Tuesday, May. 20, 2014, 04:55 PM UPDATED 9:35 AMBy Anne Fleming
As competition becomes tighter in the U.S. auto industry, the need for exceptional leaders at dealerships couldn’t be greater. Today, leaders know what’s best for business, what path leads to ultimate business success, and how to distinguish their business from the pack.
These two things are critical to understand as we dive into this topic: a) having a clear business direction and b) differentiating yourself from the marketplace.
Wayne Gretzky, the professional hockey legend, is a great example of a true leader and a game-changer. He always knew where the game was going and how he could take advantage of the given situation and lead his team to ensure victory was inevitable. Gretzky said it best when he explained the key to his success: “A good hockey player knows where the puck is — however, a great hockey player knows where the puck is going.”
This may be coming from a hockey player, but it makes sense even if it is applied to the auto industry.
Today, to be an exceptional leader like Gretzky, a proactive and anticipatory approach is important. At present, the auto industry is dynamic. The competition is soaring, the buyer market is shifting from male to more female-focused, and so are the car buying trends.
Consumers today are more tech-savvy; they prefer searching for dealers online which is more convenient as compared to traditional market search, which looked more like “buy at the dealer closest to your home.”
It is said that times of uncertainty and change often produce great opportunities to differentiate. Likewise, this is the right time for executives, GSMs and SMs to think and lead like Gretzky, driving their business to further success. It is imperative to take strategic risks and be proactive about tapping the emerging trends. By adopting new strategies to cope with the market changes, dealerships will be able to reposition themselves timely and stand out from the pack.
Let’s first take a look at some significant game-changing trends that pertain to women:
- Women in the United States buy 50 percent of vehicles — about 75,000 a day at new- and used-car dealerships
- According to the U.S Census, over one-third of women out-earn their husbands
- More and more children are born to single moms
These may seem just numbers but they are real money-making and business performance boosting statistics for dealers who want to be positioned as the go-to dealership stores in their market.
This brings us to what possible plays would produce forward thinking leaders to ensure their dealership copes with industry changes and rises above competition? Below we have discussed how dealerships can play off each game-changing trend to their advantage and leverage business:
Women have the Buying Power. This is the perfect opportunity for dealerships to break from the traditional sales model and make their store more women- and family-friendly. Since women are propelling sales, cater effectively to this buying segment by hiring more women sales and service advisors. It is seen that women are more comfortable communicating with the same gender.
Currently, an estimated 18 percent of dealership personnel are women, but most are non-floor sales positions like BDC, social, administration, marketing and service positions. So, it’s the right time to encourage women to join the sales floor. Hire qualified people that relate and look like your customers for a more comfortable and successful sales experience for women buyers.
Loyalty happens in the service drive. Therefore, it’s critical that your top listeners are your service advisors. Why? To hear what women are saying and not saying.
Your best listener behind the service counter makes female customers more comfortable to ask questions concerning repairs and, when triggered or upset, provides a space to problem solve and get the issue handled and move on.
The Changing Family: Women are the breadwinners in over one-third of family households today. There are many homes with stay at home dads, same gender parents and multiple generations living under one roof. Cater to each woman and potential customer with ultimate respect. For more, click here.
Meet Your Customers where They Are:
- Problem Solve: As more children are being born to single moms, it is important to incorporate quality and value adding concierge services that works around their busy day. All parents will appreciate a childrens play area where they can leave their kids safely and focus more on the dealership visit purpose.
- A Caring Company: Further, the No. 1 requested concierge service item from women is an overnight vehicle. Having this shows you understand the inconvenience of having a car repaired overnight and are willing to go the extra step to do something about it. You are providing hassle and worry free service.
- Have Women Want to Be Here: So what else can your business dealership provide to make it a place that women want to be, not have to be? Have fun services like a boutique fitness and yoga studio with changing area, shower, and restrooms. Not everyone wants to sit and watch TV. How about individual play stations for mom gamers to relax after a long working day while their car is being serviced. Sound silly?
At one time your grocery store simply sold food. Now it has other conveniences like banking, café, childcare, dry cleaner, pharmacy, and health and wellness, etc.
- Install vending machines with healthy food options and beverages (not just M&M’s and Pepsi) and provide Starbucks coffee and tea. How about a part time manicurist?
- Free car wash policy is a winner for you and your customers as they will stop in a lot more frequently – different and more lasting relationships will be created.
- Engage and Educate: Assist customers in getting to know their new car better with a specialist 1 on 1, or spend time looking at the latest safety and technology features of your top 3 models being featuring that month. All these are little changes that make a great impact on customers to help win them over for long time, if not a lifetime.
Women visit two dealerships and buys from just one. What plays are you making to ensure she picks your store? Leadership paired with strategy is a better game than luck in capturing new business.
Editor's Note: Anne Fleming is president and car-buying advocate of Women-Drivers.com and a guest contributor to Auto Remarketing. She was also recognized as one of AR's 2013 Women in Remarketing.