It’s too hot. It’s too cold. It’s just right. There’s a football game. Everyone is depressed because we lost the football game. Everyone is celebrating because we won the football game. It’s raining. It’s snowing. The sun is out. No one is looking for cars. Everyone is just looking. There’s a sale at Wal-Mart. Wal-Mart is closed. Anything sound familiar?
At my last dealership we were right next door to McDonald’s and right across the street from a very high-traffic tourist location on the coast of California. At one time we had a Dodge Viper on the lot that attracted a lot of attention. Those things were everyone’s excuse for not selling a car. The customers were just walking over to Fisherman’s Wharf or they were over at McDonalds and were just looking. They just wanted to see the Dodge Viper. You wouldn’t believe how many times I’ve heard any or all of those excuses until one day the dealer principal took an up.
After he demo’s the vehicle, four squares and closes the customer, he brings me into the office. Not wanting to tell the customers he was the owner, he asked the customers to explain to me what they were doing when they stopped by and decided to buy a car. You guessed it. They were from out of town visiting Fisherman’s Wharf , stopped at McDonalds ,saw the Viper and wanted to come look at it. A couple hours later they were driving off in a Dodge Caravan and we were counting our $5,000 worth of gross profit. I never allowed those excuses from our sales staff again.
Special Finance is an interesting animal, but one where excuses should never be allowed. Our customers aren’t normally looking for a car because they want one, they are looking because they need one. Their ’89 Ford Taurus with four different colored doors isn’t running anymore, or they just got a job after being on disability for years and now they need a car. Some laugh, but those of us in the trenches know that this is not that unusual.
We have those customers, who will always be there, but in all reality, special finance customers don’t look much different than other customers and although they may be harder to recognize, they are still there. They still account for 62 percent of all Americans and there is still NO viable excuse for not selling them a car.
I have been in special finance for many years and still remain convinced that if someone wants to buy a car, no matter what their circumstances, they will find a way to buy a car. It is up to us to help them through that process. When we turn away this profit center we turn away 62% of our customer base.
Almost everyone needs a car and almost everyone drives one, so we can let them go down the street to another dealership or we can wake up and realize their money spends the same as everyone else’s. Why shouldn’t they spend it with us?
Contrary to popular belief, the dealership that specializes in secondary credit does not have to do things the wrong way. You can, operate a legitimate, ethical special finance operation. I’ve often taken the lock down approach to marketing a special finance department. This approach involved buying all the special finance leads I could in a market. This leaves the competition who might actually know what they are doing in special finance with very little to work with.
The internet is the fastest and best way to find a special finance customer. Put yourself in the customer’s shoes for just a second. I know, I know, I wouldn’t wear their worn out, off-brand, blue light special shoes either, but humor me for a minute. Only one out of every ten car dealerships offer special financing and out of those only one in ten do it well. Your customer, the special finance customer, has been told no before. They haven’t been shown alternatives, or been explained ways to improve their current situation, they have just been told no.
In some instances they have been humiliated in front of others or in front of their family members. Trust me - they can buy a car, they want to and they will find a way. Where do they go next? Not back into another dealership to be told no all over again. They need something non-confrontational, something that gives them that “instant gratification.” Along comes the internet. It brings these customers to you.
We bought them all. Every lead generator that existed. We didn’t care how many duplicate applications we received, we wanted them. It meant the guy down the street wasn’t getting them and having a chance at them. We owned the market. If we weren’t buying the leads then we would mail to them. If they didn’t get the mail they saw our infomercial on television or our vanity number in the auto shopper. We wanted that customer. Why?
The customers, if handled properly, will let you make the decisions for them. If they are made to feel “human” again they will send you all of their friends and family. Remember even the Clampetts were millionaires. They might look a bit different but their money spends the same.
If you want to play in this game of higher profits and higher returns on your investments then play hardcore. Buy your market. OWN IT. Internet, direct mail, television, vanity numbers…own your market.
There are no excuses for not selling a car when you have the customer begging every day to buy one.
Vol 3, Issue 11
Swapalease.com’s latest report show U.S. lease approval rates improved slightly to 70.9% in October following a 3.9% dip in September.