Focus on Your Customer - November 2002

At Least Ask!
If You Don't, Customers Can't Say Yes!

By Joseph Rosales

Much has been written about increasing car wash or auto service sales. Certainly there are many techniques that lead to better and more accurate identification of services and more effective presentation to the customer. And while one certainly needs to become proficient at these methods and techniques, there is a most basic and fundamental point of any technique that will lead to increased sales and improved service for customers - the need to ask the customer to buy!

Recently, I stopped with my son to get my car washed. The facility was not overly busy - there were only three cars in line ahead of me. As I pulled my car up to the staging area and got out, the attendant greeted me and asked which wash I wanted. After I specified the wash package, he asked if I wanted Armor All. I declined and that was it. No sale, but at least he asked! I have been to this same car wash many times and usually they do not ask. Let's stop here for a moment and examine how this attendant could have been more successful with his presentation.

The attendant was nice enough, but did not do a good job of qualifying the offer or pointing out that my car may need such a product. Had he simply looked at my tires and commented that they looked a little dull, he could have suggested a tire dressing treatment for just $1.50 more to get them nice and shiny. Most customers don't notice those little shortcomings on their cars before they are attended to, but they really notice how nice it looks afterwards, making it more likely that they would purchase that service again in the future. Heck, they may even ask you to do it next time without you having to ask!

Allow me to illustrate this concept using a scenario we have all encountered as a customer. Imagine you are at a nice restaurant and after finishing your meal the server asks you this question: "You want desert?" With that sort of inquiry, most people would be inclined to say no. Sure the server at least asked, but how could he have asked with a little more technique and planning? How could he have made it a little more appealing and easier for the customer to say yes?

One sure fire way to improve dessert sales in a restaurant is to suggest to the customer during their meal that they may want to save room for dessert since there are some really delicious items on the menu that night. Then, when the appropriate time comes to offer dessert, the customer may be presented with the dessert options in an appealing way. Whether the waiter uses a dessert tray or simply explains the options on the menu, customers will be more apt to purchase because they were previously prepared for this option and the selections were presented in a more appealing way.

In the car wash or automotive service business, customers will respond better to a presentation that is customized to their particular needs and presented in a way that makes it easy for them to say yes. Sure, occasionally customers will order the package with the extra tire dressing, but when they don't automatically order something extra, you need to look closely at what would be a good way to suggest the service to them.

Sounds good, but you don't think your employees will do it? You've tried to get them to do it before and you just can't seem to make it happen? Let's look very briefly at some of the obstacles you may need to focus on before you can get the results you are targeting.

Why don't your employees ask?
Well, there are many reasons employees don't ask customers if they would like to purchase an additional item. These reasons may include: they don't believe in the service, they don't understand the value to the customer, they think the customer may be offended if they offer it, they think the customer can't afford it, they think the customer may say no, they think the service is priced too high, they forget to ask, or they simply don't want to make the effort. Any one of these reasons will have the same result - reduced sales and customers that don't get the opportunity to purchase products or services that would benefit them.

Why do customers resist?
Customers decline to purchase an additional item for many reasons. Some of the basics include: they think they don't need the service or product, they don't have the time, they don't have the money, they don't like the service they are receiving, they don't like the person serving them, etc.

How can you make the purchase easier?
Making it easier for your employees to properly present the additional products and services is the first step. Effective systems and training top the list of actions that will make the job of suggesting additional items to your customer easier and more productive for your employees. Proper compensation and supportive motivation comes in near the top of the list.

Obviously, the challenge of increasing the effectiveness and consistency of your employees with regard to sales presentation opportunities is not going to be completely met within the confines of this article. However, I hope I have shared some ideas with you and inspired you to look closely at how you can have a positive impact on this important aspect of your business.

Proper presentation is not a guarantee that your customers will purchase additional items, but the proper presentation will certainly improve the odds. If at the very least you offer the product or service, you will be doing the right thing for your customers and your business.

Joseph Rosales is the founder and president of Performance Resources Inc., a full service consulting and training company. If you would like more information about PRI or about how to teach your employees better presentation skills, call (800) 268-9899 or visit

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