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Passing the Service to Sales Baton

Two runners passing off baton
Article Highlights:

  • Converting service to sales for a strategic pre-owned inventory approach.
  • Best practices for an optimal service to sales hand off.

Now more than ever, dealerships are looking for a more strategic way to stock their pre-owned inventory, grow and retain their customer base, and improve customer experiences and CSI. What many dealerships overlook is the service drive. It’s a healthy pool of customers – and vehicles – your sales team can approach, especially now.

Dealerships who convert service customers into repeat purchasers have uncovered a gold mine. Not only do they save time, money, and energy from researching and going to auctions, they also maximize their customer database. In turn, this can yield more money in both service and sales.

Much like a 4×100 meter relay race, the challenge is passing the baton and timing it up perfectly. One small misstep can cost you the ribbon. If a customer comes in for service, you need to give them a reason to transition to sales. This transition needs to be as seamless as possible, without disrupting service income. Here’s what I recommend for an optimal service to sales hand off:

Develop and execute a process. The goal is to convert service customers into sales customers. A good place to start is focusing on buying the vehicle the customer currently owns rather than selling them a new one. Review the upcoming service appointments one day ahead of time, so you know what vehicles are coming in and can coordinate some kind of signage display alerting them of the desired vehicles you’re looking for. I call this planting the seed – attempting to trigger curiosity from the customer driving the vehicle you need in your pre-owned inventory.

It’s also important to have a clear understanding of what an optimal unit is based on the last 90 days or more – it’s not based on personal preference or feelings. These optimal units are year, make, model, and price band vehicles with better than average gross.

Provide complimentary appraisals and proposals. The key here is giving the customer several choices. While the customer is having work performed in service, your sales and F&I team can simultaneously work several potential outcomes. If the customer chooses to upgrade or trade, consider working in finance versus lease, cash down, and term options. If the customer is sold on selling, do your research and determine the best purchase price, one the customer can’t refuse. Offer a customized appraisal voucher that can be presented along with the proposal. A voucher unique to the customer and their vehicle makes their experience more enjoyable and they’re more willing to play ball.

Practice a soft approach. I often like to start with this so the customer feels less intimidated. You don’t want to come right out and ask, “Hey, can I buy your car?” A soft approach is about introducing yourself, asking questions, and getting the customer to feel comfortable around you to ultimately reveal information. Here are some examples:

“Hi, Mark. I’m Tim, the used vehicle manager here at O’Leary Motors. I want to make sure your experience in service today exceeded your expectations. Did your advisor explain everything to your satisfaction? Was your vehicle ready when promised? I also noticed you’re driving a 2016 Chevy Silverado. That’s a nice vehicle, and it’s in excellent condition. It’s been in high demand with our customer base recently, which puts you in a good position to trade or sell. I actually have a customer willing to purchase it.

  • Are you considering selling your current vehicle?
    • Are you considering trading your vehicle for a new or pre-owned vehicle?
    • What kind of vehicle are you interested in next?
  • Does anyone on our sales team follow-up with you to answer questions, help with service, and keep you informed of specials, rebates, coupons, or incentives?
  • Do you know of anyone that may be interested in trading, selling, or just looking to buy a new or pre-owned vehicle?”

Starting with the warmer gets the customer to put their guard down. Phrases like “high demand” and “good position” perks their ears up, getting you closer to the end goal. These example questions will also help you identify their needs and situation.

Bottom line, the service to sales hand off takes a lot of practice, much like your younger days of high school track and passing the baton from runner to runner. There may be fumbles at first, but with practice and consistency, you’ll earn your first ribbon in no time.

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Senior Business Consultant

Tim has over 25 years of experience in automotive retail. He has extensive expertise in e-business, CRM, and retail sales operations. Tim has been a key subject matter expert in developing best practices for multiple consulting offers, including used vehicle management and service to sales projects.

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