Ask yourself and then have every employee at your dealership to ask themselves four questions:
- Do you view everyone in your dealership as a salesperson?
- How are you treating your dealership like destination?
- What would you do differently today?
- What can you learn from Mickey Mouse about selling cars?
Let's look at the concept that every dealership is a destination.
Most don't have a sidewalk directly in front of them. Customers don't simply stop by. They have to plan, make time, find their way and drive in to the facility.
Dealerships don't sell bread, milk or anything else that attracts shoppers off the street. They sell automobiles, service and parts. People must have a want, need or desire that causes them to look for a destination like ours before they ever arrive.
A “destination business” by definition is any selling site that the buyer travels purposely to visit.
Consumers don't simply walk into a dealership on a whim, look around, and drive off in a new vehicle. Most take a thoughtful approach and choose the dealership to visit much like they select a holiday destination.
First they get organized. They determine their most important wants, needs, and desires in a new vehicle. They look at different brands and models, typically on the Internet, and narrow the list to a few select vehicles. With the number of models available, that can be very difficult to do.
Next, they prepare for the trip, again typically using the Internet. They locate the dealership nearby, find out if anyone they know has a recommendation, and select those they will visit, the day, time, and who in the family will go along. Then they make a list of features to check while at the dealership — models and features, service department, warranty, trade-ins, etc.
Finally, they take the trip and hope for a memorable experience.
For most dealerships and sales people, much of the preliminary work is completed by the time the customer steps onto the lot. The salesperson's job is to act as the tour guide, the person who intimately knows the destination, removes obstacles, manages the details and makes the trip enjoyable.
Along the way, they find out what the customer wants, help him or her identify the right vehicle, not only drive but demonstrate the product, show them the service department, simplify negotiations and paperwork and congratulate the customer on the purchase.
How do you make your dealership a destination?
A dealership must provide an experience that makes people unreasonably go out of their way, past the competition, to get to.
They must provide an experience where clients say, “Wow! That was like going to Disneyland,” one that is like a magnet that attracts prospects and loyal clientele.
Creating a destination means understanding your dealership from your customers' vantage point and educating your team for success.
First, envision your business as being so compelling different that consumers will insist upon going there. You have to see it in your imagination first. Set the expectation in your mind that your business will be one-of-a-kind and then impart this vision to your managers, and every employee. Create a culture that supports the vision.
Second, ensure the basics are covered by educating your employees. Clients expect certain things and no amount of “extras” will replace the basics. Deliver a quality product. Provide exceptional customer service through competent professionals. Be responsive and empathetic. Be authentic; don't pretend to be interested. Really listen and care.
Work with integrity, ensure promises are kept and that customers can rely on your word. Smile, offer a friendly welcome. Listen and help them select a vehicle that precisely meets their specific needs, wants and desires. Follow up to make them feel valued.
Beyond that, becoming a destination requires a dealership to invest some resources into making the experience of doing business memorable, something people will share with their friends. Simple acts like these can generate referrals and repeat business:
- Treating the client as a partner in the selection process and celebrating their decision to purchase with an announcement, balloons and a basket of goodies.
- Equipping sales professionals with iPads to create an even more memorable experience — a la Mercedes-Benz.
- Breaking new ground like Galpin Ford in the 1960s by opening a restaurant so clients could relax while waiting for their cars to be serviced, and who recently added a Starbucks where clients can pick up a cup to go on their way to the office — a one-stop shop.
Extreme destination dealerships try to make buying a car the ultimate experience for the entire family, from valet parking at the front door to on-site dry cleaners, restaurants, play areas, and coffee shops. That's paired with extraordinary service, referring to customers as “friends,” and a staff educated in offering exceptional service.
Not all destination dealerships have to be so extravagant. Find the balance that works for your business and, most importantly, for your clients. Educate teams to follow a well-defined process, and to sell on product and service not on price. The key word here is “educate.”
A dedicated educational program can mean the difference between success and failure in today's challenging economic climate. When considering a program, it is vitally important to include every employee, and focus not only on the skills required for his or her job function, but also on the processes, philosophy, language and techniques unique to the dealership.
Learning a new sales technique or honing existing practices can help sales people gather information, remove obstacles, and close the deal. In most cases, it's not the customer that stops the sale, it's the sales team.
Ongoing educational programs can be tailored to the unique needs of the individual, the dealership, and changes in the industry, community, and economy, and can include education and reinforcement, consulting and coaching.
While education has always been a critical success factor for successful dealerships, it's more important now than ever before.
It can create a positive experience for customers, which can transform their dealership into a destination worth visiting.
Richard F. Libin is president of APB-Automotive Profit Builders, Inc., a firm with more than 42 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. Web site: www.whostoppedthesale.com, www.apb.cc
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