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I can give you a very easy way to sort yourself inside the national dealer body between those who “get” the modern customer and those who do not:  If you think staying open until 9pm six or seven days a week makes you sales, you do NOT get it.

Texas Direct Auto, # 1 Used Car dealer in the USA, makes $500million in sales a year 9am-6pm six days a week (they made their first $100million closing at noon on Saturday after doing deliveries only that day!).  That’s a particular market, you say?  And that would never work at a franchise dealer?  And you’re going to stop reading one more stupid article (this one!) about how the Holy Law of Super Open Hours of Automotive Retail is wrong?  Are you irritated?

Keep reading.  If that’s how you feel, I haven’t even begun to piss the dinosaurs off.  Exemptions given for particular markets in the USA where this doesn’t work (not that many) and particular customer targeting such as special finance.

Anyway, reach for your blood pressure medicine and let’s move on.  Here’s your two choices for serving the modern vehicle shopper:

  • Option A:  Deliver a great experience to the customer using mostly appointments, be open no later than 6pm, Mon-Sat so shoppers have to schedule time off and COMMIT to buying a car during that time (read that as “follow Texas Direct to success!”), and make more sales with a better customer AND staff experience.  In other words, make the convenience real and give up the clock as some measure of your success, because it is NOT.  Don’t run your dealership on Super Open Hours, run it on COMMITMENT HOURS.

-OR-

  • Option B Deliver a convenient inconvenience in a lengthy, unscheduled, time-wasting, frustrating sales process for folks to come by as they please, watch the shoppers leave to visit other dealers never to be heard from again, and make the SAME or likely LESS sales as option B.  In other words, be mastered by the clock rather than by the dollar.  And lose dollars running your dealership on Super Open Hours.

Bullsh*t, you say?  Bullsh*t back, I say.

The supposed “convenience” of Super Open Hours creates a HUGE and WELL-KNOWN (decades!) level of frustrating INconvenience in the shopper’s experience.  They arrive the least-committed because they got “around to” shopping at a dealer, and they are the most demanding because they had no expectations except of the stereotype hassle (which they are now experiencing).  What do we teach our salespeople to get the sale?  Set expectations of the process and GET COMMITMENT.  Except we didn’t get either one from the Option B shoppers!!

The days of Mom and Dad loading the kids into the car and shopping for cars on “Dealership Row” are long gone for customers—now, 85% of them do THAT shopping on the Internet.  Which is open 365(6)x24x7, by the way, so it serves your Super Open Hours needs and then some.  THAT is customer convenience today.  And where you had better be spending your advertising money and efforts, by the way (that’s another blog).

We have to let go of Option B.  Lots of high-end stores like BMW, etc. already keep these fewer COMMITMENT hours.  In fact, parts of the country naturally have these already even in domestics.

I realize that the great body of dealers will not be moved by these words or by the statistics of the marketplace.  Conveniently INconvenient is the Holy Law.  So, I am the tail trying to wag the dog, or more like the bug on the butt of the big dinosaur—if it happens to go in the direction I want, that won’t have anything to do with how hard I push.  However, one day  (soon) the dinosaur’s days will be over.   And I know that makes some of you angry that I say that, because you feel (rightly) that I’m talking about you.  And that I’m wrong.

Well, you read this far, so look around your lot this week during those late hours you're keeping:  The real dinosaurs are no longer here--but at every summer night, you see the bugs high around the lights.

THEY are still here.

By Keith Shetterly, Copyright 2012
All Rights Reserved, keithshetterly@gmail.com
www.keithshetterly.com
See me at www.AutoCON2012.com!

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Comment by Keith Shetterly on August 1, 2012 at 7:49pm

Exactly, Andrew!  Exactly.  The Truth is Out There.  :)

Comment by Andrew Biondo on August 1, 2012 at 7:22pm

Last time I checked you have to set an appointment to see a Dentist, Doctor, Lawyer etc..... It is not complicated. For a dealer selling 2000+ a month closing at 6:00 and OFF on holidays ie July 4th. Oh by the way they only have one location. 

Comment by Keith Shetterly on July 25, 2012 at 9:06am

Thanks Ashley!  :)

Comment by Ashley Lopez on July 25, 2012 at 8:09am

GREAT article! I couldn't agree with you more! A majority of shoppers in all departments shop online before even attending a business (ZMOT)---great piece Keith! I definitely enjoyed it.

Comment by Keith Shetterly on July 20, 2012 at 10:53am

Thanks Jason!  If we don't value ourselves, our customers won't value us.  Extended hours began as amplifiers for competition in a valued experience of buying a new car.  Now they are drive-thru hours like Burger King.

To Everyone Reading:

Two brothers come to the end of their financial rope; one is a smart and one not-so-smart.  Each of them goes to the opposite side of town to mow lawns.  They meet back, and the smarter of them has $100.00 and other has $100.05.  The smarter one says, surprised, "Well, I guess you beat me by a nickel--but who paid a nickel??"

"All of them," the second brother replied, exhausted.

To Everyone:  Which type of brother are YOU and your dealership?

Comment by Jason Manning on July 19, 2012 at 10:13pm

Time is one of our greatest assets (both ours and our customer's).  I was just getting my hair cut the other day and the young man cutting my hair struck up a conversation about work.  He started to vent to me that they kept the shop open until 9pm, seven days a week.  He then said they only cut about 3 clients hair past 8pm for the whole week.  I asked him why they have those extended hours.  He stated it was due to competition.  I then asked him if they were competing with hours or reputation.  He, obviously, agreed with my angle.  I told him to freak'n speak up!   Leaders need to lead.  Too many idiots in leadership positions these days.

Too many times businesses get it all wrong.  If you have to extend your hours, you have a lack of confidence in your business.  A great car dealer could close their doors at 5pm every evening and have customers diving into their doors before that hour to receive outstanding service and care.  They would stand in line in the morning, instead of drag themselves in in the evening.  They would get there earlier, if the business was worth it.  Don't we do that with our Service Centers anyway?  Huh?  That's right, we do.  I don't get the extended hours.  I believe they are a result of slower times...before microwave ovens.  You know what I mean.  It's a new world.   We surf through drive thrus now.  We are reinventing a better business...for ourselves and our customers.  Owners and Principles need to get with the program.  Good stuff, Keith.  Always good stuff!

Jason Manning

Comment by Jae Chang on July 19, 2012 at 8:41pm

SHETT!! 

Keith my friend you always have a way!  

Comment by Keith Shetterly on July 19, 2012 at 4:51pm

Jason and Mike, thank you!  Jason, what a reply!!

Comment by Jason Hoehne on July 19, 2012 at 4:37pm

I could not agree more. The customers that just show up without making appointments waylay the sales consultants time. A dear friend works at an appointment only store. Cars all locked up, gotta come in and talk to someone before you get to even lick the paint. No appointment? You're waiting. I'd be there now if they didn't cheap sell their cars out of fear. But they have grueling hours and a very heavy turn-over ratio. Which brings me to my next point. Does the sales consultants life no longer matter? Not really, not that I've seen in this industry. And apparently the turn-over doesn't matter. I've found that is because managers believe the green-peas don't know anything and typically sell great in their first few months until they figure it out. Then they thrown them away and get new ones. Counter-productive. With a schedule and system of operation that is being described I, as a sales person, would kill for that. I'd probably still be married. LOL. So, is not keeping a sales person happy, well trained, and on board for the long-haul no longer a goal? It seems not. Push out as many cars as possible until you fall dead from exhaustion. When you fall, you get replaced.

Fortunately for me I've maintained employment at my dealership for 2 years and love it. We're very well trained and keep up with training daily. Instead of getting yelled at by some dinosaur each morning we start with a positive note and everyone walks around with a smile, makes more gross and goes home happy (not beating up on their loved ones cause they spent the morning with spittle in their face). Sadly, we lack accountability and a level playing field and strong leadership (which the industry desperately needs).

So, I am behind this article 100%. Fresh sales staff, happy sales staff, high gross, more serious buyers, and less time wasted on lookie-loos. But, again, sales people are expendable. So stay open and burn up your overhead dollars hoping some one with come swinging in at 8:45pm and you're there til 11pm begging a bank to finance a 501 score. I'd rather be kicked up at the house watching the children making money with computer and scheduling serious buyers and making gross. To me: it's the gross, the numbers are meaningless if you don't make gross.

Lastly, the last of the dinosaurs are going out and they are wetting themselves in fear of this "new" way of thinking. When they get a grip it'll be too late and their dealerships will suffer. But has that not been the testament to time and business? A new and fresh idea. Scoffed at first and then embraced when it becomes a heavy hitters "idea".

I run the internet department at my dealership. Being at work from 8am to 9pm is pointless. 90% of the leads come in between 11pm and 4am. So I stay up, answer them, set an appointment, sell them and I only come in for the appointment. It's a phenomenal system. But, again, a difficult concept for the dinosaurs.

My opinion. Cheers! Happy selling!

Comment by Mike Warwick on July 19, 2012 at 4:25pm

It would be great if more dealers realized that salespeople would be more effective and engaged if they worked fewer hours.  More selling and prospecting with less standing around watching the clock and waiting for an up.

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