“143” alt=”” align=”right” /> Look for signs that the units might be leaking oil, such as the accumulation of road grime or the presence of oil inside the boots and dust shields. Also 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. While the test is not conclusive on its own, it’s 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 TEST DRIVE
When going for a test drive, 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 test drive, make sure there is enough gas in the tank, and be sure to have a clear list of symptoms and related conditions the customer might be experiencing.
A good test driver 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 test driver 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 be able to spot small problems. For suspension road tests, your test loop should consist of a variety 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 your testing, during which time you will try to detect brake pull, torque steer, and worn or loose suspension or steering components. Check for excessive nose-diving during braking, which is not normal and may be caused by worn springs or another worn 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 the tires during turns. This can be caused by incorrect alignment settings or a turning angle that’s out of specifications.
Developing a methodical and consistent test-drive loop and procedure can improve your chances of coming back from a test drive 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 printed forms, which 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, documented on paper, 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” listed on an estimate. This means that he/she 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 increase customer education and move them to action.
Salesperson: “On the test drive, 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’s 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. They can also prevent future uneven wearing of your tires.”
In this simple salesperson/customer dialogue, the information gained in the test drive 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 he can relate to regarding why the service should be performed.
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’ll 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 hold 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 more effectively sell ride control products.
6. RECOMMEND NEW RIDE CONTROL WHEN SELLING TIRES
By the time a vehicle is ready for its second or third set of tires, it’s time for new ride control components. This is based on mileage and the premature wear that degraded ride control can cause on the new tires. Also consider, 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. THOU SHALL CHECK RIDE HEIGHT
Ride height is a critical diagnostic measurement that can determine right”he health of the ride control components, springs and attached hardware. Measuring ride height is more than stepping back and visually measuring with your thumb and one closed eye.
To properly measure the ride height, the factory methods and specs must be researched. Neglecting this step can affect the life of the shocks and struts, and all alignment angles. 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, and will eventually break from metal fatigue, just like a coat hanger that’s bent in the same area several times.
8. IT’S BETTER TO “DOWN SELL” THAN TO “UP SELL”
When selling ride control components, an effective sales tactic is to start with premium products first rather than with the economy or less- expensive option. It can give you a little room to provide your customers with options that meet their budget and vehicle life expectancy.
Chances are your customers want the best. Starting the estimate with the least expensive alternative can lower your profit. Quoting the lowest price might get some customers in the door, but it may leave some customers wanting more.
9. THOU SHALL NOT TAKE REJECTION PERSONALLY
It’s been estimated by one shop that 50% of its ride control sales occur on the second visit. This means that a large percentage of its first-time sales pitches for ride control are followed by, “Sorry, no thank you.”
Hearing “no” for anything builds up a subliminal roadblock that makes the service writer 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 the service writer begins to second-guess the customer and base his sales tactics on assumptions.
Don’t give up. When you spend the time to explain what was found during the inspection and test drive, you have planted a seed that will grow into a sale. The cultivation of this seed might take place on the way home from the shop when the customer notices excessive dive and roll.
10. THOU SHALL SET A SALES GOAL
Using the nine commandments above, set a goal to sell 35% more ride control products in one month. You’ll be amazed at the results.