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Maintaining a Positive Dealership Culture in a Volatile Market

The automotive retailing market might be changing, but that doesn’t mean your attitude has to shift with it.


After years of enjoying an automotive retailing market rebound, dealers are coming down from their high. According to the Q4 2018 Cox Automotive Dealer Sentiment Index (CADSI), dealers aren’t optimistic about market conditions in the coming months.

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It’s not hard to see why they feel this way. Automakers are cutting thousands of jobs as sales slow. It’s getting harder to find skilled technicians. Self-driving vehicles are on the horizon. Interest rates are rising. Inventory is tighter.

But are things all that bad? Maybe not, according to 2018 NADA Chairman Wes Lutz. While speaking to the Automotive Press Association in Detroit, he commented, “As dealers know directly from our own customers, personal vehicle ownership is not going away. Ever.”


Though the environment is changing and sales are down, it’s more important than ever to stay positive. I’ll explain why and what you can do to create a positive culture at your dealership.

Why Look on the Bright Side?

Positivity Impacts Performance

Author, salesman and motivational speaker Zig Ziglar believed that “your attitude, not your aptitude, will determine your altitude.” In other words, when it comes to success, your outlook trumps your natural ability. Sure, optimism won’t transform a shy person without people skills into a star salesperson. However, the power of positivity does have scientific merit.


In a Stanford University study, researchers observed a group of children and found that being positive had a neurological impact. The kids were better able to answer math problems, retain memories and solve problems. In fact, the study’s lead author said a positive attitude matters as much as IQ when it comes to academic success.

The same principle applies in the workplace — only 25 percent of job success is related to IQ. When you’re optimistic, the brain recognizes potential even in an environment that isn’t ideal.


Positivity also increases motivation and creativity, so salespeople are more likely to work hard to overcome objections, work through customer issues and come up with creative ways to reach prospects.

Positivity Spreads

Attitudes are contagious. Imagine you need to stop by the grocery store to pick up a couple things. You toss your items on the belt and approach the cashier, who looks down, mumbles a hello and proceeds to scan your items without glancing up. How does that affect your mood? You wonder, “What’s his problem?” and leave feeling annoyed.

Now picture the opposite scenario: You toss your items on the belt and approach the cashier, who greets you with a smile and asks you how you’re doing. As he scans your items, he makes casual conversation and makes it a point to make eye contact. You leave feeling good about your experience and good about yourself.


What kind of mood are your employees spreading to their coworkers and your customers? Someone doesn’t even have to open their mouth and speak to communicate a positive or negative outlook — you can tell what kind of mood someone is in by their body language.

A negative person slouches, frowns, crosses their arms and avoids eye contact (if they’re in a really bad mood, they might even roll their eyes). A positive person, on the other hand, stands up straight, smiles, uses open posture and looks you in the eye.

When you have positive people working for you, expect to see good results.

How Do You Encourage Positivity?

If you’re on board with creating a positive culture but aren’t sure where to start, try the three steps below:

  • Focus on Employee Satisfaction — While a positive attitude shouldn’t be tied to outside circumstances, it’s easier for someone to stay positive when they encounter fewer frustrations. Reduce friction in the workplace by making sure employees have access to the technology and training they need to be effective at their jobs.
  • Celebrate Successes — Avoid always focusing on how many vehicles you haven’tsold or how much your repair order profitability has dropped. Sure, you need to address these issues, but don’t forget to celebrate the successes too.
  • Lead by Example — Creating a positive work environment starts with you. If you have a negative outlook yourself and communicate that outlook through what you say and how you carry yourself, how can you expect others to have good attitudes?

The automotive retailing market might be changing, but that doesn’t mean your attitude has to shift with it. If you want to continue being successful, a little positivity goes a long way.

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