How many vehicles do you sell out of your service lane every month? What if you could double that amount?

These days you need all the sales opportunities you can get. Next to digital leads and inbound calls, the service department provides the most sales opportunities. For every opportunity that comes in on the sales side, you may have three, five or even nine opportunities in the service department.

This is the low-hanging fruit. All it takes is the right in-store process, commitment and technology to create a vehicle exchange or trade-up program. With this type of program, we have seen dealers boost their overall new and used vehicle sales by 10 percent or greater within the first six months.

Here are the steps involved in creating a vehicle exchange program:

Launching a Vehicle Exchange Program

Hire or assign someone in your store to be a vehicle exchange specialist. Every single day this person reviews all the day’s service appointments, ROs, vehicle details and the customers’ equity positions. The goal is to identify and target the best candidates to approach.

Not only should the customers be in an equity position, but they should also have vehicles that fit the profile you’re looking for. If you’re a Mercedes dealer, you don’t want to approach the owner of a 2008 Jeep with 140,000 miles. Your service advisors should also be aware of your used car stock plan and the top 10 makes/models you’re looking for.

Identify the best appointments in terms of equity position and vehicle type and do most of the preparation for the purchase offers before the customer arrives.

Dedicated Sales Personnel in the Service Lane

A vehicle exchange program requires dedicated sales personnel, so reward your best salespeople with permission to work in the service lane. That’s the kind of attitude you need to have about these opportunities—because they really are the best opportunities. I know of a few dealers that moved their used car buyer’s office to the service department.

When a vehicle arrives, this dedicated salesperson does an appraisal of the vehicle and completes the final details of the purchase offer. Then, they print out the purchase offer and either approach the owner of the vehicle if they’re waiting or place the purchase offer on the seat of the vehicle. This is a great, no-pressure method for starting a conversation.

The Purchase Offer

The goal of the purchase offer is to create awareness and some pain in the customer’s mind. The best purchase offers compare the cost of ownership for their current vehicle to the cost of ownership for a new vehicle. If you can finagle it so that it clearly shows the cost is less to be in a newer car, the sale almost becomes a no-brainer.

Follow up is critical. You may get a lot of customers whose knee-jerk reaction is to say “no,” when first presented with the opportunity. But when they go home and look at their worksheet, they may start to think about it. A new car. Cheaper to own.

Follow up is critical. Create a process that includes email and phone scripts.

Goals and Expectations

A successful vehicle exchange program requires goals and expectations. As a general manager, you need to be clear and concise as to how many purchase offers and sales you expect to make off the program every day, every month and every year.

  • If you’re a 40 RO per day store, start with ten offers and two sales per day.
  • If you’re a 200 RO per day store, 50 offers and five sales per day is completely achievable (I have seen it firsthand).

Make the goal realistic and attainable, but don’t sell yourself short, either. Remember that your service lane is one of your best lead generators.

Demand to see copies of every purchase offer with comparison worksheets, notes and outcomes on a daily basis. Review these deals in your daily save-a-deal or make-a-deal meetings. Keep your team accountable.

Feed the Monster

Once you have a successful vehicle exchange program up and running, you want to promote and market it. The more people that come into your service lane, the more sales opportunities you will create.

We recommend multi-channel marketing programs with a focus on the following types of service campaigns:

  1. Defector prevention
  2. Custom service/repairs
  3. CSI surveys

Include information about your vehicle exchange program in all marketing communications, and send them to targeted lists, including all customers in an equity position.

John Wooden once said, “Failure isn’t fatal, but failure to change might be.” I would argue that in today’s business climate, failure to change is absolutely fatal.

A vehicle exchange program requires some process change and a different mindset, but the good news is you will see results quickly and they’re easy to track. Within six months, expect an overall boost of 10 percent in new and used vehicle sales, if not significantly more.