F&I: Proactive Approach vs. Reactive Approach

Today, the reactive approach is no longer enough to build a robust business. We need to have the “proactive business approach” to stand out in the crowded competitive environment.

If you have been in the business for a long time, you may remember the days that when there was less competition. Fewer dealerships were in close proximity to your location and the dealers geographically further away wouldn’t be able to compete with you through the internet like they can now.  Less competition made it relatively easy to have the loyalty of existing customers as well. 

In those days, nothing more than responding to customer inquiries was expected of us. In other words, our business approach was very reactive. If a potential customer called for a unit, we would answer the phone to provide the information and try to schedule a visit. If they walked into the showroom, we would show different units. Everything we did was a reaction to an inquiry and that’s why I call it the “reactive business approach.” 

Today, the reactive approach is no longer enough to build a robust business. We need to have the “proactive business approach” to stand out in the crowded competitive environment. 

The fundamental difference between the reactive and proactive approach depends on who starts the dialogue. If the consumer starts communication, it means we are reacting to their request. If we start the communication as dealers, it means that we are proactively working on getting the business. 

Some of the activities that can be categorized under the proactive business approach include:

Customer List Mining: It is important to track the customers with financed vehicles and how much equity they build in their units so that we can reach out to those customers to upgrade their units with none to low down payments, using their equity. The timing of this tactic is very important to make sure that we don’t call too soon to have an attractive offer and we don’t call too late that they already sold or switched their units. 

Service Customers as Sales Leads: Your service department can be a great source of sales leads. When the customer got the news that the required repair is a bigger job than they expected and they have nothing better to do in the waiting area, that can be a great opportunity to invite them to the showroom and show some new units.

Constant Communication: A well-recognized bank mailed out periodic offer letters to the same potential customer group every month. Their strategy was that a sizable portion of the consumers may have an unexpected expenditure sometime within a year. The bank wouldn’t know the timing of the need but by sending the pre-approval letters periodically every month, they would likely be in the consumers mailbox when it happened. This tactic helped the bank become one of the largest credit card issuers in the nation. The key here is constant communication with the customers using all print and digital channels available to your dealership to share new unit announcements, financial promotions, discounted unit offerings, trade-up options and other industry and local community news. 

A typical motorcycle rider has 2.1 units in their garage and they switch units every couple of years. Similar to the bank example, when the day comes for them to get a unit, you want your message to be in front of the customers. 

Organized Events: Some dealers have BBQ weekend days, some have riding meet ups, some have doughnuts and coffee mornings. Regardless of what you choose to organize, it is important to become a center for your riding community to get together. Not only because they will show their appreciation by choosing to purchase their needs and wants from you, but also they will provide you online exposure by posting comments and pictures on social media that will help drive traffic to your dealership. 

You should make a list of your key marketing/sales efforts and you should put a checkmark next to each item in your list that is a proactive process. If you don’t have at least two checkmarks on your list, it means that you have room for improvement. The good news is that it is never too late to add proactive processes in your business mix and enjoy the additional sales you get without adding square footage to your showroom or increasing the number of units in your inventory.

Emre Ucer is the managing partner of MotoLease LLC. He oversees the development of solutions for the motorcycle and powersports industry to fit even the most credit-challenged riders.

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