Ever wonder why car dealerships are frequently located right next to each other? There's no mystery. Zoning laws and customer loyalty to favorite brands make it much more efficient for dealers to do business as neighbors. There's still a lot to be said for operating in "value-added" mode, no matter where your car dealership is. Run your business on practical principles of success by selecting the right mix of credentials, personnel, programs, ethics and incentives. You'll earn the loyalty and respect of new customers and have neighboring car lot personnel wondering what you're up to that's caused an evident increase in sales traffic.
Get the right combination of licenses and certifications. The department of motor vehicles likely got you started when you opened your doors, but running a popular dealership requires additional evidence of your commitment to the community. Encourage employees to get certified, earn specialized credentials and become the all-around vehicle experts folks want to find when they purchase a car.
Exhibit the right attitude. Be willing to help customers get what they need and want at a fair price. Go the extra mile to make it easy for buyers to return for the future service work they'll need to keep their automobile in tiptop shape. Keep this philosophy at the forefront: The customer is always right.
Be prepared for all situations by having not one but two suppliers on speed dial so customers don't have to be inconvenienced if their cars need work that requires parts on the fly. Keep popular items in your inventory. Determine the most often-ordered items by keeping a log of what parts you ordered and when. Cut a deal with a rental agency to supply cars to customers if their auto is on your lot for an extended length of time. Help keep your customers on the move even when their cars won't and they'll be grateful and loyal.
Hire the right people. Salespeople may be born with a gift of gab, but not everyone responds to the equivalent of a guy in a plaid jacket with an overly enthusiastic glad hand. Today's equal-opportunity world has opened up markets to women and minorities, and if your region is a diverse one, give customers an opportunity to work with someone who best reflects their community.
Know your market. If consumers in your area are proving to be in the market for small cars, make sure you have plenty of small cars in stock. Satisfy big-car buyers if that's your car culture. Your job isn't making converts; it's selling cars. Customers know what they want---even if you may not think their choices are wise ones.
Accommodate the lifestyles of your customers. Some states prohibit car sales on Sunday, so dealerships close in compliance with the law. If your area has no such laws, you can still honor regional preferences by being respectful of consumers. For instance, Saturday is the Sabbath for Muslims, Jews and a number of evangelical faiths. Keeping your business closed on a day considered sacred can win over those consumers.
Based in Chicago, Gail Cohen has been a professional writer for more than 30 years. She has authored and co-authored 14 books and penned hundreds of articles in consumer and trade publications, including the Illinois-based "Daily Herald" newspaper. Her newest book, "The Christmas Quilt," was published in December 2011.