Focus on Serving, Not Selling
Most Americans dislike their experiences at car dealerships, which is probably why there are countless articles describing how to avoid bad dealerships and salespeople. A Deloitte study from January of 2019 found that 60% of US consumers were at least “interested” in the concept of buying their next vehicle online, directly from a manufacturer. To change the stigma and keep customers in stores, dealerships need to start treating customers with a servant's mindset rather than a salesperson's.
Every person who comes into the dealership has a different need, and those needs should be the focus of your sales team when they greet prospective buyers, not quotas or profit margins. The sales team should invest the time necessary to discover the needs of their clientele. Ask questions like, “What model are you most interested in?” and make assessments based on the customer's trade-in vehicle. Learn what you can about the customer and take a genuine interest in delivering the best vehicle for them. A servant's mindset allows a salesperson to focus on serving the customer's needs rather than the bottom line while building better relationships, the importance of which can't be overstated.
After the Gunderson Chevrolet exposé in 2001, the automotive industry was under a microscope and consumers were wary of get-rich-quick salespeople. Remember, word-of-mouth spreads quickly, and news of even one poor customer experience can be devastating, especially in local markets. So, if you are treating customers as transactions rather than clients with needs, you will almost certainly end up with low Customer Service Index (CSI) scores, low retention rates, and a poor reputation.
Reviews can make or break a dealership, too. Online research is the first step for most potential customers, and they will always prefer a dealership that has positive online reviews. You may be tempted to help sway public opinion, but don’t even think about posting made-up positive reviews yourself. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) considers this an unfair and deceptive practice and can assess penalties up to $41,464 per violation. In February of 2019, the FTC reached a settlement with a company that included a $12.8 million judgment that could be suspended upon payment of $50,000 to the Commission.
Management needs to make it a priority for each person on the team to go above and beyond for your customers, because they are truly the ones who keep business moving. Training employees is the first step to implementing an effective team who are great at serving, not just selling. Involve employees in the process and install an effective and repeatable training process that allows the dealership to maintain consistency for each salesperson.
People recognize when they are treated positively, and also when they are treated poorly. Look carefully at each salesperson and assess their performance on the “servant scale.” A salesperson's job is not easy. There are always objections to overcome in order to help customers on their journey. The focus should be on facilitating that journey. Doing so will allow the sales to come, but in a compliant and positive way.