The dog days of summer are here. The typical BHPH dealer will sell 30 percent to 35 percent of their annual units in the first three months of the year. They will also realize about the same percentage of their annual profit in the first quarter. So, if you got off to a slow start this year, summer could be the only way to salvage your annual sales; however, it’s going to be a lot harder. But you can profit in the summer—with the right plan. Good sales in the summer are no different than selling in the first-quarter heydays. It just requires more focus and drive because your customers have less money and can be harder to find. The four steps I outline below will give your team the skills and focus to make more sales, even in the most challenging months.
Step One: Develop the right skills
The first of the key ingredients, and most important, is training. Well-trained salespeople can sell any time of year. Set up a training schedule to get your team on point. Both phone training and basic sales skills training should be done weekly, at a minimum. Specifically, address how to overcome objections; role playing is a good way to accomplish this. Educate your staff on how to set effective appointments by recording and reviewing the calls. Lot traffic is at a premium during the dog days, so make sure your people know how to handle effectively what opportunities they do have.
Step Two: Keep up appearances
Appearance is critical. Now, I’m not necessarily talking about your employees’ appearance, which should always be neat and professional, but your overall lot appearance. Over my many years in the business and as an executive conference moderator with NCM Associates, I’ve discovered that the No. 1 reason BHPH customers choose a dealership is that it looked good when they drove by. Let’s take this at face value and make sure your lot is the best-looking one in town! Fortunately, improving your lot appearance isn’t difficult. Make sure it is always neat and orderly. Arrange vehicles evenly and with a good mix of colors and styles; don’t have them face all four directions of the compass! Host a lot party or rodeo at least once a week to force yourself to keep the lot fresh. And don’t forget the cars themselves. You should consider the vehicles on your lot as your mannequins and treat them the way a fine department store treats theirs. Keep them fresh, neat, clean and always ready to sell. That goes for overall lot appearance as well. A fresh coat of paint and some weed killer can do wonders.
Step Three: Entice your customers
Successful dealerships understand that you can’t just sit and wait for clients. Good marketing brings people to your lot; develop a plan that offers attractive incentives. Summer is a time when repeat and referral programs really pay dividends. And it is also a good time of year to focus on referrals, not just with your customer base but with outside companies as well. (If you are not already paying referrals to non-customers, it’s something that you should give some serious consideration to. I can assure you some, if not all, of your competitors are doing it.) Marketing also extends to your online presence. Make sure your website is up to date. Read through your “About Us” sections and any testimonials — do you need to make changes? Review your employee introductions — has anyone left or been promoted? Do the photos need to be replaced? Reviewing photos is of particular importance if you display inventory: I was on a dealer client’s website the other day, and the inventory photos had SNOW on the vehicles! And it's 90 degrees outside! It’s also critical that you check any advertised specials. You don’t want someone stopping in for a deal that’s no longer current.
Step Four: Get your message out
If you want to make the most of the dog days of summer, make sure people know about you. In this very competitive industry, advertising in some form or fashion is a must. The two most popular traditional advertising media are, of course, television and radio. And, contrary to popular belief, use doesn’t drop off in the summer. Advertising is only effective when it reaches the right folks with the right message. When promoting in these channels, remember to advertise to your customer, not yourself. Chances are your buyers watch different television stations than you do and may even listen to different radio stations. Select ad placements where your clients are watching and listening. If you aren’t certain what media your customers are using, survey both new and existing customers to gauge their entertainment preferences. In other words, just ask them. Moving past traditional media, there are many options in social media to get your message out. As you can see, the formula for selling in the dog days is the same as selling in the heydays. Although there are usually fewer opportunities, you can capitalize on what you have when you pay more attention to detail. And it doesn’t need to be expensive—the two most important I outlined above are the least expensive. With the right mix of training, lot maintenance, and marketing/advertising, I know you can keep the dogs at bay.