Posted by Heather Brautman on Thu, Oct 03, 2013 @ 12:00 PM
Ready to make your millions running a car dealership? Don’t fall prey to the following possibilities. You could have the biggest inventory, the hottest specials, the hungriest sales people, and the most prime location, and you’re still losing car sales. The question is not just why, but how.
10. Online review sites
You know they’re out there, but no one really likes to talk about them. Yet if you’re not addressing online review sites and incorporating them into your marketing plan, you’re losing sales. Aggregators such as Yelp, Dealerrater, Edmunds, and CitySearch can make or break you. It’s unfortunate that it’s human instinct to only complain, but a quick check of these sites show that when people do it, they do it loudly. Online review sites are a Wild West – there’s no moderation. You should, at a minimum, subscribe to site notifications so that when a review is posted – complimentary or negative – you can address it immediately.
9. Lack of accessibility
Taking a stand against being open on Sundays or certain holidays is a generous boon to your employees, but it can cause a drop in sales, too. Think about when most people are available to shop for cars – when their own workplaces are closed (i.e., probably Sundays and holidays). Do you really want to give up access to those sales? Perhaps you can implement things such as rotating schedules so employees get some holidays and weekends off, or even ask for volunteers. There’ll always be those sales people hungry enough to want to scoop up these customers.
8. People don’t know you’re there
Print advertising is dead! Billboard? What’s a billboard?! Car dealerships can get caught in a tricky situation. Methods such as “old school” advertising like putting your inventories in the newspaper or taking up road sign real estate may seem incredibly outdated when compared to creating a SlideShare or Flickr account with your vehicles, Tweeting happy customers’ pictures, and blogging about dealership events. The key is that you need a good, healthy mix, and that mix is going to include traditional ways to let people know you’re out there. A newspaper flier insert run for a special event, for example, may bring in a couple hundred buyers just when you need it. Don’t forget other options other industries may have left behind, such as sponsoring sports teams, purchasing ad space in event programs, and joining organizations such as a local chamber of commerce.
7. Obscure the view from the top
“I want to talk to the GM!” is something no one really wants to hear. It’s usually a complaint. But refusing to accommodate the person may result in that complaint getting much louder, splashed across as many review websites as the person can access (see #10). Where possible, make your executive staff visible. Give them offices that point out onto the sales floor, with clear windows and inviting (OPEN!) doors. Put them on daily patrol. Make sure they answer their email and phone messages. Include them in your team round-ups, but also make sure they greet customers as well.
6. Unpracticed personnel
Even if you did nothing but role play, you could never cover every situation that’s going to present itself on the sales floor. But role playing can actually do a lot more than just prep the regular bases. When your product specialists have trained and practiced, they have more confidence. They can tap into a rehearsed situation, even if it doesn’t entirely match the one in front of them. The key is simply to practice, period. Pairing off to cover scripts is a great way to do this. We’ve got a free set of scripts below as our gift to you.
5. No love for current customers
Everyone knows that the moment a car’s wheels exit your lot, depreciation begins. But how about some appreciation? The person who just bought that car has the potential to be a huge cheerleader and mouthpiece for you. What are you doing to ensure referrals, referrals, referrals? Start a return buyer program with discounts on service, offer a buy-back promise when they’re ready to trade in (and trade up), request positive reviews on dealer sites, and stay in touch! The relationship your sales and finance people make with buyers doesn’t end when the keys are distributed.
4. Old-school operations
You run a car dealership, not a tech startup, but you could be losing sales due to dusty, musty operations. Have you seen your website lately? (Let’s assume that you have one!) Is it optimized for mobile? Many buyers will take their tablets and phones to the lots to shop. Are you making a splash on social media, with an active Facebook page, Twitter followers, and Pinterest collages of new vehicles? These are free ways of targeting new buyers.
3. Work with the web
The Internet isn’t going anywhere. Customers are going to continue to arm themselves with almost as much information as your own sales staff know, including competitors’ pricing, vehicle history reports, upcoming model releases, your dealership’s complaint history, and more. Instead of losing sales because you’re grumbling about the power of knowledge, work with it. Be glad you’re getting such educated buyers, and plan for it. Give that knowledge-seeker even more information, such as offers of free service bay tours. Post more than just the front and back views of the cars - photograph every angle, exterior, interior, and feature. Give them everything you have.
2. Not all payment options available
The hard part is over – your staff has gotten their prospects to sign on the dotted line! So why, then, are they walking away? Because they need payment flexibility, and you’re not offering it. Some people just don’t want to put a down payment for a car on their credit cards. They want to pay by check, sometimes with multiple checks, and if you’re not giving them that freedom, you can be sure someone else is. Do you really want to lose sales just because you don’t take checks, a form of payment that 9 out of every 10 buyer uses?
1. High pressure sales tactics
It's so much of a stereotype that you really just want to roll your eyes and tell folks to get over it, but of course, you can't. It's par for the course that you'll lose some sales due to misconceptions about car sales people. What you can do to combat this is ensure none of your staff feeds into it. Sure, you want motivated, educated, driven people. Most cars don't sell themselves. But you want to make sure you never sell so hard, ante the pressure up so high, and create such a bad reputation for yourself that you turn off not just a prospective buyer, but every person that person may talk to. Consider yourself an agent of change for your industry. A great way to start? Download our Combatting Stereotypes for Car Sales People scripts book.