Wholesale auctions, trades on your lot, “we buy cars” operations, and other franchised and independent dealers are great sources for you to acquire inventory. But the best, and usually untapped, source is right in your store. The service drive! Customers who buy used cars want to know about the car’s history—look at the success of companies that sell vehicle history reports for proof. But most customers want more than the report; they want the story. What better story than “This vehicle was sold and serviced at our dealership!”

Working the service drive properly and consistently will yield not only the chance to purchase vehicles outright from customers, but with the right people and process in place, you can turn a maintenance visit into a new or used car deal! The beauty of this plan is that the customer brought the vehicle to you. So not only do you now have the opportunity to get better cars with better stories, but you also don’t have to travel to the local auction (or fly to a distant auction) to get them. Just the savings in time alone should be a motivator in developing and deploying a service drive inventory sourcing program.

If you are one of those dealers who have already discovered this fountain of fantastic inventory supply, this article is not for you. If, however, you have not yet discovered the higher gross, faster turns, and happier customers awaiting you in your own service drive, then read on.

Okay, I already hear the “I tried it; it doesn’t work” folks out there. Before you give up on reading the rest of this article, ask yourself a few questions.

  • Did I have the right salesperson in place?
  • Did I have the right plan in place?
  • Did I have the right process in place?

For everyone else, let’s look at what successful dealers do to acquire vehicles from their own service drive.

First, you need a complete commitment to making the process successful. This will take some discipline from the management teams from the sales department as well as from the service and parts departments. Historically, these departments don’t always mix well—kind of like oil and water. So come up with a spiff plan for the service and parts departments tied to purchase or trade-in goals from the service lane. Start with a kickoff lunch in the showroom for all employees. Announce the spiffs for service and parts employees. Later, host a big thank you/awards lunch in the showroom for the parts and service departments when a purchase or trade goal is met. Have drawings for gift cards or other prizes. Give out plaques or small trophies. Make it fun, and show them they are part of the store’s success.

(On a side note, everyone in your store should be a salesperson. Everyone should want their friends, neighbors, and relatives to buy a vehicle at the company they work for. If your employees don’t want to bring their friends and relatives in to buy a vehicle, you have a problem. It may be you, your store’s vibe, or the employee. You need to find out what it is and fix it. A lot of times your store has an issue that you don’t know about until you ask.)

If you don’t see results right away, or if you get pushback from salespeople or managers, don’t give up! This is a marathon, not a sprint. You have to be in it to win it. I will stop with the clichés, but I just want to make sure you know that, done properly, this approach will work. It will bring more money to the net line, but you need to be patient.

Next, assign sales staff a morning service drive shift, typically the first three hours of the day. You can rotate the sales folks through this shift. This is usually where the first pushback shows up—some of your sales staff will resist taking their turn. Push through it until they sell their first car, and then everyone will want that shift. Another approach is to make this a separate, part-time sales position.

Salespeople working the service drive should greet customers, install floor mats and seat covers, and move cars as necessary. They should let their customers know they are a salesperson at the store and tell them they have a nice car. Then, ask what they like most about it, if they would like to sell it, and if they would like to trade. Keep a list of “core vehicles” and show folks the used car manager is looking to buy cars just like theirs!

Lastly, have a rock-solid follow-up process in place. Use your CRM tool to make sure the effort isn’t wasted, and hold salespeople and managers accountable.

I know this is a very simplified explanation of how to work this process, and you need to work the process consistently for it to pay off, but the process itself is really not hard to set up or carry out every day. The number of vehicles purchased or trades made is based on having someone on the service drive EVERY DAY, thanking customers for coming in and asking those two questions: Would you like to sell? Would you like to trade?

The benefits are higher CSI in the drive, higher gross, and faster turns!

Who doesn’t want that?

A version of this article originally appeared in the November 2016 edition of Dealer magazine and on digitaldealer.com.