Selling fleets on service programs

Lucas Deal

January 3, 2013

Selling parts is great, but adding service and maintenance can boost your bottom line.

By Lucas Deal, Associate Editor

As we enter 2013, dealers nationwide are looking for ways to strengthen their business for the upcoming year. One way to do that is to maximize fleet business in your service department.

A service department operating at peak efficiency increases your part sales and billable hours. But bringing more of your fleet customers to your facility isn’t easy. You can’t just open a bay door and expect them to arrive. You have to go out and look for them, and look for business to add, says Richard Owen of KEA Advisors.

“If you want to sell more, you have to be active,” Owen says. “With service, some dealers only talk to the person bringing the truck in. That’s just the tip of the iceberg. You have to do more.”

Owen says the first step in adding service for a fleet is researching your customer base and finding customers that could benefit from your service facility. This can include current parts and service customers, and fleets that have their own maintenance programs.

He says you should prioritize your customer list to see who comes to you for the most service work already and/or who could benefit the most from the service you provide. Once you have that information, Owen says you should send your sales force out to fleets to inquire about their interest in using your facility.

Just because a fleet doesn’t come to you for all of its service business doesn’t mean you can’t sell to them. On the contrary, Owen says. Sometimes a fleet is just looking for the right deal.

“You have to show them how you can help [them],” he says. “If they have an account and/or are willing to open one, that means they are willing to give you a chance to add business.”

Once you’ve described your business and the advantages you provide, have your salesman speak with the fleet about their in-house maintenance and service costs, and look for areas where your facility can provide a better price.

“You can find a fleet that is on the fence and turn them into a great service customer,” he says.

And while you won’t always turn a fleet into a full-time service customer, that’s OK. Adding one or two service tasks is still a positive, and if you do it well it can lead to more business down the line.

But in order for that tactic to work, Owen says you need to make sure your salesmen know how to sell your service department. Salesmen interact with fleet customers more than anyone in your business, and their connections in a fleet can range from the president to the drivers. If they are just using those connections to sell new trucks or parts they are missing a vital selling opportunity, Owen says.

“A sales person should be able to represent the whole dealership,” he says, adding that departmentalization of your sales force can cause more harm than good. Focusing on selling trucks, but not the parts and service that go along with them, has very little benefit to a dealer. Especially with growing independent distributor and service provider businesses now operating in the aftermarket, Owen says.

“There are so many players right now in the aftermarket that can offer those products [parts and service] at a comparable price, and they are out selling those things,” he says. “But the dealer can provide the total package. They can do it all.”

And that’s what you want your salesmen to pass on during sales calls.

Another way to add service to your business is to put a parts person in your service area who can organize and fulfill parts requests for repair orders.

Owen says this allows your technicians more time to work on completing repairs, and gives your repair facility an eye into your parts warehouse. The parts person can make sure your technicians are constantly aware of what parts they have on hand, and the service they can provide at any given time.

A parts person also can assist technicians during triage and diagnosis of vehicle problems, advising the technician and customers of other parts that may be worth servicing at that time.

All of this will expand your parts and service sales, which Owen says makes it a growing trend in the aftermarket. “Some dealers have said to me ‘I don’t know why we didn’t do this years ago.’”

Together, all of these things will help improve your service sales.

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