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Generate Sales During Tough Times

While car sales and football don’t have a lot in common, right now many dealers are practicing what many football teams do when they’re trying to hold onto their lead until the end of the game—the prevent defense. A team with a solid lead will just try to protect that lead rather than going on the offensive to score more points. Unfortunately, this tactic often causes the team to lose because they were playing too carefully.

However, dealerships aren’t attempting this tactic because they’re ahead. Rather, it’s their reaction to the economic climate. They’re trying to prevent their dealerships from losing more money than they already have. While running a tight defense is wise for dealers today, dealers should not be too conservative in this economy. Running a proper offense might be the better solution. If you have a glass-half-full mindset, then that’s definitely the better solution. Instead of being reactive to the market, dealers should be proactive in trying to buck the trend by developing business and getting customers on the lot.  

My advice for everyone is to stop freaking out. As of the end of October, the price of gas was 20 cents cheaper than a year ago. Not to downplay the significant jolt the credit markets have seen, but some people think things are worse than they actually are. Remember, perception is 99 percent of reality. It’s mind-boggling how everybody just wants to accept defeat or adopts a wait-and-see mentality because business is down and the economy is tough. I understand that there are serious credit crunches and economic changes. I don’t want to minimize the true significance of what’s going on, but dealers need to remain optimistic about the future.

For those dealers who do have a glass-half-full mentality, there is a way to capture the consumers in the market today. While many of them are apprehensive to buy in this market, dealers can ease buyers’ fears through business development. Dealers with a BDC can really reap rewards today if the representatives on the phones are using skills, not scripts, to get customers on the lot.

Dealers who don’t have BDCs should seriously consider integrating business development (even on a small scale) into their dealerships. Right now, many dealerships are forced to lay off good employees to stay profitable. When you have quality people already in key positions, rather than firing them, oftentimes it’s very inexpensive to take them through a business development training course. The good people are sometimes already there and dealers need to consider the opportunities before them. We can’t wait for success to come to us. We have to go to success and the only way to go to it is to call customers.

Granted, this venture would take a small investment up front, but if it’s an investment that will pull you out of a slump, it’s well worth it. Now is not the time to wait for customers to come to you. All dealers really need to do is walk around their showroom for an hour to find out what their salespeople are doing. A dealer might have a few salespeople on staff who are dedicated and properly trained to develop business and those are the true professionals. BDCs are not needed for true, traditional automotive sales professionals because they do it themselves. They take ownership in and responsibility for their own business. However, there are very few of true sales professionals left. Someone needs to be on top of every lead, and past customers have to be contacted regularly.

The reality is that you need to give customers a reason to stay with you because the purchase decision doesn’t typically come down to price. It usually comes down to rapport. That relationship you build with them is what matters because they can find the same car at the same price across town.

If you’re still unsure about whether you need business development, “mystery shop” your dealership to determine how your employees answer the phone and respond to a potential customer. If your dealership doesn’t have dedicated business development representatives or other employees trained in phone skills, chances are you won’t be happy with how you’re received.

Over the coming months, each appointment should be treated like precious gold. BDCs of any kind are definitely not for the people with the glass-half-empty mentality because when business gets tough, they’re going to forfeit. If you’re a glass-half-full dealer, now is an opportune time to invest in business development so you can capture buyers currently in the market. It’s time to abandon that overly-cautious prevent defense and go on the offensive to bring buyers to you.

Vol 5, Issue 12



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