2018 has so far been a breakthrough year. Our commercial sales training program has had more telephone calls in the last two months from dealerships who suddenly want to get into commercial sales than in the last five years combined. Over the last few years, sales have hit records as an improving economy, rising wages, and low interest rates have driven consumers to invest in new vehicles.
According to Statistica, economic growth should push increases in light and medium duty truck sales through 2020. Light duty alone is expected to increase by 206,000 units from 2017 to 2018 and continue similar growth for the next three years. There is no better time to enter commercial sales or to expand your commercial sales operation!
However, despite overall market growth, individual dealers can still struggle. According to our statistics, around 50% of dealers face difficulty in meeting their most basic sales goals. There are a whole host of reasons why business doesn’t always grow, even during an economic boom. To help you avoid the major reasons for commercial sales failure, here are 10 Vehicle Dealership Tips for Working Smarter!!
1. Invest in employees, right from the start. If your idea is to have a “one man show,” you are going to struggle to the point of failure within the first six months. It would be like trying to field a baseball team with only 5 players. The minimum for your dealership should be at least two sales consultants and a dedicated commercial sales manager. When sales reach 20+ per month, it’s time to add a full-time assistant.
2. Understand the difference between retail & commercial sales. These two sides of the business are almost polar opposite. Showroom traffic can be very limited on the commercial side of business, which makes getting out the door and calling on prospects a more critical part of your success.
3. A lack of inventory can kill your sales opportunities. A meager inventory offering will turn away prospects on a monthly basis (and don’t think you will be able to make it up in dealer trades). We have a very defined inventory system that helps you move inventory on even unusual products. If you are afraid to stock inventory, you will struggle.
4. You need a detailed sales & marketing plan. This strategy should be broken down to weekly and daily activities, with a long-term month-by-month marketing plan and budget. Without a plan — and the commitment and accountability to stick to the plan — you will miss out on growing consistently and your sales staff will drift toward activities that are non-productive.
5. Strong department leadership is a necessity. It is possibly the single most important determinant to long-term success. This means you need a true “sales manager” who makes calls with his sales team and who holds them accountable to following the sales and marketing plan.
6. Develop business-to-business (B2B) CRM. Software for Customer Relationship Management within retail, which is almost always programed as business-to-customer (B2C), is not very adaptable to commercial sales. In fact, retail B2C CRM can kill relationships by contacting customers and prospects too often. Dozens of emails and telephone calls per day will only annoy a prospect. Find the right B2B CRM and use it correctly, and you will see dramatic results.
7. Actively participate in trade associations & business networking groups. A survey we recently conducted with 20 of the top commercial sales consultants was very surprising. When asked how much of their current business (both direct sales and referrals) could be traced back to active participation in professional organizations, the number was 61%! Think about that; involvement in professional organizations is key to the success of the top sales consultants out there. So you can bet it will be key to your success too!!
8. Don’t waste buyers’ time. Forcing a business owner to come to the dealership to pick up a new vehicle — and probably spend hours in the finance department — can become a drag, especially on your retention. One of the best ways you can separate yourself from the competition is make it easy and convenient to acquire vehicles. You can still sell extended warranties and other accessories, but do whatever you can to make your sales interaction a low-key moment. Trust me on this one, your business owner buyers will love you and keep coming back!!
9. Provide the right pay. For advertising and marketing, the average dealer spends over 25X more (!!) on retail sales than commercial sales. This demonstrates that you need to have realistic expectations about what a commercial salesperson could earn on commission. Long-term base-pay that covers the sales person for at least a year is critical to employee retention. And remember, you are tracking activity. If they are not doing the activities necessary to create sales, you will know in the first 30 days whether or not they are a keeper and can take the right steps to retain or release them.
10. Develop an adequate training system. The outside sales process can be exceptionally complicated and requires a unique set of skills. And, of course, commercial sales representatives must also become familiar with the technical aspects of products. To have qualified employees who represent your business well, you’ll need to implement a competent training system.
Ignoring these tips may only lead to spending a lot of money with little to show for your efforts and investment. But trust me, if you dedicate your business to following these 10 vehicle dealership tips for working smarter, you can avoid failure and earn success!!
About the Author
As the Founder and President of Commercial Truck Training, Ken has consulted, coached, and trained commercial dealers on individual, regional, and national business levels. Known as an industry leader, Ken has worked with companies like General Electric, General Motors, FCA, Ford, Commercial Truck Trader, and Equipment Trader.