Almost every dealership today structures itself into two separate entities: the sales department and the service department.
But look at the numbers. If the average salesperson talks to 56 ups and delivers 10 cars per month, he or she talks to 672 ups to make 120 clients per year. The service advisor, on the other hand, works with 15 clients a day or 4,680 per year.
So the showroom sales people potentially influence 672 potential clients a year, the service advisors out back 4,680. At the same time they sell the service, the service advisors affect whether your customer is going to buy another vehicle from your dealership.
People who succeed in these two separate departments have the same core competency: sales. The sales person sells vehicles; the service advisor sells service. In both cases, their ultimate responsibility is to sell and retain your client.
Your service advisors are your long-term customer retention specialists. If you have trained them to handle customers well, they have the ability to overcome a bad sales experience. If they do their job, your customers will come to believe they have an ally at the dealership.
What would happen if you changed the way you do business? What would happen if you broke the barriers between the front and back ends? What would happen if you ignored conventional wisdom and made the salesperson and the service advisor one and the same?
Before you start listing all the reasons it won't work, think about why it will.
Your customer buys a car from you. Your salesperson is supposed to follow up but probably does not. You have lost the opportunity to build a relationship through the salesperson. Then the only real relationship after the sale your customer has is with the service advisor. By combining the two responsibilities, your customer builds a strong relationship with one person from the moment he or she walks through your door.
Most service business is done in the morning, yet most sales activity is done in the afternoon and early evening.
While this concept may not work everywhere or for every salesperson and service advisor, those who can perform both functions reap rewards for themselves and their dealerships.
The average salesperson's compensation plan probably has not changed since the 1970s. They are being paid anywhere from 20%-30% of commissionable gross. As manufacturers have limited the gross, then you must, in turn, limit how much you can pay the sales people.
By combining the two positions you are then paying both the sales and the service commission, the service/sales people have the potential to significantly increase their compensation.
The service advisor already knows the customers, understands their likes and dislikes, and has relationships that are years old, not minutes. This makes the selection process shorter. Negotiations, too, are smoother because of the relationship.
Another benefit is that the service advisor can ask 4,600 times a year for a referral from customers. Your sales people likely do not ask enough — perhaps because they are afraid they are going to hear what is wrong with the car. The service advisor, on the other hand, is trained to deal with customer's problems and concerns. Asking a satisfied customer for a referral is a natural for them — and it is a terrific traffic builder.
Making this move is not as difficult as it sounds. It's a matter of training the service advisor on sales and the salesperson on service. Since both positions' core competency is sales, the training is on processes and procedures.
Richard F. Libin is president and CEO of Boston-based Automotive Profit Builders (APB), providing management consulting and training in dealership sales and service. He's at [email protected] or 508-626-9200.