While most customers that come into your dealership are there for parts or service, they all will walk into and through your outside display area and, in most cases, through your showroom. The showroom becomes your showcase for current and potential new customers and represents the excitement and opportunity that customers hope to experience at your dealership and with the products you sell.

I encourage the dealerships I consult with to understand the power of emotion when it comes to attracting customers into their dealerships. Whether it’s a current customer or a potential new customer, they walk into your dealership looking to be cared for, wanting to feel like they have come home.

Creating the Experience of ‘Home’

Take a moment and think what it means emotionally to go home. If you had a normal childhood, going home was a wonderful time. Think of the smells as you walked into a home that had cooking and baking going on and the excitement of being greeted by people who missed you and cared about you. That experience is exactly what you want to recreate in your dealership.

When you walk into your dealership in the morning or after lunch, take a moment and close your eyes and notice the smell of your store. Then, open your eyes and look closely at your equipment displays, maybe the clutter, the lighting and even the other employees. How does it make you feel?

 If you are like most people, it looks, smells, and feels like a dealership. Nothing is unique or special. You smell oil, rubber tires and even diesel fuel from your shop. You make think you are different than other dealerships in the way you care for customers and create a good environment to sell products. However, in reality, most dealerships feel the same way.

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One of the most important things you can do in your dealership is create a customer experience that is different from other dealerships. I like to start with smell when talking to dealers about their showroom because it is the one thing we can easily adjust, which will change people’s perception of who we are and what we do. It will begin to differentiate you from your competitors.

People often associate the smell of food with home. When you walk in the door of your parent’s house, you are overcome with smells that you are familiar with. If your mom was anything like my mom, the first thing that would happen when I came home had to do with food. She always was trying to get me to eat something. And if I wasn’t hungry, she would at least insist that I sit down and have a cup of coffee or a glass of tea so we could catch up.  

That’s what I would encourage you to create in your dealership. In fact, I have one dealership that is constantly baking fresh chocolate chip cookies and has fresh popcorn all day long. The dealership even takes it one step further and has little cartons of milk and cans of soda that they give away to customers. What a great icebreaker for when someone walks into this dealership. Think about this: You have a customer walk into your dealership and the first thing you ask them is “Would you like a cookie? How about some milk?”

Many of you have children come into your dealership with parents or even grandparents. What if you were to invest in a gumball machine for your dealership? And, every time you had a parent or grandparent walk in the door, before you do anything, give the child a quarter and tell them to have their parent or grandparent get them a gumball. What kind of response would you get from the kid? Even more, what kind of reaction would you get from the parent or grandparent?

I was talking about this idea one time and someone said to me “Bob, wouldn’t it get expensive to spend all of those quarters?” I simply replied, “You have the key!” What does a gumball cost? About 2 cents? It’s a great investment to make someone feel like they have come home,

Showcasing Equipment

Now, that you have thought about the “Welcome Home” experience, take a moment and consider how you display products. Many dealerships have a limited amount of space so they believe that they should pack it full of equipment. While it makes sense to load up your showroom with as much equipment as possible, the reality is that it becomes confusing for your customers.

Think about a car dealership and how they use their showroom. They don’t put every car they have in the showroom, they pick out a few different models at different price points and load them with options. Their showroom is not an extension of their car lot; it is a place they use to showcase specific cars and trucks to catch a potential buyer’s attention.

If you pack your showroom so there is no space to walk or no space for customers to sit on equipment, you are creating a negative experience that makes most customers want to look around. They will end up leaving to see if they can find a place that is easier to work with.

Read Part 2 in tomorrow’s Rural Lifestyle Dealer eBrief Daily email.

Next Installment of Showcasing Your Dealership Brand 
In Part 2, Clements offers ways to improve a dealership’s exterior appearance to boost brand image and awareness as well as customer satisfaction.