By Larry Carley
1. THOU SHALL PERFORM A VISUAL INSPECTION
The first step in selling ride control is the inspection process. A visual inspection of the shocks and struts can tell you a lot about the state of the ride control units. This is a chance to make sure the vehicle is road-worthy before you put your own life at risk. Also, always make sure that there is enough gas in the tank.
Look for the signs that the units might be leaking oil. Accumulations of road grime or oil present inside boots and dust shields are signs. Keep an eye out for “witness marks” that indicate the suspension might have bottomed out recently. Make sure all bushings and hardware for the ride control units are still on the vehicle.
Walk around the vehicle and perform the tried-and-true “knee-on-the-bumper” test. The test is not conclusive on its own. However, it is a chance to look for abnormal behavior. If you notice binding or looseness or if the vehicle does not return to the original ride height, it could be a sign that there is a problem with the ride control components.
2. THOU SHALL TAKE A TESTDRIVE
When going for a testdrive, you should have a clear objective and methodical plan for inspecting the vehicle for ride control component replacement and other unperformed repairs. Before going on a testdrive, you should have a clear list of symptoms and related conditions the customer might be experiencing.
A good testdriver will be able to observe conditions or problems with the vehicle that have developed so slowly the owner is unaware of them like degraded shocks and struts. One of the keys to becoming a good testdriver is to find a driving “loop” or route that has a variety of road conditions. Using a predetermined loop can help to build consistency that will help you to spot small problems.
For suspension road tests, your test loop should consist of sections: a flat and straight section; an area to test braking and acceleration; an area with a dip or bump, and an area that offers both left and right turns.
Use a parking lot or rarely used section of road for this section of the test. This test is used to detect brake pulls, torque steer and worn or loose suspension or steering components. Check for excessive nose-diving during braking. This is not normal and may be caused by worn springs or other ride control component. Excessive suspension bouncing may be the result of weak shocks.
Bottoming out of the suspension may be the result of weak springs. Check for steering difficulties that may be the result of mechanical binding or interference.
Any excessive body sway could indicate worn springs, shocks or stabilizer assemblies. Listen for any excessive squealing of tires during turns. This can be caused by incorrect alignment settings or turning angle out of specifications.
Developing a methodical and consistent testdrive loop and procedure can improve your chances of coming back from a testdrive with a better understanding of the problem the owner is experiencing. Also, having a plan and a loop can eliminate distractions that could lead to an accident.
3. THOU SHALL USE AN INSPECTION FORM
The technician should be supplied with a checklist to make notes. Some ride control manufacturers can provide you with printed forms. These forms can help the salesperson be more confident in the selling process.
A complete inspection lays the groundwork for excellent customer communications and increases the possibility of a sale. The results of the inspection can help personalize the sales pitch to the individual customer.
4. THOU SHALL RECOMMEND, IT WILL STICK!
Even if the customer does not buy today, the inspection form sales approach and pitch will likely stick with the consumer longer than the generic “recommend new shocks and struts.” This means that they might be back and your efforts will not be in vain.
The following is an example of how a note on an inspection form can provide so much more than a simple “recommend new shocks and struts” on the estimate.
Salesperson: “On the testdrive, the technician noticed excessive nose dive during braking and increased body roll while turning. Also, we noticed humming coming from the rear that was caused by uneven wear of the rear tires.”
Customer: “I guess it is not exactly performing the same as it was when new and that humming noise was starting to annoy me.”
Salesperson: “New struts can help to return the vehicle to like it was when it was new. Also, they can prevent future uneven wearing of your tires.”
In this simple interchange of information, the information gained in the testdrive helped to identify and define the value of new ride control components to the customer. Also, the information given to the customer helped to create a tangible need that they can relate to on why the service should be performed. All of this was done without going into techno speak.
5. DO UNTO YOUR OWN CAR WHAT YOU DO UNTO OTHER CARS
To increase your confidence in selling shocks and struts, have new units installed on your own vehicle. You will be amazed at the difference if your vehicle has more than 50,000 miles. Also, you will sell more units because you have a better view of the perceived value.
Some ride control manufacturers are helping you by holding local clinics where you can drive vehicles in different states of ride control degradation. These events are typically held in parking lots on specially designed courses that magnify the certain vehicle dynamics at low speeds. These events can help to energize your staff to sell ride control products more effectively.
6. RECOMMEND NEW RIDE CONTROL WHEN SELLING TIRES
By the time a vehicle is ready for its second or third set of tires, it is time for new ride control components. This is based on mileage and the expense and the premature wear on the new tires that degraded ride control can cause. Also, how can a consumer get the best performance from a new set of tires if the shocks and struts are not up to snuff?
7. THOUGH SHALL CHECK RIDE HEIGHT
Ride height is a critical diagnostic measurement that can determine the health of the ride control, springs and attached hardware. Measuring ride height is more than stepping back and measuring visually with your thumb and one closed eye.
To properly measure the ride height, the factory methods and specs must be researched. Neglect to do this and it can affect the life of the shocks and struts, and all angles of alignment. Among other considerations, engineers design the chassis and ride control components so that the ride height places the suspension at a particular point midway in its travel. Midway is not always center, however.
Most springs are made of metal. Take, for example, a coat hanger or welding rod. If you bend it in the same area several times, it will eventually break from metal fatigue.
8. IT IS BETTER TO “DOWN SELL” THAN “UP SELL”
When selling ride control components, it may be an effective sales tactic to start with premium products first rather than with economy or the less-expensive option. It can give you a little room to help give the customer options that meet their budget and vehicle life expectancy.
Chances are that the customer wants the best. Starting the estimate with the least expensive alternative can lower your profit. Sure, quoting the lowest price might get some customers in the door, but it may leave some customers wanting more.
9. THOUGH SHALL NOT TAKE REJECTION PERSONALLY
It has been estimated by one shop that 50 percent of their ride control sales happen on the second visit. This means is that a large percentage of their first time sales pitches for ride control are followed by, “Sorry, no thank you.”
Hearing “no” for anything builds up a subliminal callus that makes the salesperson hesitant to sell shocks and struts. Soon, the ride control recommendation becomes more of a “feeler” question rather than a real sales proposal. The most destructive behavior is when they second-guess the customer and base their sales tactics on stereotypes and assumptions.
Don’t give up. When you spend the time to explain what was found during the inspection and testdrive, you have planted a seed that will grow into a sale. The growing of this seed might take place on their way home from the shop when they notice excessive dive and roll.
10. THOU SHALL SET A GOAL
Using the nine commandments above, set a goal to sell 35 percent more ride control products in one month. You will be amazed at the results.