My firm, APB, was trying to book a small sales meeting at a Marriott in Rhode Island. The person who answered the phone immediately asked how many guest rooms we wanted.
The reply was eight. The representative said the hotel didn't hold blocks of less than 10 rooms. That's fine, I told her, I don't want a block, just rooms for a meeting. She asked what kind of meeting. When asked why she needed to know, she transferred the call to an outside sales firm.
How many dealerships qualify their callers in a similar way?
It doesn't matter when customers want to purchase, what kind of car they are looking for, whether or not they have a trade-in or if they are planning to lease. That is not information sought in the initial phone call. This type of call screening is irritating and often turns a buyer into a shopper who looks elsewhere.
As a manager or salesperson, it's important to know the first impression your customers get. Take a moment, call and shop your dealership and find out if your receptionist is greeting or screening.
Back to the Marriott story.
Once connected to the outside sales, I was asked a long list of questions: name, address, phone, company, etc., with the final question being, “Are your dates flexible?” I replied no, and then told the salesperson exactly what I needed — eight sleeping rooms, a meeting room that opened to the outside, breakfast, and lunch. She again asked if our dates were flexible. I still said, “No.” The salesperson then said she'd get back to us in a few days with some options before asking for the third time, “Are your dates flexible?” The answer was still no. She replied, “Then I can't help you.”
Business must be great at the Marriott if they can afford to turn away customers like that.
Keep in mind that Marriott has more than 60 properties within 50 miles of Providence, RI. Not once did the salesperson offer to check any of the other 59, which would have been a better strategy than abruptly ending the call with “I can't help you.”
I had to wonder, was she a clerk or a salesperson? Let's look at this from a dealer's perspective. What can we learn from this encounter?
Doing business starts with every employee understanding his or her primary responsibility is to select the right product for each individual buyer. How will you know when that happens? When customers are virtually hugging the bumper, you've successfully helped them make a selection and put them in a position to buy.
Here is how to do it:
Every employee must actively listen to customers and ask questions that are direct, but non-confrontational and that draw out specific information.
Every person in an organization is a salesperson, whether or not they sell. This mindset must permeate a dealership. Each person plays an important role in moving a customer through the sales cycle, whether selling themselves, the dealership or the product.
Be willing to give 100% or don't bother
Each day a salesperson chooses to get up and embrace the day positively or grumble about the awful day ahead. In either case, the attitude typically becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Maintaining a positive attitude is the first step in keeping buyers and converting them to customers and eventually to long-term clientele.
Know the objectives and what has to be done consistently every day, 100% of the time to achieve them. Is it calling three clients? Setting two appointments? Once set, give 100% effort toward achieving the goals.
Focus on doing business, not simply doing business now
Otherwise, customers may feel pressured and uncomfortable and leave. Are you turning buyers into shoppers? If so, the business is losing opportunities to create long-term clientele who will return repeatedly.
The question becomes: “Is your operation seeking to do business or simply to do business now?” What is the goal, a long-term client relationship or a short-term sale? The answer should be, “To build clientele that will return and shop repeatedly, not simply to close a quick sale.”
The red-carpet treatment of treating the customer right must always be the basis for the sales and service process.
Sales people who learn about each individual customer's needs, wants and desires, help the customer make a selection that is exactly right for them.
These sales pros involve the customer and work toward providing a quality selection, not toward closing a sale. When sales and customer satisfaction drop, it is often because a business forgot the basics.
Everyone has a story like the Marriott anecdote. Learn from them and see if they ring true at your dealership.
If so, it's time to go back to the basics and focus on the reason for going to work or for being in business: the customer.
People don't purchase because you have the latest technology. People buy from people. They buy from you because of the way you treat them, how you help them and how well you gave the service they expected.
Great service — what APB calls the Red-Carpet treatment — gives customers a reason to come back and buy again and again.
By the way, if you have a good story similar to my Marriott experience, let me know at [email protected]. I'm collecting them.
Richard F. Libin is president of APB-Automotive Profit Builders, Inc., a firm with more than 30 years experience working with both sales and service on customer satisfaction and maximizing gross profits through personnel development and technology. He is at [email protected] or 508-626-9200.
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