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Top Tips for Improving Your Closing Ratio

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The answer to improving a service department’s closing ratios, according to Jeff Cowan, can be found through elementary math.

“What people have to understand about selling is, it doesn’t make any difference if they fail; it’s a numbers game,” explains Cowan, the president of Pro Talk Inc., a sales training and consulting firm that aids dealerships’ service departments.

Cowan stresses to service advisors the importance of rehearsing countless closing pitches in an effort to build confidence. His strength-in-numbers strategy has been developed over decades.

When Cowan started selling―at a furniture store back in 1980―he initially struggled because he simply recited products’ features and benefits endlessly, and often neglected to ask for customers’ money. Eventually, after a manager threatened to fire Cowan due to a lack of sales, he found the courage to close deals on $4,500 bedroom sets.

“I learned right then and there,” Cowan says, that “‘closers are … not afraid to ask for the money.”

These days, the closing ratio―or, the percentage of items sold to a customer on any given visit―in service drives across America is the lowest it has ever been, Cowan notes. When Cowan tours facilities throughout the industry in 2017, he notices few advisors with closing ratios around 95 percent, and sees many struggling to reach what he considers the bare minimum of 70 percent. And, he contends that downward trend is largely the fault of service advisors and managers, because they simply don’t focus on closing ratios enough.

Cowan has several ideas for how to fix the industry’s issue with regard to closing ratios, though, and shared tips during a recent interview with Fixed Ops Business.


Learn Several Closes.

There are many keys to bear in mind when trying to improve closing ratios, such as keeping close tabs on your facility’s hours per repair order, and effective labor rate, Cowan says (because those KPIs indicate how effective your staff is at closing big jobs). But here’s a bigger issue to bear in mind: Many service advisors have just two or three closing pitches in their arsenal. Cowan feels an advisor needs to memorize at least 20 closes before they ever step in front of a customer.

“Then, once they have those mastered, they [would ideally] add another close every few days, until they’ve got up to 100 different ways to ask for the close,” he says. “Why so many closes? Because … different closes work in different situations, different closes work for different products.”


Study, and Observe.

Becoming a peerless closer requires multiple steps, often including reading books, attending industry training sessions, and receiving the tutelage of veteran co-workers.

And, Cowan feels it’s especially imperative to pay close attention to your customers. Because customers’ buying habits change over time, for example, a close that works today won’t necessarily work in 2027. And, a closing style that works on one customer might not be well received by another customer, who has a different personality.

“It’s a constant, evolving situation,” Cowan says of closing.


Embrace Role Play.

A tried-and-true way to get a service department’s advisors to become masterful closers is to have them practice with coworkers, or even family members or friends. It’s all about refining a closing sales pitch, Cowan says, to eliminate any intimidation or hesitation an advisor might have.

Remember: Selling is a numbers game, and success won’t come without practice. Cowan says it’s similar to how a world-class athlete like quarterback Tom Brady masters their craft.

“Tom Brady, that guy has played in seven Super Bowls, has four Super Bowl rings,” Cowan notes, “but he’s still training. Why? Because he wants another [championship] ring, and he knows that, in order to get another ring, he can leave nothing up to chance. He can’t walk out on the field and execute a play for the first time in a game, because he’s not likely to be successful.”


Closing with a Flourish 

Wondering what an effective sales close might sound like? Jeff Cowan, president of consulting firm Pro Talk Inc.―who has written numerous articles on training service advisors―provides the answers.

My favorite close is called an assumptive close, and it basically goes like this: “So, Mr. Customer, now that we’ve discussed what you need, and why you need it, you see the benefits of it, I’ll just go ahead and add it to the repair order. So, if I can just go ahead and get your approval here, you’re good to go.” And so I start talking about something else, and if they don’t stop me, they’ve bought, you know? The assumptive close should get you a 70 percent closing ratio right out of the gate, if you’re just saying what the customer truly needs.

Another close that’s really simple is the alternate choice. That’s when you present multiple options. You know, “Mr. Customer, now that you’ve seen the gold package, and the platinum package, which one do you think you’ll be going with today―the gold or the platinum?” And then, either way they answer, you just got a sale.

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