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Fundamentally Sound: Don't Forget the Sales Basics

May 2013, Auto Dealer Today - WebXclusive

by Courtney Cole - Also by this author

In these tech-savvy times, we can sometimes get distracted by the “shiny objects” we are told we have to have. See, before getting caught up in the latest technology, we have to be sure we’re still executing the fundamentals flawlessly. After all, that is the part we can control, and executing good practices on a regular basis will help us be extraordinary.

Let’s review seven fundamentals that will help your store achieve phenomenal results with or without the aid of the latest technology tool.

1. Convert Calls to Appointments
To secure an appointment with a prospect, you’re going to need a good script. If you have one, then you need to make sure your people are following it. Never assume that the tools and resources you provide your employees are being used. In fact, don’t be surprised if your people have invented their own scripts when you do check on them.

That’s why I recommend you record all incoming calls. Not only does it help you stay connected with what’s happening at your store, it’s essential for training purposes. In fact, I would suggest an in-house effort to listen to the calls that come in, then coach accordingly. If that’s too much, then use an outside service to monitor inbound calls. 

Either way, it is essential to get constant feedback. The goal is to get as many appointments to show as possible. Constant tracking and feedback can do wonders for your conversion rate and boost traffic in the showroom. 

2. Get the Sales Managers Involved
For sales managers, meeting customers early and often and getting involved in “TOs” is an absolute must. Restaurants do a fantastic job of making sure every visit is enjoyable. So why can’t we do the same? If restaurants can do that on a $20 meal, we should be able to do it on a $20,000 vehicle purchase. 

Are we training on a daily basis? Are we having one-on-ones? Are the managers calling customers in an attempt to get them back into the store? It’s amazing what a second face can do to get the customer excited about purchasing a vehicle. Furthermore, the daily involvement of managers and salespeople does wonders for performance, morale and keeping turnover to a minimum.

3. Mine the Database
Your database is a goldmine. So, do you have a way to stay connected with your customers? A monthly newsletter is a great way to accomplish that. Or how about identifying and contacting customers who have gone six months without a service visit? Does your store do such a thing? 

There are a lot of companies out there offering e-mail or direct mail services that can help. One popular promotion is identifying and reaching out to customers who may be in a positive equity position with their current vehicle. All you have to do is tell your customers they can get into nicer, newer vehicles for the same payment or less if they’re willing to trade now. This is powerful information and it should be utilized on a monthly basis.

4. Encourage Referrals
If you don’t have a systematic method of asking for referrals after every delivery and tracking the number of referrals that come in on a monthly basis, create one. Referrals are huge, and they usually result in more gross per unit simply because of the trust factor. There are many clever ways to ask for this every time, so feel free to e-mail me for additional ideas.

5. Know Your Lenders
A few years ago we could not get the banks to purchase our indirect paper. Now they all want to know why we don’t send them all of our paper. So, how are we managing this? Are we sending our deals to a bank that has gone out of its way to purchase deals it would not ordinarily purchase? This should be reviewed and talked about on a weekly basis so everyone is aware of where deals are being sent and why.

6. Reduce Your Floorplan Rate
Your floorplan rate should be at an all-time low. So, have you reviewed your current rate? It’s a great time to shop rates because there are some phenomenal deals in the marketplace. Many banks are lending at a rate of less than 2 percent. 

7. Rethink Your Partnerships
We sometimes get a great idea, implement a new service or technology and then, six months later, realize the tool isn’t being used. There is nothing worse than paying for something you’re not using. Actually, worse is having the contract on that unused tool automatically renew for another year. That’s why you need a system in place to review contracts before they run out. I’d also suggest you renew contracts for only 30 days at a time.
Listen, being on the cutting edge is a good thing. With today’s Internet shopper, it’s crucial. But before you pull out your American Express card to purchase that new “shiny object,” make sure you have the seven fundamentals I laid out covered. It’s the best way to ensure you get the best out of your people and your investment.


  1. 1. Rory Dennehy [ January 15, 2014 @ 02:47PM ]

    Dear Courtney,

    I am a dealer principal for a Renault car dealership in Ireland. I have been unsuccessful to date in implementing a sophisticated referral program, i.e. one that is systematic and quantifiable. I would really appreciate any insights into this important area of the business.

    Loved the article.
    Rory Dennehy

  2. 2. Denise [ January 31, 2014 @ 10:27AM ]

    Hi Courtney! I'm new to the dealer business and understand how important referrals are, I hear only a couple (if that) salespeople consistently ask for referrals at each delivery, what ideas do you think work effectively? Any thoughts are greatly appreciated!

  3. 3. David Ruggles [ February 06, 2014 @ 04:49AM ]

    Good stuff Courtney. Just as human nature doesn't change, neither do the basics.

    Most vehicle owners aren't aware they can probably get into a new vehicle for about the same payment they are pay currently. This can be a compelling message in the service drive. When you take that vehicle in on trade, the service department still does the repairs the trade needs as part of recon. I know some dealers just killing it by going into the tire business in competition with Sams, Costco, Discount Tire, Firestone, etc. They aren't in it for profit. They can take advantage of their OEM tire contract and pass those deals on to customers. This can keep owners from venturing to competitors, which is where leakage begins. That's assuming dealers aren't trying to make oil changes a profit center. The extra tire traffic also provides opportunities to ask the "same monthly payment" question as well as to sell other service. Referrals on the tire deal can draw other make owners to your service department. We know what that can mean. Turns out, giving away tires can be a great business model.


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