It used to be that, when you wanted to buy a car, you would head down to the local family-owned dealership and make a purchase. Nowadays, however, family dealerships are less and less common in many areas. Instead, you’ll find huge chain dealerships. Does this mean, though, that family dealerships don’t exist anymore? Does it mean that, as a car seller, you can’t still open a small, local dealership of your own? These days, those are complex questions with complex answers, but the topic is worth diving into and exploring further.
It’s Still Possible
First things first, before you get it into your head that it’s impossible for family dealerships to succeed, it’s not. Yes, it may be more difficult than in years past, but it’s certainly not impossible. After all, many giant car dealership brands have grown out of small, family-owned businesses. The key is to pick the right area to do business, one in which small dealerships aren’t overshadowed by larger ones and actually have a chance to survive. It’s also to do good work, to build a strong presence within the community, and to exhibit superior customer service. Smaller dealerships that can do that do have a chance of making it in a highly competitive and difficult-to-navigate automotive world.
Understand the Changing Tides
With all of that said, there’s definitely no denying that the automotive sales industry is changing. A new model is entering and dominating the scene to a large degree. Under this model, manufacturers don’t hand their cars over to dealers and leave them to do the work of selling. Instead, they sell straight to the buyers themselves. And, sad as it may be, many customers prefer this model, as do some manufacturers. Thus, dealerships, especially the small ones, have to be even more vigilant about offering something different and unique to their customers, something they can’t get if they buy directly from the manufacturer. Whether this means lower prices, better incentives, or better service, the fact is that dealerships have to do something to make themselves stand out above this increasingly popular sales model.
The Pros and the Cons
While dealerships may not want to admit it, there are some benefits to the manufacturer-to-buyer sales model. For one thing, customers don’t have to worry about being pressured, coerced, or swindled. They’ll see a price and pay it. However, do manufacturers truly know how to sell cars? Do they know how to offer a customer a wide range of options and help them choose the best one for them? Most people would say no. So, as a modern dealer, you have to play to those strengths. Be willing to go the extra mile, to show good salesmanship, and to put truly helping people above all else. It may just be what enables you to survive the changing sales atmosphere.
Hire Amazing Staff Members
In the modern market, small dealers have big competition in large manufacturers and major chain dealerships. But, there’s certainly no rule that says the small guy can’t win the day. If you own a small family dealership or are thinking of opening one, remember that you are only as strong as your staff. Hire the right people to work for you, and you can reach success, even against tough odds.
In a dealership, a quality staff means people who are friendly and knowledgeable about the vehicles they are selling. They should also have good sales skills and should be willing to go out of their way to be helpful to customers.
If you want staff members like these, then you have to be very diligent and selective in the hiring process. You’ll also increase your chances of attracting and keeping great staff if you offer them fair pay, nice working conditions, and general fair treatment. Additionally, regular training can be helpful for keeping your staff up to date on the latest car news and sales techniques. This can help them to better serve your customers, which in turn benefits your business and gives it a leg up over the competition.
Remember, Not Everyone Wants Change
As you navigate the changing automotive industry, don’t allow yourself to become discouraged. Remember, too, that not everyone wants big changes. Some people and even some manufacturers are perfectly happy with the industry as it stands and plan to continue working with smaller dealerships. These include such big names as Suzuki and Kia. Furthermore, there is also a huge market for used car sales and online car sales using the traditional model. If you can stay positive and keep yourself open to new possibilities and opportunities, there is no reason you can’t have great success, even if you’re not one of the “major players” yet.
Embrace Freedom and Control
While there are certainly some challenges involved in being a smaller dealer, there are big advantages too. For one thing, you don’t have anyone to answer except yourself. You are in complete control of your business. You decide when you open and when you close. You pick who you hire, how you sell, and so much more. If you like the idea of being your own boss and calling the shots, then you’ll probably find that there’s much to love about owning an individual or family car dealership.
Focus on Loyalty and Long-Term Relationships
As mentioned, running a successful family dealership is all about playing to your strengths. And, for many individual dealers, this means building off of the clients you already have. People who buy a car will likely want or need to buy a new one in a few years down the line, if not sooner. Furthermore, they’re likely to tell their friends, family members, and even their social media followers about their car buying experiences. Thus, if you keep them happy, you can generate both repeat business and word-of-mouth business to help your dealership flourish.
If you’re worried about losing customers in the time between when they buy one car and the next, keep them engaged. Encourage customers to follow your social media accounts. Reach out to them regularly with deals, offers, and promotions. Give them incentives to also use your dealership for maintenance and other services. Make it your goal to stay in the forefront of their minds and to be a trusted source of information, help, and sales. This can keep them coming back for a long time to come.
Location is Key
If you haven’t yet established a physical location for your dealership, be very selective about the area you choose. You want to pick a place that is easy to get to and as visible as possible. After all, the old saying is true. Location is everything.
Of course, prime commercial real estate can be hard to come by when you’re just starting out. So, if you have to settle for something less than your dream spot, that’s okay. Start small and follow these helpful tips. With some work on your part, you can easily advance to a better location or expand altogether. The same advice applies if you already have a dealership location that isn’t everything you want it to be.
Don’t Overlook the Online Market
Even if you’re doing well with your physical location, there’s no better time to expand to an online market. This is especially true if you’re feeling the effects of the recent shift in the industry. Online car sales enable you to reach a much wider audience. Plus, there are tons of great tools available that can help you market to the online world effectively. For example, the EVOX database is a great resource for accessing high quality stock images of a variety of vehicles. With tools like these, you can paint your stock in the best possible light and get it moving off your lot.
As a final tip, don’t overlook the importance of marketing your dealership. Even in periods of great success, you should still expend energy on marketing. That might mean amping up your search engine optimization (SEO) efforts, launching an email marketing campaign, or coming up with new promotions that attract attention. Let your current goals determine where your marketing goes. And, when you reach what you’re aiming for, set a new goal and then keep on marketing. Your efforts will pay off if you stay committed to bringing in new business.
Now that you understand a bit more about how car sales are evolving, you’re one step ahead of the game. Use your newfound knowledge and these tips to help your business thrive. And, if you’re still thinking of taking the leap into a family car dealership, go for it. Just know what you’re up against, and be prepared to use these strategies to reach your goals.