Many people in the auto industry have been talking about evidence of a softening market. Lately, I have seen fear in the eyes of several salespeople, managers, and dealers. Good times and overabundance tends to spoil all of us and leads us to bad habits and a reduced sense of urgency that kills our business when things get tougher. What are you doing at your dealership right now to cushion for an economic downturn?
The time to prepare for bad times is not when they hit, but well in advance. Being proactive in your approach and planning of your dealerships process, marketing, training, follow-up, networking, basic sales skills and sense of urgency will make all the difference in whether you experience a downturn at all and how much it affects you.
If you wait until slower times arrive to increase your dealership’s sense of urgency and improve the daily work habits, you will induce a panic in your dealership that will create an inability of your employees to be productive or even think about anything but short-term survival. The panic mode is cancerous and spreads uncontrollably. The mind set and daily actions of your employees are many times more important than if there are good or bad economics.
There are people who became rich in the depression. Those who prospered when others failed looked at things totally different than others. To survive and thrive in lean times, you must take a contrarian approach to things. You must be different that your competitors and take the risks others won’t be willing to take. Will you bite the bullet and maintain expenditures on long term, intangible items that are easy to get rid of? Will you train, market, and advertise when others have quit?
In the last several years, auto dealers have experienced record numbers of people walking into showrooms ready, willing, and able to take a vehicle home. Because of this, have we forgotten the basic skills of follow-up and all the other things any salesperson should do to build their own successful business within a business? It will become essential that dealerships who want to prosper must once again work on defining their SDP – Specific Defining Proposition (what should make a customer choose you vs. all the competition). If you can’t drive home your message in a clear, concise and powerful way to customers, you will face price competition even more then usual.
Recently, I had the pleasure to visit with a dealer who was attending one of my workshops with his sales and management staff and he outlined his plan for his dealership and their approaches for all phases of his business both now and in the future. Immediately, that dealer helped strengthen my belief that with the right plan, execution, and attitude, any dealer can insulate their business from most all economic adversity.
The dealer made the statement that, “economic downturn was not in anybody’s vocabulary at his dealership.” I believe that any dealers or managers, who allow the excuse of a slower economy to creep into their vocabulary even just once, will give their employees the excuse many will look for to under-produce or fail.
In a recent sales meeting, a salesperson commented that he thought sales was largely luck. Luck of the right or wrong economy, dealership, customers, etc. Everyone in life will experience moments of truth that based upon your reaction to those moments, will either cause you to build toward success or lean toward failure. As all of us experience those, though, and in trying moments, you must ask yourself if you are willing to be like that salesperson. Will you choose to lose?