Even in tough times, there are opportunities for car dealers who intend not just to survive, but to thrive. While there is no simple recipe, these 10 tips will virtually ensure success.
Despite what's happening around you, stand up and make things happen. It takes a real leader to do that in the face of adversity.
Sometimes there are no quick fixes, but even a month can make a difference. The 30-day fix: Use a legal pad and for a month, write down every problem that comes up and what was done to correct it. At the end of 30 days, look at the first problem you recorded. If it's still a problem, come up with a real permanent solution, not just a “quick fix” to get it off the list. Keep working each problem until it no longer exists — one bite at a time.
Instill the “Red Carpet Treatment” philosophy throughout the organization and create clients who buy because of their relationship with your dealership and the star treatment they receive, not because of price. Go the extra mile to “wow” your VIPs. Whether or not you sell luxury cars, treat your customers as if you do.
Fully work every opportunity. Focus on closing leads, not generating them. Ask the right questions and listen to the customer's needs, wants and desires. Don't turn buyers into shoppers by pushing them to “buy now!” Customers have no other reason for being in your dealership other than to buy at some point. When salespeople become selection specialists and understand their job is to help buyers select the right car, “now” becomes irrelevant. What matters is that they buy from your dealership at some point.
Educate and train constantly. Provide education, hands-on training and practice for sales people and managers that shows them how to follow-up and pursue sales until the vehicle is delivered. Teach them to use a customer-focused approach, not high-pressure sales tactics. Demonstrate not only how the process works, but your willingness to lead and work with them. Monitor, assess, pinpoint and correct selling problems.
Manage the entire sales operation. Develop an effective, step-by-step game plan so everyone knows what he or she should be doing at any given time. Now that you have the data, use it to track, analyze monitor progress and performance through every step of the selling process, every day. Use the results to identify new areas for education and training.
Promote managers from within your existing staff because their skills and performance will continue to improve with on-going training and education. If traffic is off, performance should increase, not decrease.
Count traffic: Base performance on an accurate traffic count to create a level playing field and measure execution based on an improvement in closing ratios, the number of cars sold vs. customers the salesperson worked. Using traffic counts to track performance gives every salesperson the opportunity to improve.
Meet with your team daily to motivate them to achieve their best performance each day. Emphasize teamwork and how everyone's performance contributes to success. Structure incentives so every team member has a fair shot, and so that the person with an “assist” is rewarded, too, not just the player who “scores.”
Give every salesperson 10 things to do each day. Here are items to put on the list. Generate two customers a day: call five previous customers asking for referrals; send 10 follow-up letters or cards: visit two local businesses and secure two prospects from each; be helpful, even if there's no immediate profit in it; give every customer a tour of the parts and service area even if they haven't bought a car; maintain a sense of humor and positive attitude.
Richard F. Libin is president of APB (Automotive Profit Builders, Inc.), a firm that focuses on dealership sales, service, customer satisfaction and maximizing gross profits. He is at [email protected] or 508-626-9200.