Having been a farm equipment factory rep and the manager of a rural lifestyle dealership, it’s fun to now have the opportunity to write about the business. I get to interview dealers from all across the country and most of you are willing to share your secrets of success.
When travelling, I stop at dealerships to see what’s going on. Once, I went to pick up the kids at my in-laws less than 200 miles away and visited 11 dealerships along the way. My wife now refuses to accompany me on my equipment dealership driving adventures.
I’m amazed at the unique ways to grow your business and it’s interesting to find those little nuggets of sales techniques. In this special anniversary issue, I’m digging into the vault of my observations for 8 strategies to grow your dealership in the next decade, regardless of where you are or the products you sell.
1. Add more showroom space. Make your place look as good, or better, than the local car dealerships. Any money invested in additional indoor display areas will yield big returns. A farm customer will shop in your lot when it’s zero degrees outside, but rural lifestylers want to be inside and comfortable. Tiled floors, or at least a brightly painted floor, and lots of lights will really help sell the equipment.
2. If you have a bad location, move. Ten years ago, we had just finished moving the dealership that I managed from a location with under 1,000 cars passing a day, to one with close to 30,000. I was shocked at the immediate increase in floor traffic. The relocation was difficult, but well worth the investment.
3. Improve your website with video and make sure your Web provider installs Google Analytics. I’m biased here because I’m involved in a company that develops dealer websites and I maintain a tractor-training website with video. Video is like having a salesperson available 24/7. If you integrate education, inspiration or entertainment into your website with video, your customers will love you — and share your content with others. When was the last time someone shared one of your newspaper ads?
Google analytics is a free online service that tracks website traffic, such as what pages were visited and how often. You also have the capability to set up custom reports to manage the information that’s most important to your dealership. Many equipment dealers don’t realize it’s available and you can’t analyze how well you’re doing without it.
4. If your kids don’t want the dealership, develop an Employee Stock Ownership Plan (ESOP). If you need a way out of the business and don’t want to close the doors and have an auction, you owe it to yourself and your employees to investigate an ESOP. It keeps your dealership viable and motivates and rewards loyal employees.
5. Assess which lines are making you money and get rid of those that cause you stress. You want a diverse product mix, but your time is precious. Do any of your manufacturers send you massive amounts of information, have a rep who’ll come around when you’re busy to tell you how to run your business and then leave without buying lunch? If you’re not selling much of their equipment, get rid of them.
6. Empower your most trusted people and tell them how much they mean to you. I’m sure you have employees who are committed to your dealership. They may not be perfect, but they try their best. Schedule a time to bring them into your office to thank them. It won’t cost anything and many times it means more than a raise. Then, give them more authority and empower them to make decisions so you can do #7.
7. Get out of the dealership. Many dealers are stuck behind their desks and start dreading their work. Our business has burned out some tough people; don’t be one of them. Find at least one hobby that gets you out of the dealership and away from the day-to-day business.
8. Fire the customers that you can’t make happy. You can salvage the relationships you have with 98% of those customers who are having issues when you prove you are taking care of them. Get rid of the 2% that are chronic complainers. When you do that, you’ll lose the headaches plus have more time to focus on the customers who make you successful.
Sometimes, we just need to stop and be thankful to be in such a great business. There’s nothing like the feeling of delivering a UTV to someone who’s never owned one. The whole family is there when you unload it and they’re all ready to go have fun. Where could you work that would be any more enjoyable?