Changing the Sales Process

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Changes in the industry and overall economy are potentially affecting the purchasing ability of your customers. Do you think it's time to change the sales process?

After attending numerous OEM shows and seminars in the past few months, I do. I asked this question of attending dealers, and I received many comments and concerns. I even got a blank facial expression or two from people who had no idea how to change the sales process.

In the past decade, our industry has experienced record growth, as well as a steady decline. We've seen, read or witnessed numerous sales processes and menu presentations. In my 11 years of floor selling, I too subscribed to various processes, steps and modified forms of menu selling that were all in the dealership's interest. But now I want to shift the focus and do what's best for our customers.

YOU'VE GOT TO HAVE A TRAFFIC LOG SYSTEM

Suggestions on how to change the sales process involve an important step that's not the norm in powersports stores: a traffic log system. With today's floor traffic being somewhat lighter in most regions, every customer who enters your store should be tracked. This is crucial for parts and apparel departments, which must be successful profit centers now more than ever.

Department managers should consider the contents of the traffic log system as hot leads. We used to get powersports enthusiasts walking through our doors daily to browse or buy. This, unfortunately, is changing, which should come as no surprise given the state of the economy.

The majority of sales processes (and maybe menu selling formats) have been successful, but I can't help but think a lot of that success had to do with consumer demand for our products. While these sales and menu formats have merit, it's time to review what format works for your particular dealership, not for the industry as a whole. Most dealers I have visited say they do things the way the "industry says we should do it." I say, let's go out on a limb and do what our customers want us to do.

To get a broader perspective on how to change things at your dealership, go right to your sources. Look up information on all previous customers (try to go back at least six months), and draft a series of questions to ask them. What would they change about your dealership? How was their sales experience?

Dealer principals and general managers should make the calls, for greater credibility and more candid feedback from customers. Think about it: What would you say if an owner of a business called you for comments? Nine times out of 10, you'd probably have a lot to say, both good and bad.

This information is priceless, and it costs you only the price of a phone call. Your customers will also be impressed that you singled them out for advice and comments. This may help make them want to come back to your dealership.

THE PROS AND CONS OF MENU SELLING

In all my years in the industry, I have yet to see any solid results from menu selling. Over the years, the menu format has evolved: The most widely used were originally on an F&I manager's desktop flip chart, sized for a desk. Then came the laminated desktop flat format, then the computer screen with three to five examples of payments with various products included with the unit.

When the store I worked at started menu selling in 1990, we had only one menu that showed all that was offered with a unit. We did not attach prices. Nowadays, you must price your menu (it's the law).

I highly warn against using the common format of listing prices from lowest to highest. Experience tells us that the lowest number that people hear or see gets branded in their minds.

TAKE A CUE FROM STARBUCKS

In a March issue of USA Today, a story about Starbucks caught my eye. It seems the coffee giant is completing a reinvention of the brand, asking customers for advice and comments. The company will reinvent its products, presentation and selling process based on customers' comments.

If it helps Starbucks, it will help your store. By reviewing your store's sales, service, parts, and apparel processes, you are addressing the changing market by adapting to their needs and wants. This may sound basic, and it is.

In 1968 at my first retail job, my boss, who was also a good teacher and mentor, told me, "Remember that [customers ] have just walked through our door, therefore the sale is 50 percent completed. Now, the other 50 percent is our mission. How easy can it get, Steve?"

Steve Zarwell is a dealer consultant and a member of the Dealernews editorial advisory board. Contact him via editors@dealernews.com.