With a predicted 11.2 million sales in 2010, we will be short six million sales compared to 2007. Six million missing sales equates to 36 to 40 million missed showroom opportunities. It’s not market share you should focus on, but opportunity share. Compounding the challenge, the prospects we will have in 2010 will actually be visiting fewer dealerships prior to making a purchase. Right now, that number is down from 3.4 dealerships visited in 2007 to 1.8 in 2009, according to Jack Simmons, vice president of sales at World Now.

Consumers aren’t shopping fewer stores; they are just eliminating potential stores more quickly and making decisions based on different criteria. Your managers and frontline employees will have to be able to create business, attract customers and win the opportunity long before these potential customers visit your showroom.

With all this in mind, there are five skills successful dealers will need in 2010 and beyond.

1. Get Specialized.

Excellent phone skills are critical in 2010. You need to train everyone in the dealership on telephone etiquette and how to create call flow and language that makes customers want to do business with you.

The phones ring thousands of times a month. Add calls going to cell phones and outbound calls to the mix, and we are talking about some serious communication. To me, every communication is an opportunity to “wow” a customer and potential buyer.

I recently trained in a store where we mapped call flow in the dealership, complete with standard greetings, permission-based transferring of calls (“If he is not available, is his voice mail OK?”) and spelled out how to end the calls by always saying, “Is there anything else I can help you with today?” We also had, in writing, how to page someone over the intercom. Hotels, airlines and rental companies understand how important this is; isn’t it time for our business to do the same?

2. Get Personal.
Horst Schulze, founder of the Ritz Carlton, says that excellent service doesn’t create customer loyalty, rather personalized service creates loyalty. One good example of personalizing service is setting aside the templates and canned responses to new leads. With any new lead, you should respond to leads with personal e-mails or telephone calls and mirror the customers’ requests with your messages and motivate them to do business at your dealership.

Another example; let’s say that a service customer complains that an employee got grease on their carpet during a routine maintenance visit. You, of course, clean their carpet. Record that experience in your CRM. The next time that customer is in for service, your advisor can say, “We are going to get these things done for you today, and I promise we won’t get grease on your carpet this time.” That is personalized service.

3. Get Creative.
Sales teams have to create business. I worked in a dealership where referrals at delivery were tied to the salesperson’s pay plan. Guess what? That dealership averaged two referrals for every delivery. Handled correctly, those referrals are sold at a rate of one out of 10. That’s a 20 percent boost in sales. This is creating business without spending money. Building your database without spending extra money and at the same time increasing sales, gross and CSI is a winning proposition.

4. Get Sociable.

Everybody else is. Once you have Internet fundamentals in place, you should consider a Facebook page for your store, and your sales consultants and service advisors should have their own social networking initiative with some guidance and standards. This skill interlocks with the personalized service we talked about. Facebook,  and Twitter are strong ways to create solid and long-lasting relationships between your dealership employees and your customers. I have a 14-year-old son and a 70-year-old mother who have Facebook pages. Like I said, everybody’s doing it.

5. Get Technical.

It accelerates your business. If you are in denial, get out of it. If you are in the dark, seek help, and get onboard. Search engine optimization, search engine marketing, live chat, blogging, instant messaging, texting, online videos and whatever new technology is coming, like mobile-to-mobile video conferencing, aren’t going away; technology keeps growing. If you don’t keep pace, you will be left behind. If you haven’t seen the “Did You Know” video, search for it on YouTube, and you’ll get the picture.

Evaluate your employees’ strengths and find areas for improvement in the skills above. Now is the time to up your game. If you improve the quality of your employees, you improve your business. New skills can be taught, and with training, repetition and a stick-to-it mentality, your employees can learn the skills needed to win in 2010.

Vol. 7, Issue 1