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Jason Unrau

Jason Unrau Freelance Contributor

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Back to Basics: Remember WHY You’re Selling Service

You can’t deny that a primary role for a service advisor is to generate income for the dealership. There’s constant talk about hitting 100% absorption rate, striving to increase dollars per RO, and generally bumping the service department’s total revenue year over year. There are strategies offered all the time to increase the bottom line and teach service advisors to sell more… but have you lost sight of the big picture?

Having spent more than a decade in the trenches as a service advisor myself, I can personally attest to it. You lose sight of the reason you’re at the desk in the first place. Striving for a better paycheck this month becomes the goal, not the result of a job well done. And along the way, you discover you’ve cut corners and taken the easy road instead of the right road.

You need to rediscover WHY you’re selling service in the first place.

A Service Advisor’s Purpose for Selling

The intent to have a service advisor upsell services is of a singular focus. It’s fully, completely, single-mindedly about ensuring the customer can trust their vehicle’s reliability by advising them of the necessary services and repairs it requires. That’s it.

The Way to Sell is Features and Benefits

Because a service advisor’s goal is to serve the customer’s needs primarily, there’s only one way to do it in a transparent and trustworthy manner – by explaining the WHY and the HOW.

Say a customer’s car is booked in for a seasonal service with oil change, but their current odometer of 60k miles, it’s due for a transmission service too according to the factory maintenance schedule. The advisor should know how to encourage them to complete the service the right way.

“Mrs. Jones, the required maintenance at 60k miles includes a transmission service. Just like your engine oil, it breaks down over time and needs to be changed to prevent undue wear and tear that can lead to a breakdown. For your vehicle, it includes changing the transmission filter, filling it with OEM fluid, and checking the transmission’s performance. Would you like to have that done during today’s service for $159? That’s a great value especially when you consider how long the service interval is.”

The feature in this case is a transmission service. That’s what you’re trying to ‘sell’, or rather, advise at the correct interval.

The benefit is preventing wear and tear and a resulting breakdown.

It isn’t pushy or negative, just explaining the facts thoroughly so the customer can make an informed decision.

Discounts Don’t Help

Manufacturers run promotions and service offers which customers might request – that’s fine. But when promos and discounts are used as a selling tool, it cheapens the value. Discounting does more harm than good when used to sell service.

In the transmission service example, the advisor could’ve said, “Mrs. Jones, your owner’s manual says you’re due for a transmission service at 60k miles. We have it on special for $99, a savings of $60 off the regular price. Would you like to get it done?”

The customer now thinks two things: they have to spend an extra $99 on this visit that they weren’t expecting because the owner’s manual says so, and that the $159 service is only worth $99…ever.

Discounting cheapens the value of the service you provide. If they pay just $99 this time, why should they ever feel that $159 is worth it in the future? Feel free to offer manufacturer’s promotional pricing, but don’t do it at the expense of explaining features and benefits.

Unnecessary Services Hurt

The other temptation for service advisors is to sell services prematurely or services that aren’t actually required. If a transmission service is due at 60k miles, there’s no reason to sell it early at 40k miles or 50k miles as routine maintenance.

The exception is if the condition warrants it, but that’s often something you’ll discover in the shop instead of the service drive. And at that point, the service advisor should clearly explain the extenuating circumstance – the WHY – to the customer.


Selling the WHY takes longer. It might not bump dollars per RO immediately. But guaranteed, it will develop more long-term trusting relationships with your clientele so your retention rate climbs higher and higher. And in this industry, retention is where true growth lies.

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