Working for the Sale


REMEMBER WHEN? Dealers have been using this phrase over and over when speaking with me about fourth quarter 2007. With little warning, unit sales have slowed down even faster than they did during previous challenging years.

Remember when your sales floors were busy? The phones ringing off the hook all day? When your Web site had hundreds of hits per day? These are the recent memories that many dealers have shared.

But they are just memories, at least for many of us. Think about how your sales policies changed during those good times, then readjust them for the slow market. After talking with dozens of dealers during the past few months, I have noticed some patterns. Listed below are some interesting statistics based on my own estimations. Share them with your sales staff. Also, don't forget your other profit centers. Service, parts, apparel and the business office are an integral part of a store's success. Have your sales manager start with these statistics when he or she creates policies for 2008. In fact, he or she should refer to them every day.

  • 85 percent of our customers made a buying decision before they even left their homes. Think about that: The vast majority of customers who walked in were there to buy.
  • 72 percent of customers who walked onto the sales floor would say they're "just looking" after a staff member delivered the banal greeting "How can I help you?" Don't hesitate to ban that phrase in all departments starting Jan. 1, 2008.
  • Within four hours of leaving the dealership, 38 percent of people bought products not directly related to the powersports industry (such as RVs, fishing boats and tent trailers). The end result is that those people didn't spend money in our industry.
  • 85 percent of our customers stated that the salesperson did not develop any rapport, nor did he or she ask questions to define the customer's needs and wants. Instead, the sales rep tried to sell them a unit completely different than what they wanted — like a wrong color or last year's model.
  • 88 percent of customers said that the dealer's presentation and sales process were not good. Remember when your store first opened and every contact with the customer was as good as gold? That's the way it should have stayed. Tell your salespeople to give each presentation as if it were the only chance they'll ever get with that customer.
  • 50 percent of customers stated that if they had received an honest, sincere presentation from the salesperson, they would have bought something. During the past years of rabid growth, has your staff learned to take the sales presentation for granted? They no longer have this option in the challenging days, weeks and months ahead.
  • More than 90 percent of customers who did not buy anything during their visit to the store were never contacted after they left the dealership. Right now, I am working in a store where the sales manager personally calls all leads and customers who have visited. The store also has put together a questionnaire used by everyone in the store to follow up on calls and e-mails. Since the implementation of this follow-up process, the closing ratio is 16 percent. Not only are more units being sold, the additional business has generated sales in the store's other profit centers.
  • 82 percent of customers could not remember their salesperson's name months after their purchase. Let's think about that: Your dealership's main representative for customers is the salesperson who sold them a vehicle. Might that relationship be a big, ongoing priority? You bet. Salespeople should have their pictures on their business cards, their thank-you notes and any other stationery.

Steve Zarwell is a dealer consultant and manages the Dealernews 20 Groups. He also is a member of the Dealernews editorial advisory board. Send questions and comments to