Here we are. By the time you are reading this, my hope is that doors are open, and your people are excited to be back at work. Some may have moved on to other opportunities and the rest are set to make things happen. They have a new desire and appreciation for getting back to work. Or do they?
When I was a kid growing up in New Jersey, we played a game called stick ball. For those raised in the country, you may not be familiar, so let me give you the short version. You can play stickball with as few as two people. A pitcher and a batter. Sometimes you can have fielders, but many times, you play one against the other. It’s baseball without the bases. Usually played against a building, you would use chalk to color in a strike zone for the pitcher to aim at. Then, you would mark off distances for hits. One mark for a single, further out was a double. Over a fence is a home run. You get the idea.
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Played with a broomstick (our mothers used to freak out when they went to sweep up and found the bottom of the broom and fresh saw marks where we cut it off), and a rubber ball, Spaulding was the preferred brand (pronounced “spall-deen” in New Jersey), the pitcher would pitch and the batter would hit the ball. Every now and then, the bat and ball would connect in an odd way and the ball would release with a back spin. Before the pitcher could field the ball, you could shout, “Do over!” and the play didn’t count. That gave you a new life at bat and a chance to hit it out of the park.
As dealers, this is your chance to call for a do over. Many of you have been without a sales staff for a month or more. Time allows for new ideas and I hope you have some. During the shutdown, you could be imagining what your dealership could become, look like, act like, etc. You can plan your new process of dealing with customers (the customer has changed, and you have to be ready for it). How you handle them could be the difference between getting off to a fast start or waiting for the market to swing your way.
For example, for years I have been advising dealers to prepare for online sales. Most put it off because they believed in the customer experience as a key element in success. I have several client dealers who actually became very busy during the pandemic because they became very professional with online operations. They took advice to heart and began training for that possibility while still keeping up with an “in-store process” for traditional customers.
A lot of hard-working people have come to realize that time is precious, and they need to balance their lives between work and fun. That is a perfect opportunity for all of you in the industry. The downside is, they also have put a premium on time. Many will no longer put up with 4, 5, 6 hours or more in the showroom waiting to take delivery. Still, others will come in with all of their research done, pricing and monthly budget ready to do business. These customers will no longer put up with magic marker messages on a worksheet where you can’t figure out how the math works.
This is a time to reinforce full disclosure selling. Give the customer everything they need to make a decision and earn the right to ask for them to make one. Answer every question, including when they intend to make a decision by providing clear, honest and exact info. (Our training can show dealers how to give 100% of price, payment and trade info and still increase unit sales, gross and F&I penetration.) Have your sales team learn real math. Estimate payments at the salesperson’s desk and get a commitment that this will work. Then close the deal.
Most of all, every customer who walks in should be treated like they are a customer for life. When you make someone a customer for life, they no longer have to be a deal today. Some will buy on the spot. Some will be back tomorrow, and others will wait for the next time to give you another chance.
Starting with the day you reopen; the world is going to be moving faster and with more caution. People are putting a lot of thought into just venturing out into the world. When they do arrive at your door, you can be sure they are locked and loaded with information. Treat them as such and you’ll find rapport becomes easier. Don’t insult their intelligence by challenging their information, confirm it, find out how it factors into their decision and move on.
Two farmers were standing in the field during a drought. Both prayed to God for rain. One of them went out and prepared his fields to receive the rain, the other continued praying. Which one do you think God provided the rain? Which one are you?
Remember, “People LOVE to buy. They HATE to be sold.” The sooner you train to let people buy rather than selling to them, the sooner you’ll reach your peak potential.
Until next time. Be safe, stay healthy and prepare for success.
John Fuhrman is the senior trainer for Performance Road Agency. He has trained over 15,000 sales, F&I and management professionals for retail operations and dealerships across the U.S. Performance Road is one of the only agencies with a 100% subscription-based training for all variable departments. If you’d a free phone consult, or discuss your dealership situation, email him at [email protected].