How to Overcome Customer Objections

June 28, 2024

In a downturn economy — and I’m not an economist, but I am finely tuned to the automotive aftermarket — certain sales become more difficult as customers’ disposable income gets tighter and tighter.

Most of you have probably heard a version of “no” or “not right now’ from customers and that is perfectly OK. In our world, you work with the customer to achieve the best possible outcome, while dealing with the reality of what they can afford.

What’s not acceptable is to not inform the customer of their vehicles’ condition because you think they will say "no."

The process is simple: at write-up, ask the customer if they want a paid, comprehensive vehicle inspection.

If they say no, inform them of a basic courtesy inspection of fluids, filters, bulbs, wipers and tire tread depth.

If the customer declines that, respect the decision, but understand that any unsafe, plainly visible condition must be brought to their attention.

Also understand that presenting them with a cost estimate is the wrong way to go.

Remember, they clearly told you they don’t want to hear about it. But you are obligated by law — in most states — to convey the message.

Having said all that, good salespeople must get comfortable with hearing the word “no.” That means respecting the customer’s decisions, while still trying to offer a professional opinion of his or her car.

Certain jobs will be harder to get to a “yes.” Alignments, fuel system services and other non-essential jobs or jobs that can be delayed will yield a higher “no” ratio.

Understand that the more you talk to the customer about what they want out of their service today will help a service advisor understand what’s important to the customer and what they are willing and able to do to keep their car running longer.

Some customers are unfazed by a downturn in the economy. Some are hard-hit. Talk to them.

You don’t have to ask outright, “How much money do you have to spend today?” That’s obnoxious. But get to know their needs and wants and then craft a message that respects that.

Sometimes they will surprise you and give you the green light just because you weren’t trying to push a service onto them.

Also keep in mind that the three things every customer has a hard time declining work on are the three things they expect their vehicle to do for them: start, stop and be comfortable.

Vehicle starting is easy. A functioning electrical system is a requirement for customers to get to work or to take their kids to soccer practice.

The battery, the alternator or the starter are straightforward sales.

Yes, it can get complicated with fuel injection and computers, but keep the discussion simple for now. It’s hard for a customer to decline a replacement if one of these items isn’t working.

Brakes are another simple sale. Most customers understand that when they push down on the brake pedal, they need a reliable reaction to occur.

If that reaction doesn’t occur or if there’s terrible noise associated with that reaction, then they will be at your doorstep.

Yes, a brake flush with that pad and rotor replacement will be a harder sell.

But a simple “Replacing the pads and rotors will return your brake system to their proper working condition” is a reassuring statement that most customers can relate to.

This also applies to other jobs, like front end work, that can make stopping more difficult or scary.

Being comfortable is the most complicated aspect of the three things customers want out of their vehicles. It’s not overly complicated, just the most out of the three.

Being comfortable can sometimes mean a working air conditioning system in the summer or a working heater in the cold.

It can also mean minimizing vibrations at high speeds, wipers that clear efficiently and even the ability to see at night.

It’s a broad brush, but again, a simple statement of “replacing that headlight will make it easier to see at night” or “rebalancing the tires will take away that shimmy” will more times than not elicit a positive response.

In today’s economy, regardless of whether you think we are in a recession or heading into one, don’t forget to read your customer’s position and align yourself with their concerns.

Then you can present to them relevant options to fix those concerns and wrap it around what they told you at the initial write-up.

Remember, if they have hesitation about any kind of vehicle inspection, first present the issue, not the solution.

If they are open to learning about the solution, then present that to them.

About the Author

Dennis McCarron

Dennis McCarron is a partner at Cardinal Brokers Inc., one of the leading brokers in the tire and automotive industry ( To contact McCarron, email him at [email protected].