A wise man once told me, “Don’t concern yourself with money; concern yourself with service. If you concern yourself with service, the money will always follow.” Service is one of the most important aspects of selling and retaining your customers and prospects. Without it, you may be subjected to poor CSI, bad Yelp or Google reviews and (God forbid) a news crew at your front door. One of the best ways to avoid this is to kill customers with kindness and have a genuine concern for their well-being. I have observed, over many years, a trend in customer satisfaction. The people who pay more are generally happier and the people who negotiate the best deals are usually not as happy. It’s all perception, and perception is reality.
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Changing perception, however, is easier said than done. One approach is to develop a brand message that allows prospects and customers to trust and want to do business with you. A combination of customer testimonials and positive online reviews has a huge impact on a person’s decision to do business with you and that is something that’s easy to do. I recently read about a dealer who took that concept one step further and developed a brand message around long-term employees, showcasing their best attributes in an advertising campaign. Brilliant! It’s time to start thinking outside the box and remember where we came from and who helped us get there.
There are a variety of other things you can do to enhance your dealership’s value proposition as well. Take a look at the quality of your sales staffs’ walk-around presentation and demonstration drive techniques. Are they conducting a thorough needs analysis prior to vehicle selection and then focusing on the things that are important to the guest, or are they taking the path of least resistance and walking your prospect straight to the vehicle they asked to see?
One of the best salespeople I ever met was at the Home Depot. I was looking to replace my base-model garbage disposal that had run its course. There were two models just like the one that I had, with a $10 price difference between them. I flagged an employee down and asked him what the difference was. His response — “What are you going to put in it?” — caught me completely off guard. “Are you going to be putting potato and carrot peels in it?” Of course, everyone does. He proceeded to sell me on the benefits of the top-of-the-line model and closed me hard. I ended up spending more than four times what I wanted to because he asked the right questions and presented value in making a larger investment.
I suggest that during the needs assessment your sales consultants ask questions about what’s important to the guest and then write the answers down. When a person sees you’re paying attention to them, it sets you apart from the pack. Once they get enough information, they can use it during their presentation and demonstration drive and sell features, functions and benefits that meet the guest’s needs. This will give your guest the perception that your dealership is different from all the others and build value in the vehicle by hitting all the hot buttons. Does it work all of the time? No, nothing does — but it will increase the odds in your favor.
When it comes to getting reviews, I am also a firm believer in two things: If you don’t ask you don’t get, and there’s more than one way to skin a cat. Almost every service out there offers a place to leave online reviews. When I first got in the car business 25 years ago, that one mad customer would tell 10 people about their experience and 10 happy customers will tell one person. The only thing that’s changed since then is that the Web has magnified this.
There are a few things you can do to increase your ratings online. First, ask happy customers for positive reviews via the phone, an e-mail or even in person. If they are in the dealership, make sure they’re not on your Wi-Fi or Google may flag your reviews. Again, if you don’t ask you won’t get. You should also check your reviews daily and make sure to properly address negative reviews via the source of the review as politely and quickly as possible and thank people for positive reviews. Most people who rely on reviews will read both positive and negative. If you handle a negative review properly, it gives them comfort knowing, while mistakes can be made, you offered to correct a situation, and responding to positive reviews lets consumers know you appreciate them.
Beware of Internet trolls and sneaky competitors. My wife is an avid Yelper and realizes, when someone posts something negative about a business, you should check their profile to make sure they aren’t only posting negative reviews. Those are trolls. Your competition may also post negative reviews. Verify that what was posted actually happened. Familiarize yourself with the rules and regulations of online review posts and use them to your advantage to get the bad ones removed.
Next time, we’ll take a look at advertising campaigns, how to get yourself in front of potential customers and ways to grow your business by serving your community. It may take some work to change perceptions, but it’s worth it.