Master the Upsell

Of the numerous tasks that your service advisors have to do throughout the day, what would you consider to be the most important?

Greeting clients? Doing walkarounds? Confirming client information? And on and on. All are important. And that’s not including all of the administrative aspects of the job, from making sure that the billing of the repair order is correct to adding all of the labor operations for warranty submission.

If there is anything that makes your store and makes you money, it’s the upsells.

A deep MPI done by a qualified technician and then sold to the client is what your service department should be doing all day long.

There lies the problem.

Rex Weaver
Director of After Sales at Mercedes
Benz Porsche Lehigh Valley


If I were to tell you that the average upsell sits in an advisor’s inbox for 20 minutes, would that surprise you? It shouldn’t, because that is the average.

That number is easy enough to see if you’re using an electronic MPI (and by now, you should be) in the status reports.

Let’s run through a typical day in the life of your business.

Your early advisors start by writing up night drops. For most businesses that can run from 15 to 30 percent of your daily business. To make my math round, we’ll say that you have 100 ROs per day, so 15 to 30 were dropped off. When your technicians arrive, they start working on drop-offs or they may start working on the wave of waiters that starts to come into your store. And as much as we try to control the flow of waits, it’s becoming a bigger part of our business.

From opening through probably the next two hours of your day, every early wait or drop-off who needs a loaner or who didn’t drop off at night is in the reception area to be waited on.

Now the recommendations start coming in to your advisors.

If your technicians are doing what they should be, they’re pushing recommendations to your advisors within 15 or 20 minutes of “punching on” the job.

The storm begins. Clients are dropping off cars, clients are getting loaners or shuttles, and now your technicians are loading your advisors with upsell recommendations from the night drops that started when they arrived or when the first wave of waiters came into the shop.

We can see that 20 minutes as an average in the “attention service advisor” status of your MPI is probably an understatement.

When we move to the level of the outbound upsell call, that’s a whole other story. When technicians or managers are now on the advisors’ statuses and pushing to make the outbound calls, what do you think the quality of the call is going to be?

You guessed it: Not great. The call is going to be rushed because the time that should be spent just doesn’t exist. And depending on the setup of your write-up area, the call isn’t private and having the advisor actually try to sell the work won’t ever happen. Because after the manager or technician pushing the advisor to make the call, the only thing the advisor is trying to do is get the RO from the inbox into the outbox.

You see it every day that the first rush of vehicles through your shop is just coming in and out. Night drop upsell calls in the morning rush are weak, and then the engagement between your advisors and the clients who are waiting is also weak and rushed.

In the meantime, your advisors are also working on paperwork and billing and documenting labor operations for warranty and probably being questioned by warranty administrators about the mistakes from the day before.

This is day after day.


Most stores have taken a couple of tasks off the plate of their advisors. Examples are using BDCs to take appointment calls or having bookers pay technicians and close and bill ROs. We do this with the hopes that advisors can focus on what rings the register, but we’re still lacking in the professional outbound sales call.

When you’re hiring advisors, what are the skill sets you’re looking for? Are you looking for a salesperson? Probably not. You’re probably looking for someone who knows your DMS. Maybe ex-technicians, because they “know the vehicle,” or maybe just someone who can fill a seat. And then when you’re talking about a job that could be the most important job in your dealership in an advisor, since they speak to more people than anyone else in your store, maybe you should start supporting their most important task: upselling quality recommendations to your clients.

Now the solution. The Status Update BDC.

A team of professionals where the only job they have is one of the most important jobs in your department. They monitor your MPI route sheet and, as technicians, switch to the “attention service advisor status” for upsells.

When you have trained and motivated professionals making these calls, you can expect the closing ratios to skyrocket.

As a thought exercise, let’s say they don’t. Let’s say the only thing that happens is you cut the wait time for a technician to either start working on the vehicle or pulling it out because the upsells were declined.

Let’s go back to simple math.

Say we take the wait time for a technician waiting for an upsell from 20 minutes (remember, that’s the national average) to five minutes, because you have a team of trained professionals just waiting for the calls because that’s all they do. What would that translate into for your store?

Remember our example was 100 ROs per day. And to add some other factors into the equation, let’s look at effective labor rates and average hours per RO.

If 100 ROs save 15 minutes per RO, that’s 1,500 minutes, or 25 hours saved. If you have an effective labor rate of $120 per hour, that would come to $3,000 saved per day. If you then take that to 25 working days, that equals $75,000 a month. And of course that’s $900,000 saved a year. And that happens by not increasing your closing ratio at all – and it will.

Why would it? Because you have salespeople making sales calls. You have people who are constantly training to be better at their craft, day after day, and their only craft is closing sales.

Now let’s look at a possible objection.


Worried that having someone other than the greeting or tenured advisor making the calls won’t be effective? After all, the advisor is the one who built the relationship with the client, so how is a stranger going to make an effective sales call? After monitoring as many inbound status updates calls as I have, from as many stores as I have, half of the clients don’t even know or care who their advisor even is. 

And when you’re going through advisors and training new ones, do you even want them making the calls?

I will make a comparison to something that happened in the car business many years ago that proves the point. When we used to sells cars, we held gross at the front end, and back-end products were something that was a slight add and usually done by the sales manager, if at all. Salespeople did their own paperwork and that was that. Once the battle for gross at the front end began, because of access to pricing through online pricing, front-end gross became a little tougher.

We then introduced the finance and insurance manager. F&I has become the rock star position at your dealership, and the creation of products for their pros to sell are coming up more and more every day. As a matter of fact, your F&I department could be the most profitable department in your entire store.

What happens to the customer’s relationship with your dealership then? What happens when a salesperson spends hours with a client, building a relationship, just to have it damaged by having a complete stranger now try to sell rates and products to someone they never met, much less spoke with before?

You’re right, nothing happened. Oh, I stand corrected. Something great happened. You saved the front end of your business by doing something different.


Now is the time to, if not save, grow the back end of your business. Now is the time to take the department that we’ve all taken for granted to the next level.

If we had time to monitor each call and spend time each day training our advisors to turn into the super rock stars that we need them to be, we’d have already done it.

What about the rock star advisor you do have? Great. Let them keep doing what they’re doing. But you know that your drive isn’t filled with them.

What are some of the other advantages? It can absolutely change your advisor hiring practices. As a matter of fact, like at the front end when you had sales product specialists and then turned the customer over to the actual closer, you can do the same thing at the fixed end. You can have a person whose skill set is the meet and greet and gathering information, and the actual “closing” is done by the professional who has the time to create a professional and effective sales call every time for every client.

Not only does your business deserve it – your clients deserve it.

The Status Update BDC will be the way business is done in the future. It’s a matter of whether you want to do it now or catch up to everyone else later. But it will be the way it’s done because we have no choice.

Rex Weaver

Director of Service Innovation at Lehigh Valley Acura
Rex Weaver

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