Compete with Professionalism

BHPH lots v. Franchise Operations

Jessica is an attractive 21-year-old blonde, finishing up her senior year and about to graduate with double majors. Until recently, she drove a 1997 F150. Her choice of vehicle says a lot about Jessica; her tag says “Silly boy, trucks are for girls!” Like her truck, Jessica’s persona lets others know: “Here I am, don’t mess with me.”

I said “until recently” because a couple of weeks ago, someone pulled out in front of her, causing an accident. The F150 did a job on the offending vehicle, making it almost unrecognizable. Thankfully, no one was injured, but the accident caused enough damage to the truck to make the insurance company consider it a total loss. Jessica was devastated. She had owned the blue F150 for five years. It had only one prior owner and just 40,000 miles on it when she started to take care of it. After five years, it had 80,000 miles on it and still looked as good as it did when it was born.

So, Jessica was put in the unenviable position of having to find a replacement vehicle. The insurance company wrote her a check for just under $6,000 for her truck. Jessica started her mission to buy a used vehicle for $6,000. She started as most buyers do nowadays, by surfing the Internet.

As you would expect, a lot of the vehicles in that price range are located on BHPH lots. A short list was made, and then Jessica set off on her quest for a new vehicle.

Her first stop was to see another F150; it looked tremendous in the photos online. On the lot, she was greeted somewhat promptly by someone in a T-shirt and jeans. Jessica explained her situation and asked to look at the interior of the F150. Closer inspection immediately ruled this vehicle out. It had not been taken care of—torn interior, smoke odors, electronics not working. A couple of vehicles down though, a yellow Escape caught her eye, and it was in her price range. The salesperson brought her the keys and let her take a closer look at it. She asked to take it for a drive. The salesperson asked for her license, made a copy of it and came back with a dealer tag. She drove vehicle, without the salesperson present. She liked it well enough and made an offer. The offer was refused, so she left.

I’m not going to bore you with the details of every lot she visited over the next five days, but the experience was repeated over and over. Not one presentation of the features and benefits of the vehicle, not one test drive accompanied by a salesperson, and not one introduction to a manager.

Jessica had three vehicles on her list that were at franchised dealerships. I was surprised to learn that so many franchised dealerships retail vehicles now that have traditionally been left for BHPH lots to sell.

The difference in salesmanship and customer service was expected, but not to such an extent. She was made to feel very welcome and was treated like royalty. Most of the vehicles she looked at had between 80,000 and 110,000 miles on them, but they were presented so well, they didn’t look like it. She was invited to drive them, and each time was accompanied by the salesperson, and two of them drove the vehicle first. She made offers on a couple of them, and each time a manager was involved before she left.

What do you think happened over the next couple of days while she was still shopping? Not ONE follow-up call from any of the BHPH lots, which is not surprising, as none of them asked for her details in the first place! All but one of the franchised dealers followed up with her.

So what is this article all about? The BHPH business is tough enough right now without making it harder for yourselves. Set yourself apart from the lot next door—add professionalism. Treat every customer like you would want to be treated. Make them feel special. Present your vehicles well; be proud of them. Here are a few suggestions to make sure you can compete with the franchised lots:

Have a dress code – customers like to know you are proud of where you work.

Have a proper sales process – interview, demo, manager involvement.

Take control – present your vehicles, get them to take a demo drive, accompany them on the drive

Follow up – 80 percent of your customers don’t buy from you. Get 30 to 40 percent of them back with proper follow-up.

How do I know so much about what went on with Jessica’s search for a new vehicle? Jessica happens to be my daughter, and I went with her on every dealership visit. As much as I was appalled by some experiences, we met one of the best salespeople I have come across in a while, at Ferman Used Cars in Brandon, Fla. He was fun, energetic and had an obvious love for the business. He showed us an 80,000-mile Trailblazer, and was so enthusiastic about it that as much as Jessica didn’t want a Chevy, she fell in love with it. He did everything right; he gave us a full presentation with features and benefits, took us for a drive, let Jessica drive back and asked us to buy. I made an offer, but we couldn’t get together. Management was involved, but we remained a few hundred dollars away from a deal.

The salesperson from Ferman, helped restore my faith in the business. There really are tremendous people in this business.

Don’t be like the “typical car guy.” You will sell more, at higher profits, by setting yourself apart from the norm. Be professional; you are in a professional’s career. There are a lot of Jessicas out there. She would have owned a vehicle sooner if she had come across salespeople with better processes.