By Susan Givens, Publisher at AutoSuccess Magazine
As of this moment, on average, things are good in the automotive marketplace. Last year, Americans bought 17.5 million cars and trucks — that’s a 6 percent increase over 2014, and a new record in sales. Experts are saying that 2016 is going to be even bigger.
Things are going well, with every expectation that they’re only going to get better. Time to slack off and relax? Not on your life.
The American consumer is changing, evolving. They’re better educated on what’s available in vehicles, financing, pricing and competition. They know what they want, and they’ll buy from dealerships that can provide them with it. If your dealership hasn’t kept up, you can bet that one or more of your competitors have, and customers will find the dealership that serves them the way they want — the way they demand — to be served.
Add to this the big names about to make a big wave in the automotive space — Tesla, Apple, Google and others — and suddenly the idea of relaxing and resting on your laurels seems ridiculous.
The good news is that it’s better to plan for the future and build a strategy when your dealership isn’t in crisis mode. It’s easier to come up with new ideas and investigate what’s available when you’re not putting out fires and trying just to survive. Take advantage of the feast now and you’ll avoid the famine later.
• Listen and Learn About Your Customers -- Are your salespeople still using the same techniques and tactics as they were five years ago? 10 years ago? Longer? If so, you’re likely losing sales as a result, and those losses are only going to grow as the modern consumer evolves. Take some time and look at market trends, demographics and case studies, and see where your sales process meets the consumer’s wants and needs, and where it falls short. There are plenty of articles in AutoSuccess that can give you insight into the modern consumer’s habits and desires. Take some time to learn about your customer, and those satisfied customers will reward you with their business.
• Take Advantage of New Technology -- Just as consumers have facts and figures at their fingertips, so should your sales and service staff. Investigate and invest in technology that not only makes your staff more efficient internally, but can also streamline and improve their sales techniques to make customers more comfortable in the sales process. For instance, are your salespeople always going back to look up information or present brochures to prospective customers? Mobile technology exists that makes information finding instantaneous, shortening the sales process and putting your salesperson in the best light possible. Remember that little things, when taken together, can make a big impression.
• Be Open to New Ideas -- The epitaph that could be carved into the tombstones of most failed dealerships would be “We always did it that way.” Be open to new ideas and fresh takes on the sales process. You don’t have to jump on every bandwagon that passes by, but you should keep your eyes open for new techniques, technology and training opportunities that can set your dealership apart from the others. The best place to be is on the leading edge of new tech and ideas; the worst place is behind the wave, picking up what’s left over, and seeing the wave get further and further ahead of you. Don’t be afraid of the future; the customer isn’t, and you need to be the dealership to meet the customer where they are.