It's impossible to escape the excess of bad news bombarding us every day, from every angle.
From the economy to gasoline prices to financial markets, CNN sums up the question on everyone's mind: “Is it a recession?”
As business people, we can choose how to answer that. We can buy into the pessimism and create a negative, self-fulfilling, prophecy about our business. Or we can refuse to participate, and thrive. Webster's dictionary notes that a negative attitude “hinders constructive development:”
The true test of a successfully managed dealership is not how it performs in peak times, but how well it prospers when the market starts to slip.
Our business is not immune to the fear and doubt that recession talk spawns. Dealers across the country are already moaning that “traffic is down,” “the economy is spinning,” or worse, “we're facing a permanent paradigm shift in our business.”
True, traffic is down a bit, maybe a few prospects a month, but certainly not the hundred these laments conjure up. Even if traffic drops by 10%, the remaining 90% of prospective business is still up for grabs.
Dealers and managers face a critical choice. They can buy into the negative expectations and cut expenses (i.e. jobs, advertising, inventory, promotions, training, etc.) in anticipation of a real recession.
Or they can buck the tide, see the opportunity and successfully manage through whatever bumps the economy encounters.
Let's be optimistic and find ways to capture more business in tough times.
- Change the attitude
Don't accept recession talk. Generate a booming economy for your dealership. Refuse to adopt (or let your employees adopt) a mind set that will take business backwards.
- Go back to basics
Instead of expecting lower performance, return to the fundamentals that drove your business success. What happens when customers are on deck? How were they greeted? Did we take them seriously and try to help them buy a vehicle? Did they take a demo drive? What are plans for be-backs? What follow-up is planned for parts and service departments? A lot of sales are just waiting to be closed.
- Be clear about goals
Everyone at the dealership is there for one reason: to make money. Set clear goals daily and hold every employee accountable for achieving their daily goals.
- Don't cut rashly
The first inclination is to slash expenses, which translates to jobs deemed unessential (greeter, lot person, phone operator, etc.). Not only are these lower-cost items, they often are the first point of customer contact. Eliminating these positions can affect the customer experience and the dealership's reputation.
- Value the customer
Make sure every employee understands how valuable every customer is to the dealership, from sales to referrals and repeat business. Every individual who comes into the showroom should be considered a client who turns to your dealership for professional advice, vehicles, service, and parts — everything to meet their transportation needs.
Work every angle to get and develop more business and bring more people into the dealership. Use the Internet, phones, marketing and networking. There's no better time to prospect and build a base of clients that will deliver a steady stream of referrals, most of which bring a significantly higher closing ratio. In our business, when the going gets tough, the tough go prospecting.
Refusing to buy in to negativity, creating a positive mind set, training, holding people accountable and sticking to the basic game plan is a recipe for success.
“Tough times” are opportunities to build and go back to what made the dealership successful in the first place. Build a relationship with customers, find out what they want and sell it to them.
Richard F. Libin is president of Automotive Profit Builders Inc. that works with dealerships on customer satisfaction and maximizing sales and gross profits. He is at [email protected] or 508-626-9200.
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