OWNING A powersports dealership is like walking up a down escalator while juggling and singing “The Star-Spangled Banner,” with people throwing rocks at you. As if that weren’t enough, someone decides to set fire to the escalator. Not a pretty picture — or an easy task.
A day in the life of a dealership owner is more complicated than you can ever imagine. Employee issues, insurance regulations, tax implications, building maintenance, bank negotiations, and OEM policies and procedures nag at your boss constantly. It’s a never-ending barrage of demands. If the guy who owns your dealership has lost his hair, now you know why!
On top of all this, an owner winds up with people taking from them all day. He (or she) walks in around 9 a.m. — even though most employees think he slept in, chances are he had an early-morning meeting at the bank — and right away a salesperson hits him up. “Hey, boss! Can we give this guy a helmet with his deal?” Another one says, “How about we throw in a couple free T-shirts for this customer?” Then others pipe up. “Can you make me parts manager?” “Can I have Saturday off?” “Can you donate to my charity?” People are always taking, always asking “What can you do for me?”
Therein lies the difference between the dealership’s owner and the dealership’s employees. It’s as simple as comparing input to output, evaluating and comparing what you do with what you achieve.
This chart explains what I mean by taking four core dealership activities (input) and revealing one desired result of each (output):
|Enter customer information into CRM
||Create trusting relationships
|Watch a training video
||Improve a customer’s condition
|Place a phone call to a customer
||Engage a customer in the next “yes”
|Attend a meeting
||Sell an idea to improve marketing
Input without positive output does nobody any good — most of all, your boss.
Below are five other essential inputs you already should be giving, along with their unintended negative outputs if you don’t. Remember, it’s not too late to make behavioral changes.
1. Come to work on time. Brick-and-mortar retail operations require customer service. If someone calls your dealership or walks in the door — past the signs that reads “Open” — and you’re not there when you should be, the sign might as well say “Closed.” You’ve already broken your first promise to your potential customers.
2. Come ready to work. If you were out drinking until 2 a.m., you may be at work, but you’re not really at work. (You know what I’m talking about.) The same goes for any personal drama in your life. Keep those issues out of the dealership. Compartmentalization is key. True professionals take care of the business at hand and worry about the rest later.
3. Your appearance reflects on your boss. Neat. Clean. Professional. If you look like someone who’s just climbed out of a dumpster, people think less of the dealership owner — and, consequently, the dealership.
4. Your language reflects on your boss. Do your emails feature atrocious spelling and grammar? They shouldn’t — and neither should your spoken words. You certainly don’t need to speak the Queen’s English, but you should sound as if you have more than a third-grade education. Also, ratchet back the profanity. (I can swear like a sailor, but at least I understand when it’s wildly inappropriate.) If someone needs to use profanity as the primary means of emphasis, that person isn’t very bright and probably shouldn’t be working in a customer-centric retail environment.
5. Your attitude reflects on your boss. If you treat customers as impositions, they will think the dealership doesn’t care about their business.
Why is positive output so important to a dealership’s owner? Well, beyond the obvious answer that a steady flow of business keeps the store’s doors open and the employees’ paychecks coming, ask yourself the following three questions and try to understand the answers from your boss’ perspective:
Would you work differently if the money came out of your pocket? When someone calls, emails or visits the store, imagine yourself reaching into your wallet, taking out $100 and giving it to your boss. Because that’s just what the dealership owner has done. Every time someone comes into the dealership, the owner pays marketing dollars, betting that you’re going to turn that investment into revenue for the business and income for yourself. The numbers are different for every store and every market, but that’s not important. What’s important is how you treat that potential new customer. Will you make a positive impression? Will you capture crucial contact information? Will you comport yourself in a way that differentiates you and this dealership from every other one in the marketplace?
Whose customer is it? Certainly you must be joking when you say you don’t want to assist a specific customer because the salesperson he’s been working with has the day off or is with another customer!? You’re not in business for yourself, pal, so you’re not allowed to make that decision. You didn’t secure the franchise, buy the building, acquire the inventory, build the infrastructure and insure the whole operation. Another sales behavior that reveals a selfish demeanor is saying something like, “I have this motorcycle available…” or “I can offer you this…” Every customer isour customer.
When you sell a motorcycle, do you think you just made $20,000 for the boss? I’m always amazed when I hear salespeople who, upon closing a deal, announce, “Well, I just made $20,000 for the man.” You’re kidding, right? The boss bought the bike, paid the marketing costs, handled the operational expenses and will soon hand you a commission check. If your dealership is running at 5 percent net profitability — which many do — that means for every dollar you take in, your dealership owner keeps one nickel. That’s a lot of risk, and a lot of effort, for not a huge return.
Working at a motorcycle dealership needs to be a collaborative effort. As a salesperson, you must understand the realities of owning a business, just as owners must recognize the realities of being a salesperson.
I once asked a longtime Harley-Davidson dealer in Texas, “How many people do you have working for you now?” I’ll never forget his response. Without missing a beat, he said, “About half of ’em.”
The old adage is true: Far too many people quit looking for work the moment they get a job. Don’ t be one of them.
Your boss will love you for it.