of increasing their income. For them to be good at this, it is going to require training and extra effort; however, the pay off has got to be worth the time and energy. Encourage dealers to be generous with their service writers.
  • Training. Here is what typically happens at dealerships that make some attempts to sell in the service lane. The service writer will begin the conversation with Mr. Customer in hopes of getting him interested in a service contract. After all, the service writer is perceived by most customers as a technician, and they will listen to what he has to say regarding maintenance, warranty, etc. The conversation goes well and sure enough, Mr. Customer is interested. Now here is the crucial mistake… Mr. Service Writer says to Mr. Customer, “Let me take you back to the business manager and see what he can do.” At this point the customer is thinking to himself, “Not another 30 minutes in that office with the guy who was trying to sell me something.” At this point, if the service writer had the means to close the deal, the deal would get closed! Train your service writers to close the deal.
  • Product Selection. Don’t overwhelm the service writer with all the products the dealership offers. The F&I manager lives and breathes these products all day long, is hopefully very familiar with all of them and does a masterful job presenting them. After all, that’s his job. The service writer, on the other hand, has an entirely different set of responsibilities. Do not overwhelm him with more than one or two products at the most. Allow him to get comfortable with them. Every salesperson has an individualized way of selling. The more familiar the service writer is with the product and how it works, the more confident he will be at selling it and adapting a sales style that is comfortable for him.

Obviously, there is a lot more that can be said about this topic. Right now there are companies working on new technology that is going to revolutionize how service writers can sell in the service lane. Stay tuned for more articles on this new technology and how it will be effective.

Ruts can be tough to get out of. All of us have set ways of doing things. But make no mistake, those who are constantly looking for better ways to make more money and increase their business are the ones who will rise to the top and be successful in the future.

Selling in the service lane is a good idea. The dealers doing it well are making money hand over fist. You have hundreds of people coming on the lot every week. Why not educate the dealers you partner with to tap into this revenue stream?