Anthony Melchiorri of Hotel Impossible always instructs the General Manager or Owner of the hotel to park in the farthest parking spot away from the building. Why? So they get the largest overview of the property as they approach it on foot. As you drive, even in a parking lot, you are preoccupied with operating the vehicle, and, your visual outlook is limited by the car that surrounds you. Walking on foot hopefully is now instinctual for you, so it’s now time to look around. You also walk slower than you drive, so you have more time to soak it in. The point is to back away from the thing, and look at it as you approach, to get a more open, developing perspective on it. Sometimes, you should even go park across the street, get out of your car, and look. Just look. Take a few minutes to truly view the property, and see just what it is that other people seeing. The question then becomes, is this image the one you intended to present?

Do hotels = car lots? Yes, in the manner of speaking that either one has to present itself favorably to the public. Every commercial establishment has to follow this rule. In the customer’s mind, a trashy exterior almost always equals a trashy business. Your business image, regardless of your practices, is first formed by most people as they approach your lot. Some people won’t give you a chance to show them what a great business person you are, because they have already driven away, having been turned off by the physical image you gave them. In some areas, it may not be your fault, because you are on a road that gets a lot of trash thrown out of cars. The point is how you address it. If this is your problem, make sure someone gets there just before normal business hours to clean up. People who are used to the area will notice the effort you make. People who are not familiar will still notice your shining gem in the middle of the rest.

Consider it this way: most experienced car buyers view how well a car looks to determine if the person took care of it mechanically. A trashed car almost 100% of the time is also not taken care of where it counts, in the maintenance. You, as a dealer evaluating cars for purchase, notice that, and even if you do not realize it, you tend to take off driveline points when the paint and interior have been abused or neglected. In other words, sometimes, you aren’t going to give the car much of a chance to prove itself if you are not happy with how it looks.

And, when you sell a car, one of the most important things you spend money on is the appearance, because you know that the customer is the same way.  It’s human nature. You have by now realized that no matter how much wax and buffing you do, if a car smokes, skips, or has slipping gears, all you managed to do was waste a little more of the customer’s time than you would have if they had not been drawn in by the shine. Word spreads fast these days, and you need to be keenly aware that people will soon know that you as a business person spend a lot more time polishing the outside than making it work functionally when it counts.  

Car people know that if you can get them in the car with keys, a good test drive is the ultimate sales tool. Be careful, though, there are all too many dealers who are still dumping the sawdust in the gearbox, so to speak, when it comes to customer service. I am fully cognizant of the arguments from BHPH dealers who feel that appearance doesn’t matter, erroneously thinking that just because they finance, customers are beating a path to their doors. Consumers, no matter what the credit score, want to be treated like valued customers.

Have some pride in what you have built, or what you have been entrusted to manage. Clear the junk, pull the weeds, and get out the paintbrushes. It’s a good idea to get a friend who does not work for you, one who is willing to be honest, look at the place, and give you his or her opinion.  

In the future, we’ll talk about polishing the inside, cleaning the upholstery, and doing an occasional tune up on the driveline that is your business practices. Once you present your business physically from the outside, you have to close the sale by showing the customer how well it works. 

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