Article

Selling in the Dog Days of Summer

September 2011, Auto Dealer Today - WebXclusive

by Brent Carmichael - Also by this author


The dog days of summer are here. The time to make hay while the sun is shining has come and gone.

The typical BHPH dealer will sell 40 to 45 percent of their annual units in the first three months of the year. They will also realize about the same percentage of their annual profit in those first three months. So if you got off to a slow start, the dog days of summer could be the only way to salvage your year. We all know the last three months of the year are not the time to try to make your year.

Being able to sell in the dog days is really no different than selling in the hay days. The four key ingredients to selling are the same. The only difference is the focus has to be there. In the hay days, selling is pretty easy. Customers have money. You have inventory. All is right in the world. But come the dog days, customers have less money, and they seem to be harder to find.

The first and most important of the key ingredients to selling in the dog days is simply training. Well-trained salespeople can sell any time of year. You should always be training. Both phone training and basic sales skills training should be done at least weekly. Use role-playing to work with your salespeople on overcoming objections, and phone training should be conducted on how to set appointments.

The second ingredient in the formula is appearance. Now I’m not necessarily talking about your employees’ appearance, which should always be neat and professional, but your overall lot appearance. The number-one reason customers list for coming in is drive-by. If that is the case, then why wouldn’t you want your lot to look the best in town? Your lot should always be neat and orderly. Your vehicles should be spaced evenly with a good mix of colors and styles. A lot party, or lot rodeo, should be done at least once a week if not more. It will really go a long way to making your lot look fresh. Consider the vehicles on your lot to be your mannequins and treat them the way a fine department store treats theirs. Keep them fresh, neat, clean, and always ready to sell.

Marketing is the next of the key ingredients. With traffic being at such a premium, this is the time when repeat and referral programs really pay dividends. This is a good time of year to focus on referrals, not just with your customer base, but with outside companies and people as well. If you are not already paying referrals to non-customers, it’s something that you should seriously consider (provided it’s legal in your state).

Marketing also extends to your Web presence. Make sure your website is up to date, especially if it displays inventory. I was on a dealer client’s website the other day, and it had pictures of some of inventory that had snow on it. So make sure all aspects of your site are up to date; this includes any advertised specials, the “about us” section and the employee introduction section. You don’t want someone calling or coming in asking for someone or something that is no longer there.

The last key ingredient in the dog-days selling formula is advertising. In this very competitive industry, advertising in some form or fashion is a must. The thing that makes advertising effective is reaching the right folks with the right message. The two most popular media are of course television and radio. There is the thought that people watch less television in the summer and listen to more radio. This is not the case. Studies have shown that television viewing doesn’t drop off at all during the summer. The same goes for radio listening.

The important thing to remember about advertising in both these media is that you are not your customer, so don’t advertise to yourself. Chances are your customers watch different television stations than you do and may even listen to different radio stations. Make sure the stations you are on are the ones your customers are watching and listening to. Customer surveys from both new customers and existing customers are the best way to gauge their entertainment preferences. Simply put, just ask.

As with marketing, your Web presence is a way advertise. The use of not only your website, but Facebook and even Twitter can be ways to get your message out. I wouldn’t necessarily count on these selling you more cars, but they are perfect ways to advertise new inventory or special sales promotions.

As you can see, the formula to selling in the dog days is the same as selling in the hay days. It just takes a little more attention to detail. There are usually fewer opportunities in the dog days, so capitalizing on them is that much more important.

Vol. 8, Issue 7

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