THE TEST DRIVE

So the “car” that is your dealership has been waxed, and the carpets and windows clean and bright. Now, let’s put the key in this thing, and take it for a drive.

How does your business FUNCTION? Do all the gears mesh well, or is there a grinding noise whenever two things come together? Do the sale side and the finance side synchronize? Is the customer passed over to service correctly, or is there a hiccup in the process?

The point here to get is to analyze whether the different parts of your business match up well, and suit each other. You can probably find a way for a Mustang engine to turn a Fiesta transmission, but it’s not going to last. More than one in 10 businesses that fail identify (among other things) Disharmony of the Team as a significant reason for failure.

Identify the problem, and fix it. For example, if you sell a lot of upscale cars, and the finance person(s) are only familiar with sub-prime low-market financing, you have a problem. The reverse is also very true. Ideally, finance people will be aware of finance resources across the spectrum, and not solely focused on one range.

Make sure your sales staff is aware of your finance offerings, and basic finance concepts. Before some of you sales managers whip out the nasty letter paper, understand this: If your salesman can’t feel confident he can close the sale, he can’t close it. Sales managers have to stop expecting the sales rep to close the deal as if it was a cash sale, and hope the finance manager closes the financing. This illustrates a disconnect between these two parts of the sale, most especially if financing is a core of your business model.

The old game of “Well, if I can get the payments where you want them, would you buy?” isn’t worth playing if it isn’t realistic. I do very much agree that the car must be “sold” FIRST in order to “sell” the financing, but if your customer only has $1500 down, and can barely afford $400 per month, you probably should not be test driving a $20,000 (or more) car.

Another important consideration is that if the customer has to meet with Finance separately, the handover should be smooth. Have the Finance person talk privately with the sales rep to get some idea of what the customer’s expectations are. It’s also a good idea to have the sales person tell the guests where they are going next, and to properly introduce them to the Finance Person. Customers really don’t care for being “dumped” on someone else. Above all else, stop lying to the customer. No, they aren’t going to the “business office” to meet the “business manager” to have the “sale price approved.” Most customers already realize that first, the sales price was already approved by the salesman running back and forth to the tower five times, and second, they don’t have to go get set in an office just so a manager can view a piece of paper.

If you have a service department, the sales staff should be aware of the offerings available there, as well. This knowledge can help them build value in the dealership during the sale process. Allow sales reps to assist customers in setting service appointments. Make sure your service department notifies the sales rep when the car comes in. If you have committed sales reps, they will appreciate this.

Lastly, if the mechanics of the operation so far are good, it still won’t run well if the brains (management) of the car don’t work. If you have more than one “manager” in the business, sit them all down and identify their roles, responsibilities, and the consequences. Put it in writing. Draw clear lines, and be prepared to arbitrate disputes. Another attitude that has to be thrown out with the used oil is “If you two can’t get along, then one of you has to go.” You also get an opportunity to prove you equally respect all the people you hired. Be fair, and impartial. There’s nothing wrong with telling someone “This is not the role I defined for you.” This is an indicator that you may need to MORE clearly define what your expectations are.


Happy Driving!  

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