|By the time you read this, all the cold weather hopefully will have passed and we should all be looking forward to the onset of summer. I want to tell you about some winter woes though, and what happened to me in mid-March to make me take an unexpected long drive.|
Some of you already know that I travel a lot, visiting dealerships all across the country. I was in Columbus, Ohio, last week, and had a flight booked to Newport News, Va., to spend a day training managers before heading home to Tampa. Just four hours before my flight was scheduled to take off, it was canceled. No problem, I thought; I can get another flight and still make my training commitment.
The next available flight was the following evening, but taking it meant missing the flight home to Tampa. The fact that it was Easter weekend and spring break meant that there were no other flights to Tampa. I was left with only one option if I wanted to spend Easter with my family: I would have to drive.
It was 6:50 p.m. before I picked up my rental car to start on my 1,100-mile trek. I headed west through Columbus towards Dayton, where I would pick up I-75 to head south. On the other side of Columbus, I hit a snowstorm. Oh, what fun. After turning south, the snow turned into rain and continued until I called it a night just outside Knoxville, Tenn. So far, this journey was far from enjoyable, but I had made decent time considering the miserable conditions.
I managed to start at 8:00 a.m. the next morning, and the clear blue sky held the promise of a great day ahead. I popped an audio book into the CD player and settled in for the drive. The next few hours were filled with fun and excitement as I wound my way through some of the most beautiful countryside I have experienced. Tennessee and northern Georgia offer outstanding vistas that will make even the most miserable person smile in awe and amazement at the sheer beauty this land has to offer. I headed for Atlanta, where I decided not to bypass the city but instead drive straight through. Towering office buildings and hotels create an impressive skyline, and the views of these man-made wonders were equally as awesome as our natural wonders. It was almost too much to take in. This was turning out to be a day to remember.
Allow me get to the point of all this. I have been around cars all my life, having started in the business when I was just 18. I never tire of the business, but sometimes I, like a lot of people, just consider driving as a way to get from point A to point B. In fact, for a lot of customers, the experience of buying a car has changed over the years. They do not get as excited nowadays as most customers used to; a new car is now just a method of transport instead of their way to explore new places.
Can we change this feeling of apathy with both customers and salespeople alike? I think we have to if we want to continue to sell at the volume and profit levels needed to sustain our businesses. So how can we do that?
To start with, make time to take a drive purely for the fun of it. As a kid, I would spend most Sunday afternoons with my family, just driving through the countryside to appreciate the scenery. We looked at our car as more than transportation; it was like part of the family. It took us to wonderful and enjoyable places; it became exciting to take trips in it. If you were to take a trip to nowhere, just go and drive simply to enjoy the day, I imagine you would start thinking of the car as more than just a mode of transportation.
This is the feeling we have to get across to our customers. Salespeople have to show excitement when presenting a vehicle—not just mentioning the features that a particular vehicle comes with, but painting the picture as to what these features will do for the customer. The test drive is the best time to get the customers’ feelings and emotions at their highest possible peak, so don’t allow your salespeople to toss the keys to your customers and invite them to drive around the block. There is no excitement in that. They need to have a pre-planned route with a halfway point to switch drivers; the salesperson should always drive first. When switching drivers, have the salespeople ask the Jackie Cooper question: “Where will you be taking your new car on it’s first trip, maybe on vacation?” This will invite the customer to take mental ownership, and hopefully the customer will picture themselves driving on one of those trips to nowhere, one filled with great memories, like the one I just completed.
Help your salespeople put the fun back into driving and car ownership; they will sell more to happy customers, increasing your volume, profit margins, CSI and repeat business. Go for that drive this weekend. You’ll enjoy it!
United Development Systems announced the addition of 30-year industry veteran Doug Fiore to its Southeast F&I development team.