How to Sell Synthetic Motor Oils
part two

by Ed Newman
Marketing & Advertising Manager, AMSOIL INC.

In Minnesota, it's Jesse! By the time you read this, there will be a waterbed in the Governor's Mansion.

Undoubtedly a lot of people were stunned by the surge of voter interest in this unlikely candidate for Minnesota's highest office. The experts said he couldn't win. But as the campaign wore on, it was Ventura who kept gaining ground. On election day, the response of the voters was markedly different from what the experts expected.

Believe it or not, selling synthetic motor oil is the same thing. There are a lot of people who think you just can't sell oil for four or five dollars a quart, or that you can't sell an oil change for fifty dollars. But no sooner do you say this and you find people who sell oil for eight dollars a quart and oil changes for a hundred dollars.

In our last column we began talking about how to sell synthetics. The fundamental point I underscored was that in order to sell synthetics, you have to believe in them yourself. Let me tell you up front, just like this Minnesota election, you may find the response of customers to be very
different from what you expect.

To answer the question, "How do we sell synthetics?" I spoke with Harrold Andresen, a mechanic in Texas who is so totally sold on synthetic lubricants that one hundred percent of his regular customers have synthetic motor oil in their vehicles. (AMSOIL, to be specific.)

An honors graduate from Dunwoody Industrial Institute in Minneapolis, Andresen has attended numerous factory training schools, including Porsche, Audi, Oldsmobile, Volvo, Subaru, Mazerati and Detroit Diesel. With 26 years experience running his own business, he presently owns and operates a 15 stall service facility called Mechanical Excellence on the outskirts of Dallas.

"Why does Mechanical Excellence have a one hundred percent acceptance of synthetics for its 850 customers? The number one reason was not convenience, and still isn't," said Andresen. "That's number two."

Here's a twist. "The number one concern we have about our customers' engines is (that) when we identify a significant amount of sludge, that black gooey stuff, if there is sludge of any amount," said Andresen, "we believe that engine is in a high danger condition. In 26 years of fixing cars, the number one cause of overhaul is stuck, carboned and sludged piston rings."

It soon became apparent to Andresen that he needed to find a solution to the problem of dirty engines. "We know a clean engine will last longer than a dirty engine. You get better mileage, it runs cooler, requires less maintenance," he affirmed.

The issue of convenience by extending motor oil drain intervals was very much a concern of his customers, but he found that it frequently wasn't believed initially. People were concerned about protecting their engines, and they did not want to compromise engine protection by extending the time between drain intervals -- unless they could be satisfied that their engines were not being damaged by the practice. "When people came back for their second oil change and their engines were cleaner with synthetics, we had clear evidence that a layman can understand."

Andresen considers synthetic motor oils a solution to a serious problem, and he takes the time to educate his customers about this problem and its solution. "In my experience the easiest way is with the visual aid of their dirty engine compared to one of our own rental cars which all have
over 200,000 miles with synthetics in them.

When they see the difference, they begin to realize that they have a problem that requires requires immediate attention. A high level of sludge or crud could cause major damage to the bearings. There are only two ways to address the sludge problem. One, overhaul your engine. Two, clean it out
somehow, if possible."

"After 14 years of working with synthetic motor oils, we have our own database -- names, addresses and phone numbers -- of vehicle owners who once owned very dirty, sludged up engines that are now spotlessly, immaculately, like new clean because of the unique chemical properties of

"The direct, immediate payoff that they have all noticed is mileage improvement."

"So I have two reasons people are convinced that synthetic oil is not expensive at all. The benefits of avoiding a premature engine overhaul and improving your mileage.

"That represents maybe 80% of the vehicles we see and motorists we serve. The other 20% of the vehicles we service do not have dirty engines. So we ask the car owner if they are aware that they can use synthetic oil instead of petroleum oil, go five times further between oil changes and only spend three times more to do it. In all those years nobody has seen any reason to put petroleum oil back in."

When you talk to Harrold Andersen, it isn't long before you realize he considers it important to take time to educate the consumer. "I show customers the potential expense of running a sludged engine and the tremendous convenience of being able to change your oil only two times a year instead of six. In the end they also enjoy the fringe benefits of better mileage, easier cold weather starting, and longer engine life from better lubrication."

Sometimes it is not possible to find time to teach customers about their oil. "If I don't have time because they're lined up the door, I give them what they want. But I'm still going to give them a chance to learn about the advantages of synthetic motor oil on their own, with no pressure, by giving them a well written brochure. I remind them that next time I'll gladly answer any questions they have and talk more about it."

"When there's a backlog of people waiting, this is a more common scenario. I give them a brochure and say, 'Here's a pen. Circle anything on the brochure that you have questions about.' When they get to the service desk, they already have their questions."

Is it getting easier to sell synthetics? Andresen says yes. "Ten years ago we had to explain what it was because people had never heard of it. Now their response is, 'Oh, I've heard of that. I have always wondered if there are really any good reasons I should be using that in my car, or is it just advertising hype?'"

The key idea here is that synthetic motor oil is easier to sell when the benefits can be experienced or demonstrated. The convenience of extended drain intervals is something that can be experienced and understood by busy motorists. Low temperature fluidity is demonstrable in Northern Minnesota. At Mechanical Excellence in Texas they have customers take a peek inside the oil cap.

Because of increasing consumer acceptance, synthetic lubricant sales have grown faster than any other segment of the oil industry. This is a trend that will continue. For this reason I strongly encourage you to get informed and find ways to profitably participate in that growth.

Till next time.

This article originally appeared in National Oil and Lube News, January 1999

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