Today’s motor oil category offers your customers a wide array of choices, from conventional product lines to semi-synthetic, high-mileage, and premium full synthetic oils. By taking advantage of the toolbox of choices that sits on your shelf, you can satisfy every customer’s preference and build premium oil sales. Given the advancing age of today’s car park (the average vehicle age is now 10.4 years), jobbers can make a major difference when it comes to motor oil sales by focusing on performance and high-mileage product offerings. But to do so requires solid product knowledge and a stable of sales tactics to guide your client in the right direction. Be aware of the fact that you can never tell what a customer’s oil preference will be based on what he drives. You may see someone with a high-priced Lincoln or Lexus, but he just wants to use the lowest-cost product available that meets the OE’s specs. Is he looking for low price or is he looking for high performance? Every consumer has a different value equation that determines how much they want to pay and how much they want to get out of the oil. “It’s very important for the counter staff to actually speak to customers and interact with them and learn what they are looking for and understand the driving conditions they are in,” explains Thom Smith, vice-president of branded lubricant technology at Valvoline. “Do they do a lot of towing or a lot of hard service with their vehicle? If so, you may want to move them up from a premium conventional to something like Valvoline’s Max Life or Synpower.” By interacting with your customers you can learn their needs and make recommendations. With this approach you can satisfy their needs and have the ability to upsell them to a higher-performing oil. If you never ask that question, you will never know if that premium product is something the consumer is looking for. “Ask about driving conditions and explain some of the benefits of going to the higher performance oils so the customer can make an informed decision,” advises Smith. Discussing oil drain intervals is another opportunity to upsell the customer. “There are a lot of published drain intervals out there, and many OEMs recommend 10,000- to 15,000-kilometre intervals, but if you read the fine print it says ‘under normal driving conditions.’ And for severe driving conditions, to change the oil more frequently,” explains Smith. Severe driving conditions include if you do any towing, operate the vehicle in dusty conditions, if you do a lot of stop-and-go driving, or if you do a lot of high-temperature or low-temperature operations. There really is only a small minority of drivers whose operations would be considered doing normal driving – that’s basically just driving on the highway. “So the interval for oil changes could be more frequent than it is for most. In a lot of cases, people take it too long. These vehicles have oil change indicators, but those are suggestions. You need to be careful because they don’t really analyze the oil, and if you’re not careful, and if you have oil consumption, it’s not taking that into consideration. The oil change recommendation built in to most vehicles works generally from an algorithm to predict the next oil change,” adds Smith. Remind your customers how important it is to check the oil level. With self-service pretty much the only thing going these days, people rarely take the time to check their oil, and running a litre low can put a lot of strain on the oil which, in turn, accelerates the oil’s breakdown, further shortening the drain interval. “It is particularly important [to check levels] with the longer oil intervals that OEMs are suggesting now,” says Smith. “The oil filter is just as important as the oil,” he continues, “and like the oil, different materials are used for the filter. Therefore it’s essential that these changeable parts work together. Filters, like oil, are manufactured to follow OEM specifications; oil technology uses specific additives for use with special filters. If the incorrect filter is used with the engine oil, the engine will still be at risk. The more innovative and advanced the oil technology becomes, the more the filters are going to evolve too,” explains Tony Ramos, marketing manager, Automobile Solutions Americas, Inc., makers of Veedol. It’s also very important to follow OEM recommendations on viscosity grade. “Today’s engines are designed for specific viscosity grades, and using the wrong viscosity grade can cause problems. If you go too light, then you can risk creating wear in the engine. If you go too heavy, you can affect the fuel efficiency of the vehicle and end up having to spend more on fuel. Too heavy an oil can also put more stress on the oil, because the engine is designed for a light oil. It has smaller orifices and tighter clearances so the engine does a lot more work pushing the heavy oil through these clearances, causing the oil to heat up more, and it can actually break down faster than a lighter oil. So it’s very important to use the correct viscosity grade,” explains Smith. By fully utilizing your extensive product knowledge and the vast array of choices that sit on your shelves, you can satisfy every customer’s preference and build premium oil sales.