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Answering The Phones Today

November 30, 2009

Dealerships spend a lot of money to get the phones to ring.  Traditional advertising is aimed specifically at this goal.  Their websites have their phone number plastered everywhere in an attempt to get the customer talking to a salesperson.  Many 3rd party sites give them a toll-free number so they can track the effectiveness of the advertising they do for the dealership.  Most dealerships these days use multiple toll-free numbers to track where phone calls are coming from.  Further, many dealerships spend a good sum of money training their staff how to handle the incoming phone calls from these places.  Think about how much money your dealership spends to get that phone ringing.

Now ask yourself, “Is my receptionist routing these expensive phone calls properly?”

I call dealerships almost every day and I am astounded at how poorly some dealerships route my call to the person I am trying to contact.  Many times, I have to call a few times to just leave a message.

Now, I have incentive to continue calling until I get the person I need to talk to on the phone.  If I am not persistent, I don’t pay my bills at the end of the month.

What is the customer’s incentive to continue calling?

Reception, is like the center on a football team.  If the ball is not snapped to the quarterback effectively, the play cannot continue.  That team will never score any points without a good center.  The same is true for the receptionist at the dealership.

Take look at this part of your process in your dealership.  Whether it is buying a car, setting an appointment for service, or ordering parts, do you have the right person, system, process to be absolutely sure your customers have a chance to speak to the person that will help them spend money in your store?

Mystery call your dealership right now.

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Internet Customer Today

November 27, 2009

As floor traffic continues to suffer, the Internet Department is more and more under the microscope than ever before.  Dealers who didn’t believe it before are realizing that the internet is contributing to the vast majority of their sales, whether they like it or not.

With this in mind, it is important to understand the psychology of getting that customer in to the showroom.

We must understand the goals of the customer.  Is it that the internet customer wants to buy the car completely online?  Do they want to have you deliver the car their house for a test drive?  Do they think you are going to give them a trade in value on their car sight unseen?  Thinking like a customer, I would say the answer to these questions is “no” most of the time.

With all the choices the customer has, with all the dealerships they could go to, how many customers want to get in their car and start walking in to all the dealerships they can to find a deal? 

Whether the customer realizes it or not, they are not actually trying to find the best deal.  They are trying to eliminate you from the list of places they will eventually go to see the car up close.  Your job?  Don’t get eliminated!

How do we prevent ourselves from being eliminated, you ask?  Two words.  Build trust.

Take a look at your process.  Does it focus on getting an appointment, or does it focus on gaining the customer’s trust first?  Are we trying too hard to withhold as much info as possible, or are we giving the customer the information they need PLUS giving them more than they asked for.  (IE: Similar vehicles with similar equipment that are less expensive)

The customer will narrow down the search from 20 dealers to 2 or 3.  You want to be on that short list.  By answering their questions, you will gain their trust.  By offering more selection, you will give them more reason to see you.  Once you have them in your store you must continue to keep their trust.  You are not going to “finagle” yourself into a deal.  Be real and gain customers for life.

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Service Today

November 23, 2009

Alright. I know I seem to be getting off track already. Isn’t this supposed to be a car SALES blog? Why am I already talking about service? Well, go with me for a minute.

As we all know, the service department pays a good portion of the bills for the dealership. That is why we do a tour of the service department and introduce the service manager when delivering a new car to a new customer. That seems to be where things end when it comes to the service/sales relationship. (Outside of the service/used car manager relationship, but that is a whole other blog in itself.)

From that point on, the service department fights to keep the customer coming back. It is easier when the car is still under warranty, but as the car ages and runs out of warranty, it is harder to get them to come back. That’s when the service manager starts looking for gimmicky ways of getting people in for service. Mailers, check book coupons, Saturday morning car washes, barbeques, even radio and TV ads are used in an attempt to re-capture their old customers. The money that is spent in this effort most of the time cancels out any increase in RO dollars the dealership might experience.

How could we do this better and for less money? Why do we need to spend so much to keep our own customers coming back?

Hey. Here’s an idea. What if our salespeople helped to keep these customers coming back for service? After all, don’t they have a relationship with their customers? Personally, I have a stronger relationship with my service advisor than my salesperson. In fact, I can’t remember his name. That’s too bad, because I remember him to be a decent guy.

Now, I know what you’re thinking. “How are we going to get our salespeople to help us? What’s in it for them?”

OK, brace yourself. Maybe we could pay the salesperson a commission when their customer spends money in the service department. It doesn’t have to be much, just some kind of incentive to get their help keeping the customer coming back.

I realize you’re smart enough to figure this out, but just in case, let’s start by pointing out some advantages for the salesperson. The most obvious advantage of this practice is that the salesperson develops a stronger relationship with their customers because they are in constant contact with them. What about when it’s time to start considering a new car? Who is the customer going to come to first?

What about other advantages? If you, the used car manager had a choice, which would you prefer, a trade you have all the service records for, or would you rather go the auction and buy it?

It’s true, they should be doing this already, but you have to remember that the salesperson will work the payplan. The pay plan should always achieve the results the dealer wants. Also, this kind of idea may get the departments to work together better.

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Car Salespeople Today

November 17, 2009

Something has been on my mind lately as the automotive industry struggles to get back on its feet.

Is the veteran car salesman leaving the business?

As I visit my dealerships on my usual rounds, and others to sell my products to, I see more and more seasoned automotive professionals looking for something else to do. I know, we’ve seen this before and they seem to always come back, but I wonder of this time many might stick to their words. Now, I’m not talking about the management level. Just the guys on the sales floor.

What could this mean for the managers? Does this mean they will have to work harder for each deal as the less experienced sales people may not know how to bring deals to the desk before getting a pencil? How many times will the manager have to ask, “Did you get a commitment?” How many times will the manager find that the price the customer’s committed to is $2000 under cost? What will they do? How many deals like this can a manager stand?

I remember reading a blog somewhere about going back to the basics where someone commented, “If you’re going back to the basics, you might as well just get out of the business.” I disagree. We always have to STICK TO the basics in this business. We must keep things simple to make deals. It’s not that we have to get back the basics, it’s that we must always stick with the basics. As soon as we get away from them, we lose sales.

Does your dealership have a great sales trainer to keep these basics in the front of your sales team’s minds? Do you give your salespeople ALL the information they need so they can bring deals to the desk BEFORE the pencil? Do you teach your sales people how to effectively communicate so the customer does not feel like they are fighting for a good deal?

In my opinion, these elements are the key to having a successful sales team or not.

The dealership I want to work for has the success of the salesperson in mind. This starts with the basics. If we start there, we will always sell more cars than the competition.