First of two parts

By J.R. Zirkelbach, New Leaf Service Contracts

Have you ever noticed how very few customers agree to purchase an extended service plan when pitched at the sales counter, as the sale is being written?  How “Oh, by the way, we also offer extended warranties” is so very ineffective?  Enjoy this true story to understand why.

My wife Holly and I were replacing her vehicle. Holly knew exactly what she wanted and found it at a nearby dealership. We live in Dallas, and Texas is truck country, so Holly had selected a Toyota Tacoma.  Not just any Tacoma mind you, but the last version available in the entire Dallas metroplex.  

Our salesman was a wonderful young man named Will, a genuinely nice guy. We spent hours with him, during which he demonstrated his tremendous knowledge of the truck and got to know much about Holly and me and how we intended to use the vehicle. He was patient with me as I pressed the deal hard, and advocated for us with his sales manager. We loved him and ultimately agreed to buy the truck.

If you’ve ever bought a new vehicle, you’ve probably spent time with a finance manager to complete all the paperwork after the deal is done. Calling this person a “finance manager” is a misnomer because their real job is to sell additional coverage. I suppose they can be called “high pressure warranty salesperson,” but that won’t fit on the sign outside their office, which, ironically, is always about the size of a jail cell.  

Our jailer, er, finance manager was a man named Juan. After entering the jail cell I’m certain the door was locked behind us so we couldn’t escape. Juan began to print papers and slide them across the desk for our signatures. After several signatures he still made no mention of extended warranties and I gradually began to relax. “Perhaps Juan is different than all the other finance managers I’ve experienced,” I thought. And then it happened …  

“Did Will tell you about the warranty on the Tacoma?” Juan asked nonchalantly. “I’m not falling for that!” I thought to myself, and quickly replied, “Yes, he did.”  But unfortunately, just as I spoke, Holly answered, “No, not really.” I squeezed Holly’s knee under the desk, but it was too late. Juan was off to the races trying to sell us paint and fabric protection, tire and rim coverage, roadside assistance and all the rest … and there was no escape.

Consider this:

1. It was late. I was tired and grouchy. All I really wanted to do was sign the papers, get the truck and go home. I didn’t want to sit in the jail cell with Juan and be pressured about warranties. And so I said no to everything he offered.  

2. The only thing Juan knew about us was what he saw on the credit application. He didn’t know us and certainly didn’t know how we were going to use the truck. Who was he to recommend coverages to us?  

Do your customers ever feel like that in your store?

Now let’s think about our salesman, Will. Will knew us. Will knew how we were going to use the truck.  We liked Will and he liked us. What if Will had mentioned some of these coverages during the five hours we spent with him? We likely would have listened and seriously considered some of the coverages. But he didn’t and we didn’t.

Don’t make your customers feel the way Juan made me and Holly feel. Do what Will should have done: Discuss the option of additional coverage based on what you learn about your customer during your time together.

More on this next week in “Jail Time with Juan, Part II.” 

J.R. Zirkelbach is a business development executive at New Leaf Service Contracts with 30 years’ experience in retail. New Leaf-administered service contracts can provide an enhanced customer experience, earnings opportunities for salespeople and increased profitability for BrandSource members. Contact J.R. at

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