Auto Service World
Feature   February 1, 2000   by Auto Service World

Countertalk For the Counterperson: Ride Control Sales

Knowledge Building: Ride Control Sales

Getting the business that will make shock and strut service profitable is an everyday challenge for many counterpeople and their customers. It doesn’t have to be, if you follow a simple 1-2-3 game plan.

The 1-2-3 plan is all-inclusive, because it involves you as the salesperson, the customer as the beneficiary and the shocks/struts as the commodity. This sounds like Business 101 because it is. Selling shocks and struts doesn’t need to be a hard sell. It can become easy once you and your trade customers become comfortable with the plan.

The plan’s three steps follow:

1. Become A Better Salesperson

Learn all about what your major shock line has to offer not only in the breadth of coverage but also the shock’s construction and its design features. Learn what the competitive lines have to offer, and see how they stack up against each other. Design features are important. As a rule, the better-built product will last longer, offer the customer more satisfaction and prevent comebacks.

You also should have an understanding of suspension designs and the importance of shocks and struts to the quality and safety of a vehicle’s ride. Recommending replacement of a component is difficult if you are unaware of its role in a vehicle’s performance. Educate yourself. Read suspension manuals published by the shock and strut manufacturers. Review the product feature pages found in almost all shock-absorber catalogs. Attend the clinics and seminars conducted by these companies. Visit their web sites and see what they are saying. Are the sites full of fluffy sales talk, or are they trying to stress product quality, along with features and benefits? Manufacturers with better-built products stress the latter.

Once you become more knowledgeable about what you’re selling and confident that it is best for the customer, you’ve cleared your biggest hurdle. The customer will sense your confidence and believe your advice.

2. Get the Customer Involved in the Inspection

Never miss an opportunity to convince the customer to get his car up on a hoist. You are doing the customer a service and gaining the opportunity for a sale if the inspection reveals the need to replace shocks and/or struts. The inspection must be thorough, including the telltale clues of trouble: oil leakage, physical damage, tire wear, worn jounce bumpers (from bottoming out), damaged springs, worn mounting parts like bushings and strut mounts, etc. Don’t forget to suggest the simple bounce test and to consider high mileage on the vehicle.

If possible, the customer should be shown the inspection’s findings. Seeing is believing in many cases. You should understand and communicate the domino effect that worn shocks will have on other vehicle systems. Steering components, chassis parts, tires and CV joints can have shortened lives on a vehicle with worn shocks or struts. Getting the customer involved in the inspection process and illustrating the need for a repair will make it easier for him or her when it gets down to decision time. The evidence of need is usually part of the buying process.

3. Sell A Quality Product

Consumers’ habits have changed over the past decade. Although the price of a product still may be paramount, quality and reliability are just as important. Many market surveys bear this out. The importance of being ISO or QS certified is sweeping all sectors of industry. The reason for this is that the public has become intolerant of low-quality, unreliable products and shoddy service. Good customer service along with a good product usually spells success for a company.

When you’re selecting ride control products to carry, the product needs to be high quality and provide a benefit to those customers. The higher-quality products may command a higher price (and higher profit margin for you), but the price objection can be overcome if the customer is made aware of the reason. Lower-priced products may look monetarily attractive and easier to sell, but if they lack the quality and reliability we have come to expect, everyone loses out. When a product fails prematurely while it is under warranty, the result may be a comeback for the installer.

Comebacks may be accompanied by an irate car owner and may tie up an installer’s service area. Nobody wins in this situation. Poor-quality products jeopardize the reputations of the installer and the manufacturer and the jobber who represents it.

Replacing shocks and struts can be profitable if you convince customers–both retail and wholesale–to look for the need via consistent vehicle inspections, offer high-quality replacement parts that you believe in and have become an expert on what you’re selling.

Special thanks to Chuck Gonwa, product manager for KYB Corporation of America, for contributing this article.

Are your installers maximizing their potential?

Check out the math in potential shock sales. The following example is based on an average retail price of $45.00 each. Struts, of course, will bring higher sales revenue. Plus, these estimates do not include labor revenue.

Ride Control Sales Potential

Vehicles in shopShocks inspected25% sales rateRevenue
25 a day100 a day25 a day$1,125 a day
125 a week500 a week125 a week$5,625 a week
500 a month2,000 a month500 a month$22,500 a month
6,000 a year24,000 a year6,000 a year$270,000 a year

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