Professional Carwashing & Detailing

Up-selling synthetics

October 11, 2010
Competition within the fast lube industry is fierce. Operators must ensure that customer concerns about quality versus pricing are accurately addressed. At no time is this more important than when a fast lube operator is attempting to up-sell the benefits of switching from conventional to full synthetic and synthetic blend lubricants.

The percentage of available premium lubricants has grown significantly in recent years, making it even more important for fast lube operators to understand the importance of selling synthetic lubricants to customers. This is partly because the high performance advantages associated with these oils are finally being recognized for all cars, such as family sedans and older vehicles, not just luxury models. For fast lube operators, this can translate into greater customer acceptance for higher quality lubricants and greater momentum for end sales.

The key to successfully selling full synthetic and synthetic blend motor oils to fast lube customers is tying back the performance advantages of these highly complex fluids to the customer’s short and long-term vehicle maintenance concerns. For example, explaining that synthetic-based motor oils can help achieve maximum fuel economy will help customers understand why they are a sound investment.

Addressing consumer questions
In an effort to help you identify best practices for talking with your customers about synthetic lubricants, we’ve highlighted some of the important consumer-focused questions that should be addressed with prospective customers during every synthetic lubricants up-sell opportunity.

• What are synthetic and synthetic blend motor oils?

This is usually the most basic question a customer will ask. Explain that conventional motor oils have performance limitations. Let them know that since synthetic and synthetic blend motor oils contain the highest quality compounds, they offer the ultimate in protection for engines.

• What are the benefits associated with synthetic and synthetic blend motor oils?

This question sets the stage for you to use buzz words that general customers can identify with immediately. Be certain to mention that synthetic lubricants reduce engine wear and provide outstanding protection in varying temperature conditions.

If he or she has time, go into greater detail about how hot an engine gets while it runs, since new engines can often get hotter than 240 degrees Fahrenheit. Let your customer know that conventional oils do not perform as well under these extreme heat conditions.

A customer may also appreciate hearing that synthetic lubricants reach critical engine parts faster than conventional oil.

You should also discuss how reducing engine wear may help save money on repairs in the long run. This feature is critical when he or she is hesitant to upgrade to a synthetic lubricant because their vehicle is older.

If you are able to draw a correlation between their choice of oil today, and the long-term benefit of having an efficiently running car in the future, selling synthetics becomes that much easier.

In addition, capitalize on the fact that the general consumer probably wants to hear about vehicle maintenance as it applies to weather conditions, especially in regions with harsh winters or hot summers. Tell them that while many conventional oils thicken at modest temperatures, synthetic oils continue to function at extreme temperatures. This allows for more reliable starting in any season and faster lubrication for engine parts.

• What is the difference between full synthetic and synthetic blend motor oils?

If you can tell that a customer is especially concerned with the cost of upgrading to a full synthetic product, talk about the synthetic blend motor oils you can offer instead.

Tell them that unlike full synthetics, which are made with 100 percent synthetic base stocks, blends are made using a mixture of synthetic and mineral base stocks. Synthetic blends are intended to provide many of the performance benefits of synthetic oils but at a lower cost. This point may be an especially effective stepping stone into selling synthetics to owners of older, non-luxury-vehicles.

Creating cohesive messaging about synthetic lubricants is vital for fast lube sales staff. However, operators should also talk to their employees about how to practice active listening because it gives clues about what a particular customer considers to be a key advantage or benefit.

In order to get customers out of the shop in a timely manner, many fast lube employees may forget to concentrate on what their customer is saying. It sometimes helps to repeat or rephrase questions for clarity. You can then respond specifically to what the customer thinks is important.

Finally, utilize outside resources such as customer brochures on synthetic lubricants, or a DVD-based television program in the waiting room, to explain the value of these products. Because the majority of upgrades to higher-quality lubricants will not be made on the first visit, providing easy-to-understand information to customers to review while waiting during a service will assist customers in making purchase decisions on their subsequent visits.

• How will synthetic oils contribute to my car’s fuel economy?

Without overwhelming the customer, it can be very easy to explain that synthetics typically offer better fuel economy thanks to reduced engine friction. Most customers can understand this simple concept.

• Why should I pay more for synthetic motor oil?

Pricing push back is normal, and to be expected. Talk about short versus long term vehicle repair costs. When it comes to repairs, spending a little more on the front end can potentially save a customer a lot of money down the road. In the moment, it can be easy for customers to forget that notion.

As a fast lube operator, you have two types of customers every day: customers who drive luxury cars that require the special attention of synthetic motor oil and those who drive older vehicles and are therefore, the most skeptical of the price differential between synthetic and conventional lubricants. Typically a customer will not decide to switch to a synthetic blend or full synthetic product on their first visit. Often, he or she will have reservations about making a switch to a new or unfamiliar product.

Objections are a natural part of the customer buying process. You can use pricing concerns to revisit the key features and benefits you discussed earlier. In addition, remind the customer how expensive his or her vehicle is, and revisit the point that they can still be very cost effective because they provide better protection under severe driving conditions and offer the potential for extended service intervals in certain applications.


For 25 years, Steve Tarbox has been making significant contributions to the lubrication industry. He has helped establish ConocoPhillips Lubricants brands, Conoco, Phillips 66, 76 Lubricants and Kendall Motor. Tarbox currently serves as director of product management for the ConocoPhillips Lubricants Division.