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Posted: February 24, 2013

The Wow Factor Moves Vehicles

Upgrading vehicles on the showroom floor can mean more business for truck restylers

By Ellen Mckoy

Dealers are in business for two reasons: to sell vehicles and make money.  While any dealer can sell a factory-plain car or truck, it’s the restyled models on a dealership’s front line or in the showroom that inspire that “gotta have” feeling. According to a recent SEMA/AutoPacific Survey, the “wow” factor plays a key role in influencing consumers’ purchasing decisions. As the study revealed, restyled vehicles not only inspire consumers to buy a particular model because it’s been accessorized. Accessories also influence more than one million new-vehicle purchases annually. But accessories do more than generate sales. They also boost profits.  As noted in another study conducted by izmocars, which surveyed a core group of dealerships nationwide, profits generated through accessory sales increased an average of $500 per-vehicle sold in 2010. These are powerful message points that will resonate with dealers. But to achieve success with a dealer outreach, you have to start with the essentials.

Nuts And Bolts Of Dealer Sales

Like any business undertaking, you need a clearly defined game plan that focuses on short-term and long-term objectives. Here are a few tips to keep in mind. Selling to car dealers is different from retail sales. Yes, they share some common traits -- the need for product knowledge, sales savvy, and the ability to put customers at ease, to name a few.  But dealers and retail customers have different expectations. Consumers typically look for a quality shop that can provide a product or service to fill a particular want or need. Dealers are focused on selling more vehicles and making more money, and will rely on your company’s marketing and installation expertise to make that happen.

It starts with putting someone in charge of dealer sales. Consider hiring or appointing a salesperson to call on dealers. Training comes next. Your sales rep needs to master specific sales strategies, be familiar with your product offerings, and have the know-how to educate dealers about the value of accessorizing and how to market restyling products. Your most valuable asset is knowledgeable staff.

Be Organized

Good salesmanship is essential.  The true test of a salesperson’s skills is the ability to pull work out of a dealership. So pinpoint some clear-cut goals. Measure performance based on how well the objectives are met. Start by creating a dealer sales-call plan that includes sales reports. This will help track where your rep has been and what transpired. It’s also important to carve out your territory. To avoid a scatter-shot approach, get a map of your local community. Hang it on the wall. Draw a circle around your target area.  Hit a spot on that circle every day.

Anatomy Of A Sales Call

How your staff looks and acts is a reflection of your business. So you always want your staff to project a professional image. Want to be treated as a pro? Mirror the image of dealership personnel, and shed the jeans and T-shirt before making a sales call.

Create Rapport With Decision Makers

Relationship building is an essential part of selling. But identifying the decision maker isn’t always easy. It may vary from store to store. It’s up to your sales team to determine the pecking order, and create a connection. It starts with being a good listener, understanding the dealer’s wants and needs, and relying on merchandising know-how to build value in the dealer’s eyes.  It also helps to find common ground.

Look around the manager’s office. Is there something that’s sports or hobby related? These make great conversation starters and a good way to build rapport.
To help cement the relationship, invite the manager to lunch. Host a sales meeting to unveil a new product; bring pizza or bagels and coffee. Join your local auto dealer association. Drive your coolest ride to meetings.  Become an event sponsor. Hobnobbing with dealers opens doors to new business, and positions you as a colleague, not just a vendor.

Be Goal Oriented Before Opening The Door

Preparation is crucial to making a sale. Walk a dealer’s lot before making a sales call. Know what vehicles are in stock, which models and how many. Have stock numbers, colors and options on hand. Use pictures, brochures, a three-ring binder showing accessory options specific to the models the dealer sells, as well as dealer testimonials, to illustrate. Have alternate options on hand. These simple steps help overcome objections and close the sale.

Build Relationships With Key Dealership Personnel

Day to day, the sales or service department manager may be the primary contact. But a restyling program can benefit every department. So it makes sense to educate employees from several departments -- specifically, used-vehicle sales, F&I, parts, service, and Internet sales.  This will help them generate new revenue and send business your way.

Follow Up On Sales Calls

Potential sales often fall through the cracks for lack of follow up. That’s where sales reports come in handy. Keep separate files for every dealership visited. These tools will help you track what’s selling, when sales slack off, and when to next make contact at a dealership. But consistency is essential. Targeting dealerships on a hit-or-miss basis is unlikely to yield long-term results. Dealers need to see your rep on a consistent basis.  Rule of thumb: Visit current customers at least once a month and prospects every 60 days.

Show And Sell

As the accessories experts, you and your team have the marketing and installation expertise to take dealer sales to the next level. You know what sells in your area.  It’s up to you to make suggestions and take the guesswork out of planning what best fits a dealer’s inventory.  And there are myriad ways to do that.

Create Dealership Distinction

Besides installing individual accessories on pre-sold vehicles, you can help dealers add thousands of dollars to any sale by offering accessory packages for display in high-profile areas of the dealership. For example, a bedliner, hitch, grille, and graphics can be combined for a truck package. Or try combining a DVD player, GPS system, and leather seating for an interior package.  But no matter the add-ons, the key is to pique customer interest with displays in high-traffic areas. The more visible the accessories, the better they will sell. Special-edition models are another powerful merchandising tool. Select a few vehicles in a model line to customize with an accessory package that’s exclusive to a specific dealership. Add distinctive badging, and you’ve branded the vehicles as unique. This allows the dealer to offer trim levels not available from the automaker and that cannot be shopped at other stores, thereby delivering a competitive edge.

Stimulate Impulse Purchases

Accessory kiosks and wall displays are a great way to showcase accessories. Encourage dealers to create eye-catching accessory displays that will spark impulse purchases, be it in the showroom or customer waiting areas, especially the service and F&I departments. Work with your suppliers to secure product samples to include in a dealer’s display area. This not only generates additional dealer revenue. It also increases your shop’s and suppliers’ sales.

Target On-Line Shoppers

More and more consumers are shopping for vehicles and accessories online. Some savvy dealers feature accessories on their website. So it’s wise to encourage dealers to make accessories part of their website presence. But because Internet shoppers are often price conscious, accessories may not be top of mind. One way to pique their interest is to place a customized vehicle in the Internet sales vehicle-pickup area. That may be all it takes to grab the customer’s attention and spark an accessory sale.

Attention To Details Pays Off

Once you team with a dealer, your focus should be on keeping the wheels rolling smoothly. And paying attention to details pays off. It starts with reliable, on-time service. Speedy installation turnaround helps maintain your company’s reputation and the dealers’ business. So make sure your shop can deliver on what you promise. Customer satisfaction is another factor.  Dealers are rated by their automaker based on customer satisfaction index scores. Dealers with low CSI risk losing their choice of hot-selling models and can be denied another dealership franchise.

So even if the sales department makes money on accessories you provide, frequent service issues can erode the relationship.  Dealers look for and rely on restylers who install quality products and are quick to fix any problems that may arise. Dealers also place value on product warranties. They expect every accessory to be backed by a warranty that matches the factory warranty.  Many shops provide a matching warranty on installation work as well. Providing warranty-backed accessories helps to earn dealers’ trust.  It’s also a value-added marketing tool to set your shop apart from the competition. These tactics are by no means everything that can be done to help dealers accelerate sales and profits. But the opportunities have not been this bright for a while. Seize the opportunity to help dealers implement innovative strategies, and you and they will reap the rewards.

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