Capitalizing On A Soft Market

Capitalizing On A Soft Market

It is daylight. Where are your customers? It is easy to sell vehicles when customers are lined up around the block asking for financing, but the difference between success and a business closing is the ability to fill the dealership with customers when the market changes. How many customers do you see on your lot today?

Many independent dealerships do not have a service department, a body shop, or a parts department from which to draw business. Instead, prospect from existing happy customers and orphan owners. Ask everyone in your sphere of influence what they drive and invite them to see what is new at your dealership. The key is to make prospecting everyone’s focus.

When I work with new sales consultants, I encourage prospecting and teach that it is the lifeblood of future business. Everyone likes doing business with someone they know, like and trust. Everyone likes having a friend in the business, and friends prefer doing business with friends.

Prospecting Resources

Spheres of influence could be a local Wine and Food Society, the Rotary Club, the Lions Club, the Moose Lodge, your children’s school, or the church you attend. New sales consultants are often shy or embarrassed to tell their friends what they do for a living. They should not feel ashamed. They should take the posture that they are helping people with their transportation needs.

For example: I belong to a local Wine and Food Society where most members are senior management or business owners. The events allow us to gather, enjoy some great food, pretend we know something about the wine being served, and swap business cards. The amount of networking that goes on at these types of functions is amazing as it is normal. Ask your sales team what activities are they engaged in. Make a list. Talk about how they can capitalize on their sphere of influence.

The closing ratio increases when we have appointments over walk-in traffic. The key is making more appointments, so that the walk-in traffic is extra business, not the staple business.

Be enthusiastic when you greet potential customers. They will size you up within the first few seconds. So smile, be genuine, and be happy to see them. Remember, our guests are not an interruption to our day, they are the reason we are there in the first place.

Activity Begets Activity

Find something to do when you are at work. Make phone calls and send out letters. Pick up the stray piece of trash flying about the lot. Customers like to see activity. They like to know they are doing business with a thriving company.

When times are soft for the sales department, the same is true for the F&I department. Instead of sitting in the office, the “value added” F&I manager should follow up on lost sales by prospecting previous customers and offering them yet another opportunity to purchase a service agreement, a security system, or new protective coatings. The bottom line improves with every “yes,” with every appointment, and with every effort.

Use customers’ email addresses to contact them. Use the telephone to follow up on the emails. Use the return receipt option to verify customers opened the emails and use technology to improve results. Use your tools effectively and your business will grow, even in a soft market.

Dealer Marketing Magazine, August 2008, P. 42