Business Lessons Visiting Dealerships

A friend recently shared a story of how he and his business partner tried to purchase several cars for their business but no one would service them because they were dressed in t-shirts and jeans. That was “the 90s”.

In 2013, I experienced a similar sales problem. I went into several car dealership, wearing a suit, looking to lease a new car for my business and somehow, I couldn’t, even if I tried. Here is what I learned about customer service when experiencing bad customer service.

A little context: at that time in my life I had been driving for 32 years and in business for 8 years. I’d owned many cars and had purchased a lot of business equipment over the years. Buying a car was not an unknown process for me.

Dealership 1

I was approached by a kind sales person who asked me all the expected questions. I had an idea of what I was after and he showed me the details of the options that fit my requirements. I was ready to move forward with a lease and he proceeded to ask me when I would like to book a time for my husband to come in? Somehow he had not understood I was the owner of the business, buying equipment for my company. I was confused and, frankly, a little pissed off. I definitely didn’t want to buy a car for him after that.

Dealership 2

Following that irritating interaction I went to another car dealership to look at another brand I was interested in. I had never driven this brand before and I was excited to try it out. I could already see myself in the car. I walked in carrying a clipboard, wearing my suit and looked around. No one seemed busy yet no one took any notice of me. I started walking through the show room. No reception, no welcome, no acknowledgement at all. I was completely invisible. I walked all the way through the showroom, around the corner to look out the back window, turned around and walked out again.

If we had been playing a game of Flags, their team would have lost – which is basically what happened; They lost a sale.

Dealership 3

I decided to go to the dealership of the brand that I was currently driving (at that time a used 13-year-old Subaru Outback). I had to drive farther away to get to their showroom, which was the main reason I had not gone there in first. I was now jaded by my past two experiences and worried that my longer trip was also going to be a waste of time.

I didn’t even get in the door when someone called out a welcome. There was a receptionist that called me over with a smile and asked how she could direct me. I was connected to a fabulous salesperson. This person, like in the first dealership I mentioned, asked all the expected questions, showed me the details of the options that fit my requirements. Then he asked me about my business structure, helped me get the leasing paperwork started and kept in touch as the transaction took place.

As a result of this incredible service, I have returned for 3 more of these vehicles with two different sales people. I don’t just hear from them at trade-in time, I actually know about their lives, their families, their passions and I’m known when I walk in the door. That is what drives return sales.

How can you provide better customer service?

Two out of three dealerships that I visited did not see me as a potential client, even though I had arrived to do business. This is a small number of all the car dealerships in my area, so it may not be representative of all the dealerships, but, two is still too many.

1 Don’t try to read their mind

Don’t assume you know what a person needs or wants without asking them questions. If you assume they are not ready to buy, but they are, you will miss the sale and any return business that would have gone with it. If you assume they do not have the buying decision, nor the money, you alienate them from your circle. They will not enjoy your business’s culture. This will likely stop them from wanting to be associated with your business. If this happens, they will never refer your business and may even give you a bad review or talk poorly of you.

2 Be Attentive

When your client contacts you for the first time (or any time for that matter), whether it be a person walking into your store, or someone sending a contact message through your website, you must treat them with welcoming intent. ‘Welcoming intent’ is not ‘buying intent’, it is being open and friendly to their presence in your business. Be excited to help them and excited for their potential purchase. After all, you sell something (a product or service) that helps solve a problem (big or small) for your customers. That is why they come to you.

3 Don’t assume the service ends at the sale

Like my Subaru dealership, I have several other businesses that I frequent because I feel like I belong there. I enjoy the people, the products, and the experience. I bet you do as well. In your business, ensure that you have a system to keep in touch with your clients. The more the product or service costs, the more money and time you should put into this and the more personal this touch-point should be. The Subaru dealership calls me, my favourite clothing store sends me emails, my grocery store sends out fliers.

Final Thoughts

If you want your business to persist, well beyond your ownership, then you have to ensure that you create a culture that is inclusive and fosters forward thinking. If Dealership 2 had this skill, there would be at least one person that would have stopped their conversation to talk to the stranger walking through their showroom.

Don’t let your next potential client remain a stranger. Be happy to see them and help them find what they need.

The articles you read in this blog are 100% created by Barb Stuhlemmer, not by AI

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