Motor oil, oil filters, and air filters are product categories that play a key role in the aftermarket. They are part of basic regular maintenance, which is considered the lifeblood of a garage. But with the variety of items available on the market today, how do you go about selling them? Fortunately, there are a number of keys to selling the product that can help give you that slight edge over your competitors.
Know your selling points
Although knowing the make, model, and year of the vehicle will help to identify what type of motor oil it uses, you should also inquire about the customer’s relationship with the vehicle. Is it a car they use as basic transportation, or a car they have dreamed about owning their entire life? Do they enjoy driving the car, or is it just simply a mode of transportation for them? Do they plan on keeping the car for a long time, or are they going to be replacing it soon? The way the customer feels about their vehicle will have a big impact on the type of motor oil they choose. If the customer is someone who takes pride in their vehicle, enjoys driving it, or plans on keeping it for a while, they will tend to be more open to using a better product like a synthetic oil.
Assess driving conditions
In addition to that first consideration, driving style, climate, and vehicle mileage may also contribute to a recommendation.
What conditions does the customer typically encounter on a day-to-day basis? For example, if the vehicle is a pick-up used for mixed commercial use, does this involve towing trailers or hauling loads? Is the vehicle used for commuting? Does this include mostly highway or stop-and-go city driving? These questions help determine if the vehicle and engine oil are subjected to any extreme conditions, and whether specific engine oils that target those conditions should be recommended. Have any major engine components failed and been replaced? This will help determine if the engine has a weakness that perhaps a more robust lubricant can help overcome. What oil change interval is the customer following? Does the customer want to extend their oil drain interval? An extended oil drain interval typically necessitates the use of full synthetic engine oils.
Educate the customer
When a customer is selecting a brand name motor oil to use, they are not just purchasing the oil in the bottle; they are also purchasing the engineering and testing of that motor oil that ensures it is of a high quality and will perform as advertised within the engine. Take the time to ensure your customer understands the certification approvals that are specified on the label when choosing a brand or specific type of engine oil. All quality engine oils, regardless of brand name, that display the API certification logo (also known as the API “donut” symbol) show that the liquid formulations have been tested, validated, and approved by the American Petroleum Institute and meet established engine performance standards and OEM warranty requirements. If an engine oil bottle does not
display the API logo proving its formulation is certified, do not buy it.
Does the customer feel that maintaining their vehicle is important, or do they see maintenance as the downside to owning a vehicle? This will also help to determine the type of oil that the customer would be most likely to purchase. Someone who is purchasing the oil begrudgingly might not consider using a top-quality product. If the customer has a positive attitude towards maintenance, follow up by asking if they are doing the oil change themselves or taking it to a shop. Your typical DIYer loves to work on his vehicle and takes pride in doing so. A DIYer would love to pick your brain about a better oil they could use and why they should use it. This could be an opportunity to introduce them to a synthetic or semi-synthetic product. If they are getting the work done at a shop, but take the time to purchase their own motor oil, it also opens the door to ask if they have considered using a higher-quality product such as a synthetic.
Oil choices for older vehicles
The best oil to recommend for older engines would be a brand name, high-mileage semi-synthetic blend or a fully synthetic oil. Both semi-synthetic and fully synthetic oils offer better flow, pumping, and cranking abilities at extremely low temperatures (minus 40C) and during start-up. Point out how the superior oxidative and thermal stability of synthetic grades leave engines virtually varnish-free, and reduce sludge and deposits that could build up in older engines. Additionally, synthetic grades offer better protection during high-temperature operation as they resist volatile burn-off and evaporation, thus reducing oil consumption.
If the customer is not comfortable going with a full synthetic because of the added cost, recommend a semi-synthetic. A semi-
synthetic oil will offer a higher level of protection for their vehicle over the
mineral oil. Semi-synthetic oils will give
a lower level of protection over a fully
synthetic oil, but will deliver better protection to the engine than a mineral grade.
The benefits of extended oil change intervals
While the early tendency of the trade was to dismiss manufacturer-recommended oil change intervals as a recipe for engine damage, that message has little credibility in the face of automakers’ recommendations.
However, with extended oil changes come the very credible opportunity to recommend the highest quality, most durable products you can offer. This applies to both the motor oil you sell – semi-synthetic and full synthetic, for example – as well as filters that can withstand as much as five times the intervals you might have been recommending pre-extended interval trend. Be sure to have a line of extended-drain oil filters on hand that match the extended drain intervals that most late-model vehicles now follow.
Product placement is key
It’s always a good idea to make sure your displays are clean, well laid out, well lit, and easy to shop. Make sure that your motor oil isn’t front and centre in your store, as most walk-in customers will be more than willing to search for their chosen brand of motor oil. Lead them through the store to your oil display to increase the possibly of purchasing other items. Also, be sure to place related items in close proximity to one another. For instance, you’ll probably want to place your motor oil near the oil filter display, along with items such as drain pans, cleaning products for oil spills, filter wrenches, and oil drain plugs, which might be bought as an added purchase.
Ensure DIY customers have what they need
Ensure that each customer is asked if he needs catch basins, disposal bags, and instructions on what to do with the used oil and filter. If your local municipality has a program (most if not all do), have the details on hand for the consumer.
It will help raise your environmental image and also help you guard against being accused of promoting non-environmentally friendly practices. However, with extended oil changes come the very credible opportunity to recommend the highest quality, most durable products you can offer. This applies to both the motor oil you sell – semi-synthetic and full synthetic, for example – as well as filters that can withstand as much as five times the intervals you might have been recommending pre-extended interval trend.
Category management techniques
While it may not be in your realm if you operate a smaller store, understanding the motor oil category as a whole rather than just as a set of competing brands can be an effective strategy. This means looking at overall profitability among the different classes of product – basic, economy, high-mileage, semi-synthetic, synthetic – and even the performance of different grades.
While an attentive supplier rep can be of great assistance for this, do not allow competing reps to steal shelf space from each other with successive detailing visits. Display the amount, type, and brands that work for your business.
Used filters for effect
Like the lungs of a smoker, used air filters and cabin air filters are awful-looking. But, as many marketers have learned, this can be used as an advantage. By displaying the cross-section of a used cabin air filter, you’ll be driving home for the consumer the importance of regular filter maintenance. nJN
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