Article

Profit From Your Architecture - A Buying Environment

August 2006, Auto Dealer Today - WebXclusive

by Jeff Margaretten - Also by this author

People love to shop. It’s practically a national pastime. That’s why the hopping mall was invented – so people could go shopping even before they knew what they wanted. And inevitably, people go home with trunks filled with stuff. The Internet has made shopping even easier, and it’s open round the clock. People love to shop, but they don’t like being sold.

Last issue we discussed site marketing and the importance of controlling your customer traffic. This issue, we’ll discuss presenting the type of memorable car buying experience that awaits them inside. Turn your showroom into a “Buying Environment” and you’ll eliminate the anxiety of walking on to a sales floor to be sold by a salesperson.

In the book, "The Experience Economy," authors Gilmore and Pine ask why intelligent customers will pay $5 or more for a cup of coffee at Starbucks when they can brew at home for a quarter. Simple, they are paying for the experience; just like at Hard Rock Café, Disney World or yes, your local car dealership. These companies have built their brand on selling the experience of going there. The product has almost become secondary.

And now we have the Internet! It may be trying to turn the car into a commodity, but don’t be fooled – it’s not all about price. Customer’s still want the experience of going to the local dealership, building a relationship with a sales consultant, smelling the new car smell and enjoying the day.

Sell the Experience Of Buying A Car and your sales volume will increase dramatically.

All customers require a slightly different sales approach tailored to their individual personality and needs. Rather than forcing them into your sales environment – the comfort zone of the salesperson’s private office – give the customer the freedom to choose their environment and then sit down and join them.

If there are children, let them enjoy a safe, highly visible playroom, so the parents can relax, take their time and shop for that perfect vehicle. Knowing that the kids are taken care of, a salesperson will have their undivided attention – thereby increasing face time. Allowing a customer to sit at a neutral consultation table creates a buying opportunity free from the typical, pressurized salesman’s office. Empowering the customer’s freedom to get up and walk around, gives them the patience to sit just a little bit longer. This can only serve to increase closing ratios.

A memorable experience at the dealership will create repeat buyers; so make it fun and relaxing for your customers.

In the end, some may want to sit at the open table and some may want to sit in a private office. Still others might want to relax on a sofa, have a cup of coffee, read the brochures and take their time. If they are comfortable where they are, don’t tell them to get up and come to your office. Let it be their choice – not yours. Empowering your customers allows them to relax, think clearly, and do what they came here to do – buy a car.

A computer sitting on a table in the corner of the showroom or a fancifully decorated computer kiosk can be a salesman’s best friend and a customer’s security blanket. Have the customer who brings in a downloaded spec sheet sit down and show you what they found. Put them in their comfort zone and let the buying opportunity build. And for the one who hasn’t surfed the Net? Show them the latest on-line research that touts your products. Print them a personalized packet, listing your best selling products and the ones they inquired about from yourdealership.com. Provide them the type of experience they will not forget, so on buying day, they won’t forget you.

An Internet station is also a great way for your service customers to forget their troubles and pass the time. And even better, it re-introduces them to your vehicle sales consultants.

There’s an old saying in the retail design industry, “Design for your Client’s Client.” If the customer is happy, the sales staff will be even happier.

Whether you are looking at renovating a showroom or building a new facility from scratch, remember that the most important user of your dealership is the customer. Regarding the customer’s needs as the highest design priority will instantly reveal itself with increased sales volume and higher Customer Satisfaction Scores.

Profiting from your architecture is the best way to afford the cost of construction. Make it easier for them to shop, and it will easier for them to buy.

Since much of a dealership’s profit is linked to it’s service absorption factor, we must not forget that most dealership visitors are service customers. Next issue, will talk about how to make that hour-long wait in the customer lounge, productive, memorable and of course, profitable.

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