Less telling and selling. More showing and explaining.
You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.
In that way, most people are like horses. However thirsty you may be, should someone tell you it’s time to drink…well, I can make that decision myself, thank you.
We can’t help much with horses, but we can help with the decision process when it comes to tires and wheel alignments. It’s all about the difference between selling and consulting — which is all the difference in the world.
The givens. Let’s set the landscape for a dealership wanting to increase alignment and tire sales right there in the service lane:
• As a dealer, you should have an autonomous inspection system
• And as a dealer, you should ensure that every vehicle driven onto the lot every day is inspected
• Nearly half those vehicles will need alignments
• Alignments are about the highest margin work you can do
• Alignments are quick, easy and you can do them dawn to dusk
• Tires are not high-margin, but they’re critical to customer retention
• Because where people buy tires, they often buy everything
What’s not on that list is the customer cheerfully agreeing to cooperate. That’s the natural human resistance to being sold something, even when they know they probably need it.
Changing direction. How to get around that? By changing the sales dynamic through simple yet skillful use of technology, and an attitude of showing and discussing, not telling and selling. In other words, the casual, “Yeah, you’re gonna need a new set of tires,” needs to give way to the collaborative, “Let’s have a look and see what the inspection results have to say.”
Transparent communication. Inspection systems excel at taking high-tech measurements in mere seconds. They also excel at clearly illustrating to a non-expert what’s going on under their vehicle. This combination of sophisticated technology and easy comprehension comes into play the minute the customer arrives in the service lane.
Ideally, the system should display results — preferably on a large video monitor — before the customer is even out of the car. This should be a conscious decision, because customers must be allowed to study the outcome before being approached by an advisor.
Why? Because viewing results alone automatically makes the customer an active participant in the process. Rather than being instantly instructed that they need tires or an alignment, they can begin interpreting the results on their own. This turns a sales interaction into a conversation between equals, where your role is to supply data, and theirs is to consider it and freely come to their own conclusion.
Leave room for a decision. This conversation should consist of informing, explaining and, most of all, listening. Green means this; red means that. Here’s what a thrust line is. Alignments are worth doing because they save fuel, tire wear and therefore money. What do you see here? What do you think? What questions do you have?
The large monitor may be the simplest method for encouraging this collaborative discussion, but it’s not the only one. A dealer management system that integrates with the inspection system also yields instant access to data, via printouts or detailed graphics on a tablet that can be carried as you walk around the vehicle.
It’s the same process for tires. “You need tires” will be met with reflexive resistance no matter how obvious it is. Describing the function of tread, demonstrating tread wear and why 6/32nds is an important number, explaining rolling resistance and how the vehicle is stopped not by brakes but by friction, will be met with engagement and more careful consideration.
It’s all good. If the results indicate no work is necessary — if the conversation is short! — that’s no need for disappointment. It’s an opportunity to demonstrate transparency and happily deliver the good news that no work is needed at this time. They’ll remember your honesty the next time it is.
Reduced future service opportunities require capitalizing now where you can. With the proper equipment and techniques, alignments and tire sales are low-hanging fruit that you can efficiently collect and turn into profitable work and lasting customer relationships. If you can lead the horse to water — and stop there — they can choose to drink on their own. And come back for more later.