How Dealers Can Build Sustainable Growth for Long-Term Success

Making strategic hires, investing in customer experience and building community giving into your dealership’s DNA call for a vision and a commitment that takes more work on the front end but ultimately will lead to long-term success.

Steve De Witt

January 21, 2021

4 Min Read
Salesman with customer (Adobe Stock)
Whether on showroom floor or online, customer service comes first.Adobe Stock

With a year of uncertainty behind us, the workforce, although stressed, has proved its ability to perform under unprecedented challenges. Throughout it all, many dealers have remained optimistic and ready to handle any curveballs.

Dealers have found successes and efficiencies despite low inventory, risk of COVID-19 spread and more. But sustainable growth doesn’t come in the form of quick pivots or selling 30 new cars next month. From my experience speaking with dealership leaders across the country, here are three key things dealers must focus on to create a long-term path to success.

Hire the Right People, Challenge Your Hiring Persona

Demand for delivery services creates the need for additional staff. But hiring more people isn’t the solution – it’s hiring the right people. And in today’s market, where digital retailing is becoming the norm and consumers want to spend less time in the dealership, required skills are shifting.

It’s time to challenge your hiring persona. Your next hires need to know how to connect with consumers through multiple channels, not just the showroom floor. A Roadster study suggests being tech-savvy and process-oriented are the most valued skills when it comes to hiring.

With customer touchpoints and the number of dealership staff both decreasing, talent management and retention become increasingly relevant. According to IHS Markit, consumers who bought at the dealership interacted with 3.8 dealership personnel to complete their transaction. The staffing ratio drops to 3.0 for consumers buying partially online and only 2.1 for online buyers.

Once you have the right hires in place, you need to maximize efficiencies through process and technology. According to Spotio, 50% of sales time is wasted on unproductive prospecting. Leveraging a predictive analytics tool that gives you data on your ideal customers will create a more efficient process for your teams to close more sales. 
Obsess Over Customer Experience

This past year was unique with low inventory and high prices. Edmunds recently revealed the average price of a new car increased to $40,000 for the first time.

When you add the fact that bad dealership experiences aren’t uncommon, challenges are abundant for dealers trying to move vehicles off their lots. Dealers need to focus on what they can control: reshaping the narrative by putting customer experience first.

Dealers must meet customers on their terms. Cutting through the marketing noise by providing a personalized experience is the new norm. According to IHS Markit, convenience is the primary factor in a customer’s choice of purchase method. The more shopping someone does online, the more data and touchpoints they create.

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And whether a customer starts shopping online or in the showroom, dealers should aim to streamline the buying process so time spent in the dealership falls from 3-4 hours to 60-90 minutes.

Another customer-experience enhancement to consider is incorporating concierge service, for example, having your service department offer pickup and delivery. The “white glove” approach allows dealers to build loyalty and increase revenue while sales are down. automotiveMastermind finds those who service their vehicle at the dealership are more than 2½ times more likely to purchase their subsequent vehicle from that same retailer compared with those who did not.

Commit to Community Giving

Dealers always have been integral members of the community. It’s a two-way street as they financially support various groups but depend on the needs of, and input from, area residents to better serve them.

According to a study by Cone Communications and Echo Research, 82% of U.S. consumers consider corporate social responsibility when deciding which products or services to buy and where to shop.

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Steve DeWitt automotiveMastermind

Even though dealerships have faced much adversity brought on by the pandemic, many have found ways to support their communities through charitable donations, volunteering and more. These could be commitments big or small, from donating vehicles for mobile outdoor concerts or sponsoring sports teams. One California dealer even donated $50,000 to its local food bank.

Stay top of mind with customers by making community involvement a core part of your dealership, not just something you do during the holidays.

Making strategic hires, investing in customer experience and building community giving into your dealership’s DNA aren’t quick fixes to boost sales. It’s a vision and a commitment that takes more work on the front end but ultimately will lead to long-term success.

Steve DeWitt (above) is director of business development at automotiveMastermind.

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