6 min read

Service Drive Selling – You’re Doing it Wrong!

Service Drive Selling – You’re Doing it Wrong!

Put Yourself In Their Shoes

You pull up to the service drive for your 9AM oil change appointment. A young, bright-eyed service advisor meets you at your car and gives you a warm, professional greeting. You inform him you’re here for your appointment to get your car serviced.

“No problem,” he says. “Also, so you’re aware, there are several other services we offer to help you take care of your vehicle! We’re running a special right now on brake fluid flushes, which we recommend you do every 30,000 miles.”

“Here we go,” you think. “Time to get upsold.” We’ve all been there, we all see it coming, and we all have that small pit in the stomach when it happens.

The guy does a good job though, and you eventually agree to do the flush for an additional $89.95. You hadn’t planned on spending that much, but you feel good about being proactive with your vehicle maintenance.  

Fast-forward to later on when you’re told that, based on the inspection, you also have about $500 of other work that should be done on your car – worn serpentine belt, front brake pads & rotors, sway bar bushings, and an alignment.

Now you’re mad.

If you had known there were more pressing issues, you might have held off on your “proactive” maintenance and decided to use your funds on safety related items.

Unfortunately, the brake flush is done, so you’re already stuck with that bill. Now you have two options: fix all of the necessary safety items or put your vehicle at risk by delaying some repairs you can’t afford.

Making Educated Decisions

Ok, not every customer is going to be faced with that ultimatum. However, if you’re trying to get upsells during the check-in process, you’re bound to run into this type of scenario; and the advisors know it.

Ever wonder why service advisors seem to give so much resistance to ‘selling on the drive?’ They may not have put the idea together in the same way we have here, but they DO get this funny feeling about selling expensive services upfront. It’s not a matter of asking for or selling services – they do that all the time. But doing it during the check-in – something just “feels off.” Here’s why:

If we are asking our customers to make a sizable financial commitment BEFORE they have all the information regarding their vehicle (like they will after the Multipoint Inspection), then we are preventing them from making an educated decision.

We should only be asking for someone’s money ONCE. Having to come back later try to “get more” is simply shoddy salesmanship.

Let’s Unpack

Now, before we get too far ahead of ourselves, let’s make sure we’re talking about the same thing. Am I saying we shouldn’t be getting anything more than a commitment for a basic service during the check-in? Absolutely not. There are lots of opportunities to increase sales and gross at the check-in. For example, educating the customer on various options for their Service (often a good, better, best format) is a great place to start. Also getting pre-approvals for small items like wipers, air filters, etc., can easily be done during the check-in.

What we’re talking about today is trying to sell those bigger ticket items right when they arrive. This is what Advisors inevitably start doing, however, when we spread this idea of “Selling on the Drive.”

There IS Another Way – It’s Called “Pre-Selling”

Do you want your salespeople trying to get a hard commitment to F&I products before the Sales customer has selected a vehicle? Of course not – that would be silly, wouldn’t it? What they CAN do is begin educating the customer about some of the products and protections we offer and let them know they can get more information on them later from on of the Business Managers. Planting these seeds, or “Pre-Selling” can be a very effective way of increasing F&I product penetration.

Pre-Selling allows the customer to process what we’ve educated them about, and figure out how they might fit it into their budget. Building value, then letting that value sink in will result in higher closing ratios with our customers.

If we don’t want our salespeople getting commitments on products upfront, why do we think that’s effective on the service drive?

Pre-selling on the service drive generally consists of pointing out items or services that may need to be done on the vehicle and informing them we’ll know for sure once we’ve completed the inspection.

There are a few key benefits to Pre-Selling

  1. Quicker, Convenient, Low-Pressure Check-In
    Especially when a customer is coming in for maintenance, we want the process to be as smooth, efficient, and convenient as possible. To ensure the customer has a pleasant experience we need to make sure we avoid making them “put up walls” right from the start.
  2. Planting Seeds
    Since there’s no hard commitment in the beginning, the customer has time to really think about what we mentioned. For example, while waiting for an oil change, they can take the time to figure out how to fit that alignment into the budget, if they end up needing it.
  3. Higher Closing Ratio
    If we wait to “let that seed grow” before we try to harvest it, we’ll get a better yield. Customers are much more likely to agree to services if:

    A. We’ve done a good job of showing the value in them, and
    B. They’ve had time to process/come to terms with it.

  1. Build Rapport/Credibility by Mentioning Items Not Needed
    Another (often overlooked) benefit to Pre-Selling is the ability to tell them that they DON’T need something we mentioned in the beginning. If we tell them they’re not actually quite due for that alignment, they’ll almost certainly have a feeling of relief. This does a couple things… For one, it shows them that we are honest in what we’re advising them, and not trying to sell them everything we can. This builds serious rapport with people. Secondly, it lends that much more credibility to other services we say they DO need, of which you will sell more.

Timing is Everything

A very important item we need to mention – timing. While you can definitely try to sell services too early, you can CERTAINLY try and sell them too late as well. A mistake even more common than “selling on the drive” is trying to sell services at check-out!

If the customer sees that their car is ready and parked out front, and they’re paying their bill, they see that beautiful white light at the end of the tunnel. If, as they’re running for it, you pop up blocking the way ,and say, “By the way, there’s some other things we can do to your vehicle as well, if you wanna stick around!” They will, most definitely, run around and/or through you to get out.

Multipoint Inspections should be completed and turned in within 10-15 minutes of the vehicle coming in the shop. We need to have results and an estimate built for the customer as quickly as possible, so we can present them to the customer while the vehicle is still on the hoist!

It’s much more convenient if we’re asking, “Would you like me to take care of that for you while it’s in the shop today?” rather than “Would you like me to pull it back in the shop and take care of that for you?”

Pre-Selling is ALL about building value in the inspection, and it needs to be the entire focus. An inspection validates what we recommend. If you try to sell something after looking at the car for 10 seconds, the customer will assume you just say that to everyone. An inspection makes our recommendations specific, customized, and personal. It shows that we’ve carefully considered what we are presenting to them.


Just as any process, there are effective and ineffective ways of Pre-Selling. Just because it’s not a “hard sell” does not mean that we shouldn’t be confident in what we Pre-Sell. If we can effectively Pre-Sell on the Service drive, you will have a better customer experience, build better rapport with customers, have a faster, more efficient check-in process, and increase overall sales in your service and express service departments.

For more information on how to properly Pre-Sell in service, or about other Service Drive Selling Techniques like the RIM Selling Process, reach out to our Black Ops team! The Automotive Training Network is proud to say we have some of the best fixed ops experts in the industry, who continue to help dealerships grow their service & parts business across the country.

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