In “Pride and Prejudice,” Jane Austen wrote, “Vanity and pride are different things, though the words are often used synonymously. A person can be proud without being vain. Pride relates more to our opinion of ourselves, vanity to what we would have others think of us.”
This business can be difficult. I’m talking about those days (or weeks, or months) when none of your closes are working, customers can’t seem to find a car they want and third-party pricing is ridiculous. We have all been there, and tough times cause us to ask tough questions: Why do we do what we do? Why did we get into this business?
Several months ago, a customer bought a van from my dealership. He mentioned that, years ago, he wrote a book called “Nothing Happens Until Somebody Sells Something.” How incredibly true is that? There is not a product on the market today that someone didn’t sell. From your smartphone to your lunch, someone sold something to get the ball rolling.
As an auto retail professional, this should give you pride! Where would the economy be if we weren’t getting cars on the road?
Can this job be frustrating? Absolutely. But when those moments of frustration come, you have to reflect on the moments of gratification. Remember the time when a customer thanked you for taking a few extra minutes to walk them through the infotainment system, or for taking great care of their child or their elderly parents. Remember the customer who got emotional because the car you sold them represented a fresh start in their life.
That leads us to the $10,000 question: How can we create more moments of gratification and fewer moments of frustration? There are three correct answers, and each has everything to do with the customers with whom you choose to deal.
1. Ask for More Referrals
Always remember that there is a level of choice in the customers you talk to. I know you would rather speak to referrals and repeat customers than wait for the next walk-in. But you have to continually follow up and ask to get them — and not just from the folks who buy from you. The lucky salesman at the dealership down the road may not bother to ask for their referrals. What’s stopping you? … And while you’re in referral mode, ask your service writers, technicians, porters, office staff and anyone else who might have a lead on an in-market shopper.
2. Don’t Focus on the Problem Customers
Tough customers are part of the job, and there are more to come, so don’t waste time and mental energy focusing on the last one. The majority of customers will work with you if you demonstrate professionalism, genuine concern for their wants and needs, some product knowledge and good humor.
3. Stay Busy
There are always available customers. They could be in the showroom or the service lounge. You could find them by making phone calls, sending emails or outside prospecting. If you hit a lull in the day, walk the lot. Keep your energy level high. Grab a motivational or training article and read it. Role-play with a co-worker. Whatever you do, stay busy. Base your day on productive activities and continual training and the sales will come.
This page wasn’t designed to give you a 10-minute boost. I want to remind you that what we do makes a difference in this world, and I say that with all seriousness. Every customer who walks into your store gets a paycheck from a company where a salesperson sold something. Maybe it was an idea, or a product, but something was sold.
Well, we sell vehicles. We help people save money on gas, drive their dream cars and keep their children safe. We help them get financing, protect themselves with insurance products and keep their cars looking new with paint and fabric protection. What we do is noble. What we do is needed. What we do is valuable.
Take pride in what you do, shout it from the rooftops and be proud of it. And in the words of my author friend, always remember that nothing happens until somebody sells something.
Jason Heard is the general sales manager at Frank Ancona Honda in Olathe, Kan. He is a 20-year industry veteran with extensive sales and sales management experience. [email protected]