(Originally published in the Fall 2020 edition of Tennessee Dealer News.)
The 5 Things Dealers Can Do Today to Stay on Top In 2021
While the forecasts change almost daily, vehicle sales in 2021 are not expected to be like 2019. What I can predict is that 2021, like 2020, will be a weird year for dealers; that is, what we know for certain in January will be completely different by March.
With so much unpredictability, what should a dealership do if they want to win today and tomorrow?
Five of the winning strategies I share with clients will help dealers grow share in any location regardless of market conditions. These strategies are especially important when the market is as unpredictable as 2021 looks to be. The great news about these five pieces of advice is that enacting them will help you grow share today and tomorrow.
- Make the Most of Today
With the market changing almost daily in 2020, dealers who enjoyed multiple record months did so because they made the most of the opportunities in front of them. They realized the Up on the lot today might lose his job tomorrow.
“If we don’t help him get the right vehicle today, he may not qualify tomorrow.”
The same will be true in 2021 and beyond. Moreover, given the average buyer visits fewer than two lots before they buy, the chances for a be-back will not be the same as they were in the past.
Got a lead? Phone Up? Some guy walking on your lot? Put them in a vehicle today! Tomorrow could be too late.
- Drive Attitude and Activity
The two most important elements to sustained sales success are attitude and activity. The attitude you want from everyone in the organization – especially from your managers – is simply a belief in three things:
- I love what I do, and I’m blessed to be doing it.
- Everyone is a buyer who wants to buy today.
- I want every person on my team to succeed.
Once your team has the right attitude, then driving sales activities becomes easy. It’s easy because, well, if we love what we do and everyone is a buyer and everyone wants your team to succeed, then making calls, following up, and treating prospects like qualified buyers becomes a habit.
- Spend for the Long Term
This advice may seem in conflict with the strategy to make the most of today, but it’s not. Spending for the long term doesn’t mean forgetting about today; plus, if you spend for tomorrow properly, you’ll also drive business today. Specifically:
- Spend on real reputation management. That is, pay for only genuine 5-star reviews.
- Spend on real SEO. Be warned: most SEO companies I’ve investigated are selling snake oil, so be sure to do your homework. Great SEO drives qualified traffic to your website today and far into the future.
- Spend on targeted, in-market shoppers. As of this writing, Facebook is the most cost-effective way to do this. Find an honest Facebook partner and leverage Facebook’s autoshopper data to drive great results.
- Spend on your database. Your CRM is everything. Spending now to keep it robust and complete helps you sell cars today and in the future. By spending, I mean ensuring every Up is recorded, contact info collected, and great notes are made. Additionally, spend time to realign processes and ensure all sales tasks are completed.
- Be Dissatisfied
The biggest difference between dealers outperforming their market and those treading water is simply this: dissatisfaction at the top. It’s not about market size (Dave Smith Motors is in Kellogg, Idaho); and it’s not about having a great OEM brand (think Texas Direct Auto).
It’s all about never being satisfied with what you did yesterday; never being satisfied with above average. Celebrate your record sales from last month for ten minutes, then move on… it’s time to work on this month.
- Shorten Your Road-to-the-Sale
The top car buyer complaint is how long it takes to purchase. In the past, the process had to be long because most of the customer’s “research” happened on the lot. Today, those sending in a lead, calling you, or walking on the lot pretty much know what they want and what they expect to pay.
Reward them for their research by shortening your road-to-the-sale. You can do this without shortcutting your sales or grosses. In fact, done right, a shorter road-to-the-sale increases closing rates and both front and back grosses.
Certainly, you’ve heard the Chinese proverb that the best time to plant a tree was twenty years ago; the second-best time is now. Start today to make the changes necessary to stay on top in 2021 and beyond.
Automotive Sales Books by Steve Stauning: