As summer ends, it is likely that you will be faced with an increasing number of requests for batteries.
Spurred by cooling weather and the fact that summer’s heat will have sapped all but the last remaining life from an aging automotive battery, the battery sale is not as simple as it once was.
For one, a declining battery may reveal itself through a series of system malfunctions before the final no-start confirms its demise.
Examples such as air-conditioning systems that don’t operate, due to a failsafe system that opts to keep the car running over keeping it cool, can look like anything but a battery failure.
Additionally, there is the on-again-off-again battery failure that accompanies the rapid changes in temperature that characterize Canada’s fall season.
Above all this, however, there are some consistent rules that will help you communicate the proper information and make the best recommendation for a sale.
To capture your share of battery sales, you must first build awareness of your operation as a source for the product line.
There are banners and point-of-sale materials available from battery suppliers that can help remind consumers that batteries are “in season.” And, as always, a well-stocked battery rack will get the message across that you will have the battery they need when the time comes.
Building awareness such as this is not about selling a battery today; it is about selling the battery tomorrow. This applies whether you are talking about a retail DIY customer as your target, or whether those banners and point- of-sale materials are on display at a service outlet.
Do not assume that consumers know where to go for a battery; their decision will be based on where they know they can obtain one. This may be particularly important for those customers who are accustomed to going back to the car dealership for many of their needs. Changing that behaviour only comes from reinforcing that message before they actually need it.
For service provider customers, testing batteries on cars in for service has proven to be a good way to identify weak batteries before they strand the customer. When a weak battery is determined to be old enough to be at the end of its useful life, the conversation about the cost of getting stranded (e.g. towing) should generate sales and goodwill.
In cases where a battery is found to be wanting earlier than expected, this may be due to higher than normal demands on the battery due to short trips, added accessories, or the age of a vehicle.
Older vehicles may require a battery with a higher cold cranking amp (CCA) rating than originally supplied, due to engine wear, worn cables, or less than ideal charging capacity of the alternator.
In winter, cold weather also leads to excessive drain on the battery due to running the headlights, heater, and defroster for an extended period. Stop-and-go traffic that can accompany the worst weather can also put a strain on a battery’s charge.
A better quality battery will have the durability and reserve capacity (RC) to operate under the increased load.
For the same reasons, a battery with a longer warranty may also be a wise decision for the owner of an older vehicle.
While they produce more starting power and have generally longer lives, batteries at the top end of the performance scale also carry a higher price tag than low- and mid-range options. There are usually a number of batteries that fit the vehicle, but only one that will “fit” the consumer’s needs. Focusing on these needs will lead to a happier customer in the long run.
Special thanks to East Penn/Power Battery Sales and Exide Technologies for their assistance in providing this information.
Three Steps for Excellent Battery Sales Customer Service
Understand Battery Life
* The average battery life in Canada is approximately 4-1/2 to 5 years, depending on a number of factors, including amount and pattern of usage, accessory loads, vibration damage, temperature, and how often the battery has been operating at less than full charge.
* Based on industry sales and vehicle information, one out of every three vehicles four years or older is a candidate for battery replacement.
* Heat damages the internal components of a battery, which is not readily apparent until colder temperatures require more from the battery. With summer temperatures becoming increasingly warmer across many parts of the country, coupled with the fact that underhood operating temperatures have been increasing steadily over the past several years, we could have a banner year for battery sales if our winter is a typical cold Canadian one. The jobber should stock up and ensure his service providers are also stocked up and ready to capitalize on this potentially huge opportunity.
* Test batteries for walk-in customers and suggest replacement for any marginal batteries so the consumer won’t risk being stranded with a dead battery. Encourage preventive battery testing and replacement of marginal batteries at the service provider level.
* Prepare customers for winter driving by including battery testing as part of a winter maintenance package, and encourage your service provider customers to do the same. A handheld tester that is quick, safe, portable, and easy to use is a relatively inexpensive investment that will quickly pay for itself in increased battery sales. Purchase one with a portable infrared printer so that you can attach a copy of the battery test results to your customer invoice. The computerized printout will add credibility to your replacement recommendation.
* Ensure a battery is fully charged before you test it. If a voltmeter reading is below 12.4 volts, recharge the battery before performing any type of load test.
Commit to Your Battery Business
* Merchandise effectively. Ensure batteries are prominently displayed in an appropriate mix at your location so that your customers know you’re in the battery business. Ensure your service provider customers do the same.
* Your battery vendor can assist you with proper product mix so that you maximize sales and inventory turns with minimal investment in inventory.
* Ask your battery vendor to conduct training clinics for your staff and your customers’ staff on how to sell batteries.
* Ensure you and your service provider customers review battery health with every consumer and make the appropriate recommendations for replacement when necessary.
ASE PARTS SPECIALIST TESTING PREPARATION
Registration Deadline: September 30, 2006
Test Date: November 9, 2006
For more information on the test or Canadian test locations,
visit www.ase.com or call (703) 669-6600.
The Institute for Automotive Service Excellence Parts Specialist Series includes six tests: Automobile Parts Specialist, Medium/Heavy Truck Dealership Parts Specialist, Medium/Heavy Truck Aftermarket Brake Parts Specialist, Medium/Heavy Truck Aftermarket Suspension and Steering Parts Specialist, and General Motors Parts Consultant. Each test covers questions on communication and sales skills, vehicle systems knowledge, vehicle identification, cataloguing skills, and inventory management.
The tests consist of approximately 45-70 multiple choice questions. In order to earn ASE certification, a counterperson must pass the exam(s) and show proof of two years of on-the-job work experience as a parts specialist.
The P2 Test Task List for the Automobile Parts Specialist Certification Test that applies to most in the aftermarket, is simply a listing of those skills which a counterperson should be competent in if they are going to write the test.
In reviewing this task list consider your comfort level with the various categories of questions and the number of questions which will be posed. If you are quite comfortable with the knowledge of a one area but less so with another section, you should concentrate your study efforts on the latter. Keep in mind when you’re preparing, however, just how much of the testing will be concentrated on those areas. You don’t want to spend all your time preparing for a section such as Merchandising which only accounts for three questions of the 70 total. Also be aware that there will be 10 additional questions on the test that are themselves being evaluated for possible future inclusion in test results. You won’t know which ones they are though so you’ll have to answer all 80 questions as best as you can.
P2 CERTIFICATION TEST SUMMARY
A. General Operations (11 questions)
1. Calculate discounts/percentages.
2. Calculate special handling charges.
3. Identify and convert units of measure.
4. Determine alphanumeric sequences.
5. Determine sizes with precision measuring tools and equipment.
6. Perform money transactions (cash, cheques, and credit cards).
7. Perform sales and credit invoicing.
8. Interact with management and fellow employees.
9. Demonstrate housekeeping skills (facility, work stations, and backroom).
10. Assist with new employee training.
11. Demonstrate proper safety practices.
12. Identify proper handling of regulated and/or hazardous materials.
13. Identify potential security risks.
14. Identify parts industry terminology.
B. Customer Relations and Sales Skills (14 questions)
1. Identify customer types (do-it-yourself and professional installer).
2. Identify customer needs.
3. Provide technical and other information.
4. Handle customer complaints and returns.
5. Acknowledge customer.
6. Demonstrate proper telephone skills.
7. Obtain pertinent application information.
8. Present professional image.
9. Recommend related items.
10. Identify product features and benefits.
11. Handle objections.
12. Balance telephone and in-store customers.
13. Promote store services and features.
14. Promote upgraded products.
15. Solve customer problems
16. Close sale.
C. Vehicle Systems Knowledge (30 questions)
Two questions each–identify major components and their function–for 13 vehicle systems, plus miscellaneous questions.
D. Vehicle Identification (2 questions)
1. Locate vehicle ID number (VIN).
2. Locate production date.
3. Locate component identification data.
4. Identify body styles.
5. Utilize additional references.
6. Locate paint code(s).
E. Cataloguing Skills (5 questions)
1. Locate proper catalogue.
2. Obtain and interpret additional information.
3. Utilize additional reference material (technical bulletins, interchange list, supplements, etc.)
4. Identify catalogue terminology and abbreviations.
5. Locate index and table of contents.
6. Perform catalogue maintenance.
F. Inventory Management (5 questions)
1. Report lost sales.
2. Verify incoming and outgoing merchandise.
3. Perform physical inventory.
4. Report inventory discrepancies.
5. Perform stock rotation.
6. Handle special orders.
7. Perform proper core handling (i.e.: accepting or declining cores, storage, and return).
8. Handle warranty returns.
9. Determine proper selling unit (each, pair, case, etc.) increment.
10. Handle return of broken kits, special order parts, and exchange parts.
G. Merchandising (3 questions)
1. Locate and arrange displays.
2. Display pricing.
3. Inspect and maintain shelf quantities/conditions.
4. Identify impulse, seasonal, and related items.
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