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Shop Talk: Check Behind the Couch

If you’ve been in business for any length of time, you know there will be ups and there will be downs. Most dealers can do well when business is booming. Those who really prosper do business when others say there’s no business.

Have you ever looked all over the house for something you use all the time? Like your checkbook, for example. You look everywhere and get more annoyed as you can’t seem to find it. Then people compound the problem with questions like, “Where did you leave it?” And you have daggers in your eyes.

Finally, in the essence of getting on with your life, you go into the desk drawer, take out a new batch of checks and move on. After paying your bills, you begin cleaning things up around the old homestead. As you get out one of those dust-collecting sweeper things, and go under the couch, you feel it catch something. Lo and behold, from the dusty depths, your checkbook appears.

Now, the last few months have been crazy for many dealers. I’ve even had some client dealers literally sell out to the walls twice since the pandemic began. Sales have been record-breaking for some and at least brisk for others. It’s like the whole world decided to invest in fun. How long will this last?


No time to read? Listen instead!


I’m an expert but not a clairvoyant. I can help dealerships maximize growth and profitability but not predict markets. I can guess. But, if you’ve been in business for any length of time, you know there will be ups and there will be downs. My job is to make the most of the downs. Most dealers can do well when business is booming. Those who really prosper do business when others say there’s no business.

And, when business is slow, how is it that some dealers actually grow? How do some dealerships expand when the rest are looking to cut costs to stay open? They checked behind their couch. Let’s do some simple math.

Imagine a dealer who opened their doors about 10 years ago. From day one, they have averaged 50 units per month consistently. They had their record-breaking months and some disasters, but the average has remained steady. So, right now things are booming and in the back of their mind, they realize that this market can’t sustain. But, the bills, payroll, overhead and the rest will remain. As units increase in price, floorplan costs will steadily rise. If business slows, what’s the survival plan? Behind the couch.

They have delivered product to 7,200 customers since opening (50 per month x 12 months per year x 10 years). That’s 7,200 people who felt comfortable enough to pull the trigger and buy from this dealer. Simply put, they liked where they did business. That’s 7,200 potential repeat customers lying behind the couch. They are yours. They know you. You just have to dust them off and get in touch.

Will they all buy? Of course not. But, you know that some will. And it seems to me that if you reach out, there’s a better than average chance they will buy from you. But you have to plan and execute how you’ll accomplish this. Will it be mail, email, phone, advertising or a hope and a prayer that they’ll remember you?

If you have a well-trained staff, I prefer mail. The reasons are simple. Not as many businesses are still using mail to connect with customers. You can personalize the mailer with today’s technology. And, you can dictate terms and time. For example: One of my clients bought 50 pre-owned units at auction. They all had a similar price point. The mailer explained: “50 pre-owned units all one price. $6,999. Hurry, as the nicest and lowest mile ones will go first.” This promo went all month and the dealer actually had to go to the auction again and buy another 50 units. All for his previous and current customers.

Sometimes extra business is lurking within the four walls of your dealership. You just need to get the duster out and sweep them out from under the couch. 

John Fuhrman is a nationally known trainer, author and retail expert. His programs and process help dealers maximize business within their dealerships. For a no cost 30 minute consult, email John at [email protected] and make an appointment. To date, John Fuhrman has trained over 15,000 sales, finance and management professionals throughout the U.S., Europe and even South Africa.

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