Too many people?

Why do people pay hard earned money for breakfast when they could go into a showroom and drink coffee free of charge?

2012, Las Vegas, Findlay Chevrolet

Marketing Director Doug, from Findlay, says he is frustrated because he drives past Starbucks every day and it is full of people getting their morning caffeine fix before work.

His frustration?

He has Starbucks coffee in his showroom, he has all the morning papers. He is happy for you to ‘piggy back’ his wifi, he has pastries and a fabulous selection of teas and cold drinks!

He wants to know why people are paying hard earned, tax paid dollars for breakfast when they could come to his showroom and drink his coffee and enjoy his hospitality completely free of charge! He wants to fill his showroom with people (he genuinely doesn’t care at this stage if they are buying a car).

I was helping a client recently and I relayed the above story whilst trying to explain that times are different, Dealers need to build ‘communities’, they need to take a non-transactional approach to marketing.  It is essential in this day and age to be much more open minded about how and where we get our opportunities to do business.

His response?

“Won’t that just fill my showroom with people?” – he had me; I didn’t know how to answer other than truthfully.

“Yes” I said, it will.

“But they won’t all be buyers; some will just come in and drink my coffee!”

The very essence of marketing was summed up when Henry Ford observed “Fifty percent of my marketing is wasted… the trick is knowing which half?”  Of course, some people will not buy from you – but that happens today, I don’t know anyone who gets 100% conversion rate on their enquiries.  But interestingly, if you could pack your showroom with people, give them a great experience, share your products and services with them, I will guarantee you over time; you will sell more cars and more service hours.

It seems we have become greedy as an industry.  We have gotten to a place and created a culture where our salespeople only want to deal with absolute certainties.  They don’t see it as their job to represent the company and the brand with every visitor to the business.  Sales managers are obsessed with getting commitment early before we ‘waste time’ with another ‘tyre-kicker’.

I’ve sat in sales offices and heard salespeople say, “I’m just taking them out in the…” only for the sales manager to respond with “have you got any commitment before you waste time doing that?”  I’ve witnessed ‘harassed’ salespeople being humiliated because they have been with a prospective customer for twenty minutes and the sales manager can’t understand why he hasn’t established whether they are buying (“you spend any longer with them they’ll be coming around for dinner!”).

The problem would seem to stem from a cultural hangover from the 1980’s and 90’s pre-internet when we would see prospective customers eight or nine times before they bought a car, and showrooms were full of people at different stages of the buying process.  The truth is we only now get to see most of them when they are ‘purchase ready’ – Google estimate that we only see them 1.5 times nowadays (right at the end of the buying process).  Simple maths would suggest that gives us approximately six times longer to help them buy.  Or that we need to be filling our showrooms with more people.

We need to start trusting the people that come in to our business. We need to allow them to buy in their preferred manner and become much more adept at flexing our approach to delivering a brilliant buying experience.

Doug wanted to fill his showroom with people, he wanted to hire hosts to look after them, get to know them and as and when they were ready, introduce them to the sales-team to help them buy their next vehicle – from Findlay Chevrolet (and that was in 2012!).


The mindset has to change, if it doesn’t then the current vehicle distribution model will disappear, or at least the key players will be replaced by new players who understand the true meaning of delivering customer service, and focus the business on generating relationships with as many people as possible, trusting that if they truly show they care by creating long term value added relationships, they will maximise that relationship by selling more, more profitably, more often to more people.

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