Who Says Business Is Bad?
Recently I was conducting a private workshop in a dealership outside of Houston, Texas. As I looked into the audience, I could tell by their body language that no one had much of an interest in being there, and much less of an interest in listening to what I had to say. It was as if some sort of disease had come over them — what I call LOE (lack of enthusiasm).
“How is business?” I asked, with a smile on my face. Normally, I would never start a meeting with this opening, but this time I felt I needed to. There was only silence. After a few minutes, someone spoke up.
“Not good,” he said.
“What do you mean?” I replied.
“It’s slow,” another responded. “No traffic.”
“Why do you think that is?” I said.
“The economy. Advertising. No more leasing. Financing. People just aren’t
buying cars.” And on and on they went.
It has been said that 10% of life is what happens to you and 90% is how you respond to it. So, what are you going to do about it?
In all of my travels across the country — and not limited to the car business — the story is always the same. The most successful people stay focused on what they can do and not on the things they can’t, and they tend to remain successful regardless of the market because of it. Why is it we focus on what we can’t do because of the circumstances and not on what we can do? The state of your business is like a good car deal in the mind of the consumer: it is a state of mind.
The last thing you want to do is tell or even let the customer sense that business is bad. Enthusiasm is transferable. If I had come into the meeting that morning without a smile on my face and had announced to everyone in the room that I wasn’t feeling my best but tried to get through the meeting anyway, how would it have made the audience feel? Not very good about our time together, would it? People like to feel good about what they are doing and where they are doing it.
By telling the customer that business is bad you also immediately set the tone for a big discount in the negotiations process, if you are even lucky enough to get that far. You should always be in a position of strength, and telling the customer that business is down reverses the roles. Not only will the customer not look forward to the car-buying experience but they’ll also sense that you are hungry and would probably do anything for a sale. Good luck on holding a little gross profit. People are not likely to buy from you if they feel sorry for you.
Simply put, people like to do business with people who are successful. When you walk into a virtually empty restaurant, bar or any other retail establishment, what is your first thought? It’s probably “either this place is dead or it must not be any good.” Now, have you ever noticed when you pass by an Apple computer store how it is buzzing with business? It makes you want to go in, whether you need to or not.
Understandably, not all businesses are that fortunate, but the strategy still works. I shared a story in my meeting at the Texas dealership about how I stopped in a restaurant one night to pick up dinner, as I often do. As I sat waiting at the bar, I commented on how slow business was. Now, the bartender could have responded with, “Yeah, I know, it’s terrible. Business is really down.” Instead, he said, “It has really been busy. I’m just glad it slowed down a little and I can get a little break before the next crowd comes in.” How he responded changed my perception of the place from bad to good.
So how can you counter the fact that your showroom is not full all the time? How can you make that one customer feel better and want to do business at your dealership and do it today? You can start by telling everyone in your organization, including all departments, how important it is to tell prospective buyers that business is great. Explain how it affects a customer’s attitude.
Managers, your front line needs to portray a healthy retail environment to everyone that comes into your dealership. Every customer should sense that your dealership is doing better than ever before. If you or one of your staff tells a customer that business is down, you can rest assured that they will tell everyone else in your marketplace about it, including your competition.
I told the crowd at the Texas meeting that the next time business is slow and the customer ask how business is, they should try responding this way: “Business is great. We were so slammed over the weekend that it is nice I’m getting the opportunity to provide you with the time you deserve.”
No one is going to know that business is down unless you them. So who says business is bad?