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Top 10 ‘Must-Do’ list for profitable growth offers guidance

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Steve Jones, Columnist
September 14, 2012
Filed under Columns, Top Stories

A while back, one of our clients asked us to put together a list of the “Top 10” most important things a dealer should do today to become more profitable and successful. Since our team is usually focused on diving deep into the operation of one department or another, I saw this as a challenge.

First, we developed a list of the important procedures that are necessary for total dealership operations. Then we extracted the Top 10 key points that we felt represented the “Must-Dos” for a successful dealership operation today.

What follows are the educated opinions of our team. These are not necessarily in any particular order, since every dealership’s situation varies. Circumstances will influence the priority a specific dealer might place on any of these selections.

Top 10 “Must-Do” List for Profitable Growth in Today’s Environment

1. There is no room for “B” and “C” people when there are “A” players looking for work. Get rid of non-performers and hire the best talent you can find. Pay what it takes to keep them. “A” players will have the attitude, aptitude and essential training for the job you want to fill.

2. Develop a career-oriented, ongoing training program. Ensure all qualified employees are involved in training on a regular basis. Hold them accountable for performance improvements.

3. Ensure that you have adequate staff to properly handle your customers. It costs much less to retain customers than it does to find new ones. The average customer buys seven to eight units over their powersports lifespan. If you can create “customers for life,” you will increase your profitability while growing your business through referrals.

4. Get serious about the pre-owned business. Become the place to go for used bikes. The most profitable dealers in unit sales are the ones who pursue this business, because this is where the most profit can be made. The best of the used dealers average more than one used unit for every new unit they sell. We have had dealers in our seminars who are as high as five used sales to one new sale.

5. Implement and maintain a solid sales process, from doorswing to tail lights down the road. This means you also need to have a high quality sales manager who will constantly reinforce the processes and provide ongoing coaching and counseling for improvement. Not only do you need a unit sales process, you need to develop a customer path through all the departments culminating in a “special” unit delivery. After the sale, you must implement proper follow-ups as well.

6. Compare your data with industry benchmarks so you can identify problem areas and address them quickly. You can’t repair a dam if you don’t know where the leaks are, and what it will take to fix them. The better you can monitor the performance for the various areas of your dealership operation, the more likely you are to pinpoint the cause of the “leaks.”

7. Get into a 20-group. Compare business performance data and discuss current best business practices with peers from non-competing markets. You can’t hang a price tag on this one. The things you will learn from joining one of these groups will return your investment many times over. Your success (and even your very survival) may well depend on what you can learn from your group.

8. Have a sales-oriented, process-driven, fully compliant F&I office with well-trained, high-performing staff. How many of you are making the kind of money in F&I that you should? We have a lot of metric dealers who make more than $1,000 in F&I gross profit per unit financed. The target per unit sold is more than $400 in GP. What is your F&I team doing? Want to make it better? See No. 1 above.

9. Actively utilize low-cost, high-percentage marketing tools like Facebook, email and your dealership’s website. You have no option here. If you are going to continue to grow in today’s market, you have to keep up with the technology and utilize the current marketing tools. Remember that customers who contact you through social media or email have very short attention spans. You must respond quickly or risk losing them to another dealer.

10. Have strong, well-trained customer service personnel in the P&A and service departments. You need to “wow” your customer to drive repeat business and increase unit sales. This goes back to the “customer for life” approach. Every department has to be customer-centric. It is not acceptable to hire minimum wage, short-term staff in customer-facing sales positions at the parts counter. Neither is it acceptable to have service writers who are not personable, customer-friendly, well trained and sales-oriented.

There are many more important factors that might affect the success and profitability of a given dealership in today’s market. Feel free to comment on this column at PowersportsBusiness.com.

Steve Jones is senior projects manager at Gart Sutton & Associates. He has worked in the powersports industry for more than 30 years, for dealerships and manufacturers, and as a consultant and trainer. Contact him at steve@gartsutton.com.

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