Dealerships are bombarded with new options for marketing their businesses and selling to customers.

In searching for the magic bullet, dealers end up going about winning business the hard way. They can overlook the basic precepts of sales. In reality three things must happen in order to sell anything

First, the customer has to want or be shown the product the dealer has for sale.

Second, the customer needs to understand why this particular dealership is the place to do business.

Third, the customer has to want to buy from a particular salesperson.

I call this the 3-finger close. It’s quite straightforward. The difficulty comes in trying to improve the basic game plan.

Salespeople must understand their job is not to sell but to help customers find and buy the exact product or service that meets their needs and desires. Salespeople must be sure to make the customer experience positive. 

To do this, they must demonstrate a sincere interest in each individual opportunity, give information and help customers find what they need.   

The dealership itself has a responsibility to put the best foot forward. If customers dislike a dealership or have a bad experience, they can choose to leave, go down the street, find the same product and purchase it from the competition. 

Trying to keep or woo customers with the “best deal” as a last-ditch effort is fruitless because price at that point is not a significant variable.

It’s important for salespeople to make sure customers feel this is the place to do business, that the dealership is behind them not only during the transaction, but for the long-term. 

This is the first step in converting customers to clients, people who return repeatedly to do business. 

First impressions do matter. A dealership should portray a professional image. If a store does not, customers will question the quality of its products and service.

Here are some basic things to do: 

  • Ensure staff greets every customer promptly and professionally.
  • Remove negative first-impression clutter from desks.
  • Keep restrooms and coffee-service areas clean; the cleaner the better.
  • Provide amenities in the waiting area, such as WiFi, magazines, a television (the station should only show positive programming) and toys for kids.
  • Add personal touches, such as plants, photos and a brag wall. But don’t overdo the decor.

Don’t be afraid to take customers on a full tour of your facility. Show them the service department and introduce them to the service manger so they know where they can go and who to ask for when they need service. 

Show them the technical diagnostic equipment, wheel-balancing apparatus, computers that connect to in-car networks and other state-of-the-art stuff.

Point out the training certificates earned by the staff.  Demonstrate that the dealership has invested in its people with tools and education. 

Do the same for other departments. It builds value and shows your entire organization is there to support and care for customer needs.

Talk about the dealerships’ commitment to the community and ways it is involved, from youth-sports sponsorships to fundraising events to charity support.

The brag wall should hold plaques, photos and other things showing your involvement. If you support the community and don’t share it with customers, you are losing a valuable opportunity.

By bringing customers into your family, you are building value and giving them a host of reasons to trust your dealership and do business with it.

Richard F. Libin is president of Automotive Profit Builders, a firm specializing in personnel development. He can be reached at or 508-626-9200.