Put away the steam vac, and stow the window cleaner, this is not about that. This article is going to open the discussion about how a business “looks” on the inside, and how you interact with the public.
Last time, we talked about presenting the business. I hope you polished the outside. Now, let’s look at how it appears from the inside. The office or showroom needs to be inviting, welcoming, and clean. Your staff needs to look and act professional. All of them, even the car washers, need to follow a dress code. Granted, you can usually get away with being a bit more relaxed than a franchise lot, but there still needs to be a business-like appearance.
Know your market: For most used-car lots, I would say lose the ties, unless you are doing upscale units like late-model high-end cars. Trade the slacks for khakis, but a collared shirt should still be the minimum. Golf shirts or polos go well here, especially a quality one with the dealer’s logo on it. Clean up staff should be wearing pants or shorts with a company t-shirt. No cut-offs, ever. Save the jeans for Saturdays or special events. Personal hygiene must be the order of the day. Not to be crude, but dealers in the hotter southern regions need to find a way to remind their staff that many sales are lost to BO. By the same token, a lot of customers are sensitive to overly-strong colognes and perfumes. If you are ok with facial hair, at least make sure it is groomed. Ladies need to save the outrageous makeup for weekend clubbing. Staff who are off-putting generally find the customers walking off the lot, putting their money back in their pocket. Visible tattoos, especially obscene or tasteless ones, usually make customers invisible. Body mods or odd piercings tend to put a lot of holes in your bottom line.
Customers must be greeted in a friendly and professional manner. Make them feel like you actually WANT them to spend their money at your business. Make them feel valued, by genuinely showing appreciation for even considering your lot. Don’t just make this part of it window-dressing, though. This needs to be an ingrained culture of the business. If the staff doesn’t believe it, they will have a hard time convincing anyone else.
To sell a car, the dealer usually needs to answer two very important questions:
1. Why the customer should buy this car.
2. Why the customer should buy from this dealership.
Way too many salespeople miss #2 entirely. They spend too much time focused on selling the car, and rarely “sell” the dealership. A lot of customers walk off not because of the car, but because no one bothered to convince them of the other half of the deal.
I personally have visited dealerships, even very high-end ones, where the “Thanks for coming in” part felt like it was being read off of a card. Where the part of the pitch about the dealer’s commitment to service and quality sounded hollow, like it was memorized, not felt. I am quite sure I was not the only customer who had that impression. The point is, the owners and top managers of these places knew enough about this concept to force the staff to say it, but didn’t know how to make them believe it. Take a look inside your own attitude, and see if you believe it. After all, the whole process starts there.
Customers have many choices these days. The old attitude of “I’m going to sell you a car, and you are just going to get over it” has to be retired. Did that quote sound ridiculous? There are a lot of dealers out there even today that might as well post it on a sign over the door. Fittingly, these are usually the ones who complain the most about poor customer retention, lack of loyalty or referrals, and very low conversions of ups into sales.
Lastly, for BHPH dealers: When a customer doesn’t feel appreciated, even if they did buy a car, they typically are the first ones to not care about paying the payments. More on that in a later visit.