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How do you know when anger management is needed?


Everybody gets angry on occasion – it’s just part of being human. For most people it’s relatively fleeting, but for some, long or frequent outbreaks are a fact of life. If it’s an issue for someone in your dealership, it can affect relationships with other employees and with customers. It can also be difficult to deal with it, and you may need to tread carefully to address the problem.

Look for warning signs. Some are obvious, such as screamers or people who throw things. Others are harder to identify. When anger bubbles up, it could manifest in passive-aggressive behaviour; sabotaging the work of others, or the dealership’s operations or reputation; gossiping or spreading rumours; excessive absenteeism or inattention; directly bullying others; or obsessive and dangerous behaviours such as road rage.

Pay attention when you know people have stressful conditions outside of work, too. Those going through situations such as divorces, or issues with their children or aging parents, may be more likely to fly off the handle when something goes wrong at work. Someone who’s putting in longer hours or desperately trying to close deals could have money issues, and that can also create a strain that worsens when anything minor goes wrong.

You have a responsibility to other employees. Any situation can have the potential to go sideways, but fortunately, very few workplace anger incidents turn bad enough to end up on the six o’clock news. Even so, no one should have to tolerate scenes or harassment in their workplace. You need to step in when there’s an outburst, even if it’s someone who rarely loses their cool. Try to get them away from everyone – “C’mon, let’s go get a coffee and talk about this.”

It’s very important to recognize that responsibility and to work towards a solution. If something does go wrong, or the situation is allowed to stay simmering, your dealership might be legally liable for knowingly permitting a toxic workplace environment to flourish.

Watch for patterns and office dynamics. Some get mad at things ¬– a glitchy phone, for example – while others get mad at people. There can be underlying anger issues in both cases, but if it’s people-on-people, look for outside factors. The problem might not be with the person who’s outwardly angry, but the one who’s constantly goading them into misbehaviour. Be on the lookout for bullying, power plays, and anything else with the potential to flare up.

Be cautious about how you handle the issue. If someone is truly disruptive, you may consider requiring them to take anger management courses; or if the situation is bad enough, terminating their employment. The problem for you is that they may be legally protected from this, including by regulations that cover hiring and firing practices; or that recognize medical or mental health conditions that can trigger this behaviour; or that determine the inability to control outbursts is a disability.

Discuss the issue with the HR department, if you have one; or reach out to governing bodies in your jurisdiction for labour relations, or health and safety. Be sure to document any outbursts, so you have a record of the person’s behaviour. The last thing you need, in addition to the anger issues, is a lawsuit for wrongful dismissal. There may even be the potential for repercussions if you label that person as disruptive or otherwise determine “what’s wrong with them,” either directly to the person or to other employees or customers. You have to be very careful in these situations.

Involve the entire dealership. While you might not be able to single out someone for anger management courses, you could consider bringing in a life coach or other professional to make presentations to everyone. It’s a commitment in time and expense, but it could ultimately be beneficial to everyone, especially if it touches on life skills beyond just anger management, such as relationships with customers and coworkers, or balancing work and home life. This can even ultimately improve people’s health, since intense anger issues may contribute to problems such as high blood pressure and heart attacks.

Are you watching for your own issues? Studies have shown that many people who have anger management issues don’t actually realize that they do. This can be especially true if that anger manifests itself in quieter ways, such as passive-aggressive behaviour or sabotage instead of more-visible reactions such as yelling or throwing things. Are issues quicker to upset you, are people getting on your nerves, do you find yourself overreacting to relatively minor problems? This is the time to sit down, take a deep breath, and consider your behaviour. Everyone gets angry, but if it’s happening too frequently, it’s time to take a closer look and work towards finding a solution.


What can you teach and learn in employee performance reviews?


It’s safe to say that few people like employee performance reviews. Managers seldom like writing them up, and they can be extremely stressful for employees. Some companies have eliminated them, but that’s not necessarily a great idea. They can be helpful for your employees, and just as importantly, they can be a two-way street with the potential to help you improve your business.

If you’re not already doing these reviews, you should consider it. Everyone knows you’re already looking at their sales numbers, and how they shape up as employees overall. A performance review is up front about all that, and gives them a chance to present their side of the story on any negative points, and provide input on anything the store could improve. What should you know to make the most out of performance reviews?

They shouldn’t be a substitute for regular communication. You should always have an eye on the dealership’s “thermometer,” seeing what’s running hot or cold. Periodic one-on-one meetings, even just to have a conversation, can alert you to issues before they escalate. Employees should know that they can talk to you any time they need, without having to wait for their official reviews. The frequency of your performance reviews can vary, but twice-yearly or quarterly may provide better results than an annual review.

Numbers aren’t always everything. Someone who closes a lot of deals needs to be recognized for it – and along with the pay cheque and any bonuses, a “thank you” or “great job” goes a surprisingly long way.

Everyone wants a dealership full of top-grossing performers, but always look at the big picture. You may have salespeople whose numbers aren’t quite at the top, but they score high in customer satisfaction – taking their time with customers, following up with them, helping with their vehicle’s service, and so on. If they’re bringing up your CSI and getting new customers into your store, they’re very valuable as well.

Frame criticism properly. No one likes to be told they’re doing something wrong, but doing it properly can lead to a positive outcome.

  • Be specific with any complaints. Rather than, “Customers don’t like the way you talk to them,” cite examples, such as, “We noticed you were a little snarky over a customer’s trade-in.”
  • Don’t present hearsay about them. No one should be told, “I’ve heard that some people don’t like the way you do this.” If you are hearing gossip about someone, talk to those employees directly to get the full story.
  • Recognize where the problem initiated. Did you provide the right training from the start? Do all your employees know what’s expected of them? You may even have to go up the chain – are your managers properly trained in how to teach new employees the ropes?

Be prepared to accept criticism. A one-way review isn’t using the interview to its full potential. Don’t just analyze the employee’s performance; ask that person to analyze the dealership’s performance. You might not like what you hear, but it could be useful to improving the dealership. “I didn’t think that was an issue, but it sounds like it’s not the best way for us to do things. How do you think we can make it better?”

Is each employee in the right position? A dealership obviously doesn’t offer as much opportunity for advancement as a large corporation does, but use the review discussion to see how each person fits into the position they occupy. When you do, don’t automatically think “up.” Some people may be racking up sales and profit numbers, but it’s extremely stressful for them to do that. This might be someone who would like to step back a bit into a lower-key role, but doesn’t know how to ask for it.

Finish up with a forward plan. You know how your employee has performed in the past – that’s all in the review. Where are you both going from here? You should have already had a plan outline ready, but be flexible. Make changes as needed, depending on what the two of you have discussed during the review. That can include the part you need to play in that plan, such as providing additional training, or handling any issues with other people in the dealership.

Follow up again one-on-one within a month or so, to find out if that person thought of something later that should have been brought up, and if any issues that concerned either of you have been resolved. A performance review is more than just how someone has performed. If it’s done right, it’s a chance for both of you to learn, to grow, and ultimately, to improve the dealership’s performance to everyone’s benefit.


Are you ready to sell subscriptions?


Along with achy knees and more candles on the cake, one way to tell you’re getting older is if you remember when vehicles came with all their services included. Turn on the radio and you heard music, hit the navigation button and you saw a map, and it was included in the price. But today, automakers are increasingly turning to paid subscriptions, and everyone in your dealership needs to be familiar with them. Even if you don’t directly make money on the subscription, it’s still an opportunity to improve customer satisfaction with your store.

There are varied customer reactions to subscription services, and you need to know how to generate interest in them, as well as clear up any misconceptions. For example, many people automatically default to the automaker that planned to charge extra for its seats to heat up, and so they want no part of anything with “subscription” in its name. That was a real thing, but it was promptly rescinded – and that’s the part many people don’t remember. It’s up to you and your salespeople to introduce them to what’s available and what it can do for them.

While most of these services benefit the customer, vehicle health and service reminders can work in your favour. These let customers know when maintenance is due or if something in the vehicle needs attention, and some can connect the owner directly to your dealership to make an appointment.

Ask about their other subscriptions. It may be the customer’s first experience with a car that offers paid subscriptions, and they’re not sure about this “new concept.” But it’s very likely they already have subscriptions on their devices for music, television shows or movies. Making the auto version as familiar to them as their other subscriptions is the first step towards acceptance.

Be prepared when demonstrating the features. Know exactly what each subscription-based feature can do. Some are capable of performing functions such as changing the cabin temperature by voice control, so be sure to show that. Just as importantly, know what the feature can’t do, so you’re not fumbling in front of your customers.

Some subscription companies offer online sales training on their products. If so, take advantage of it.

Walk the customer through the process when the vehicle is delivered, including activating the subscriptions so everything is working from that first drive off the lot. It’s important to consider that part of the delivery process for customer satisfaction, especially since it can be confusing to set up some of the programs if customers aren’t familiar with them.

Outline the benefits. Most vehicles today come with smartphone connectivity, such as Apple CarPlay or Android Auto, and customers may be content to use that. But that could chew into their data plan, depending on how they use it, while a subscription would use its own connection.

Paid subscriptions are continually updated, such as with new map information. This can be important for people who live in freshly-developed areas, where embedded navigation may not recognize brand-new subdivision streets. If the vehicle is equipped with a hands-free highway driving system, its subscription will also update as more roads are mapped with the information required for that operation.

Remote connection is also very popular with customers, providing the ability to operate some of the vehicle’s information from a phone, such as locking or unlocking it, finding it in a parking lot, setting limits for teen drivers, or checking the fuel level or an electric vehicle’s battery charge.

Keep any demonstrators up to date. If you offer overnight test-drives or loaners, make sure their subscriptions are activated, and demonstrate what they can do before the customer drives away. Many people don’t know they want subscription services until they’ve tried them.

Not all subscriptions are automatically included. Some vehicles, especially in lower trims, don’t have subscription trial periods but can be retrofitted with the service. If that’s the case, the after-sale follow-up should include a reminder that they can be added. Subscriptions may also be available to add to used vehicles, which can make them more enticing.

Know the sticking points. What makes people shy away from connectivity subscriptions? According to research, the reasons include the price; that the smartphone offers similar services; or that the service isn’t useful to that person. Another primary reason is that the customer didn’t know the services were available, and the salesperson didn’t offer them.

On the other hand, research also shows that once customers have used subscription services in their vehicles, a huge number of them – often close to 90 per cent – renew them once they expire. That’s a lot of people who are obviously happy with that aspect of their vehicle, and satisfied customers are what it’s all about.


How to keep your negotiation skills sharp


Of course, you’re good at negotiation – after all, that’s pretty much the job description. But just as with any other skill, honing your negotiation technique is vital to staying in top shape.

That’s especially important because the business is changing so rapidly, and usually to the customer’s advantage. People are going online to find pricing and features long before they come into your store. Along with that, “no-haggle” all-in pricing is now part of the industry. If your store doesn’t feature it, some of your competitors do.

And in addition to accurate knowledge, your customers may also be finding information online that isn’t correct, but they’re trying to use it as part of the process. So how do you keep everyone sharp, and how do you train your new employees on how to negotiate the best possible deal? Here are some suggestions.

Treat your customer as your equal. Confidence is essential, but overconfidence can ultimately work against you. You are undoubtedly the better negotiator – this is what you do, after all – but others have to feel they’re being respected and their needs are considered. This can be especially important with salespeople who are new to the business, and who may go a bit overboard as they try to prove themselves when closing deals. The person on the other side of the desk is the customer, not the opponent.

Listen and get to know the customer. When others are talking, we often have a tendency to think about what we’re going to say next, rather than actually listening to everything that person is saying. You’re trying to find out what your customers need and want, what they can afford, what they can live without if it’s necessary to stay on budget, and their comfort level for risk, which can determine what plans, financing, and insurance coverage will work best for them. Your customers will feel more comfortable with you, and you’ll have a better idea of what to offer them and how to sell them on it.

Know when to be quiet. New salespeople are often afraid of “dead air.” They’ve made their presentation and then, when the customer says nothing, they continue to talk. Teach them to recognize that point where the customer is now mulling it over and needs that silence to concentrate on a decision.

Keep up-to-date on what people are reading online. The Internet is filled with sites that gain clicks by warning people how to “protect” themselves, and dealerships are a common target. They’ll tell people you will lie to them, bait-and-switch them, overextend them…the list goes on. If you suspect your customer believes it, bring it up first. “I’m going to show you a few items you might consider. I’m not trying to get you to overspend; this is about choosing what’s going to work best for you.”

Don’t throw out too much at your customer. When there are multiple options for products, the magic number is three. More than that, and people get overwhelmed; while only one or two can make customers feel hemmed in and unable to negotiate what they want. Even if none are exactly right, your customer will likely look at the one that’s closest – and from there, you can tweak it to everyone’s satisfaction. The important thing is that they have chosen one, and now the negotiations can move forward.

Look at the long game. Individual sales are important, but loyal customers are even more vital. They come back, and they send their friends and family. Don’t be so focused on maximizing a sale that you jeopardize your future ones.

Avoid questions that can be answered with “no.” Every question should move things forward, not provide an opportunity for the customer to bring it to a stop. Ask for input that leaves the negotiation decision to customers, who in turn will feel like they’ve also had an equal hand in the bargaining process and got what they wanted. “We need to substitute one of these two items to reach that price – are you going to switch this one or that?”

Practice makes perfect. Even experienced salespeople need to take an honest look at their skills and see where they can be tightened up. Some like to practice in front of a mirror to see how they look to customers. If you have new products to sell, run through scenarios, looking for the best way to present them. This is also a good way to train a new person, playing the part of the customer and hitting them with questions you know will be asked. It may even be beneficial to consider professional negotiation training, either one-or-one or group sessions. The time and money spent may be more than worth it in the long run.


How do you smooth over employee conflicts?


It would be wonderful if every workplace ran smoothly all the time, but that isn’t reality. There will be conflicts between employees, and while minor disagreements are inevitable and usually easy to smooth over, longer-term grudges are disruptive, both for employees and for customers who can’t help but notice the chill in the air.

As management, your position shouldn’t be simply a referee who tells the combatants to go back to their respective corners. Even so, you have to be more than just the judge who listens to both sides of the story and makes a decision. Instead, you want to be a mediator, guiding the people involved to come to a truce. From there, you should be periodically looking at the overall “operating temperature” in your store, to help prevent more issues in future.

Be aware of what’s happening in your store. Very few conflicts explode full-blown from the start; most are issues that grow over time. Minor disagreements usually blow over, but follow up later to ensure everything is settled. You’ll want to be proactive if there’s noticeable tension between people, which seldom gets better without intervention.

Watch for inter-department issues. There was likely a fault line between sales and service on the day the very first dealership opened its doors. Salespeople might sense resentment when they bring a customer to the service desk, while service advisors might think they’re being bullied to put that person ahead of their own customers – and in some instances, either suspicion may be correct. Meet up with the service manager regularly to go over any problems either of you may be encountering. It might even be helpful to occasionally get everyone in both departments together for a discussion on the best way to look after all customers.

Look for warning signs. Bantering and occasional venting are normal behaviour. These occasional blow-ups have the potential to worsen, but don’t step in too quickly – you don’t want to look like the playground supervisor. Give people a chance to work out their grievances on their own, and if you are approached, suggest they try to figure it out themselves. Even so, watch the situation to make sure it doesn’t get out of hand. Intervene if you notice bullying or gossiping. Those can spread as others take sides, turning the entire department into a toxic environment.

Figure out a plan of action. When there are issues between two people, formulate a strategy before you step in, which can better help you maintain control of the situation. You know these people and can tailor your approach to them, but overall, experts suggest bringing the people involved together from the start. No matter how impartial you think you are (or try to be), people have an inherent tendency to form opinions based on the story they hear first.

We’re back to you being a mediator, not referee. You may have to step in occasionally to shut down interruptions when someone is presenting their side, but the goal of your plan is ultimately for the people involved to come to a solution under your supervision and guidance in the meeting.

Delegate responsibility if it’s the best plan of action. If the issue is with people who work under one of your managers, or if you have an HR manager, have that person speak with them. It’s possible you may ultimately have to step in, but it’s best to start within the department, rather than bypassing those managers and going directly to the “big boss.”

The business always comes first. This of course seems obvious, but personal feelings can sometimes get in the way, especially if one of the people involved is an employee you consider to be a friend. Don’t dismiss issues because you’re uncomfortable disciplining someone who’s become close to you. The initial problem will still be there, and now other employees may be hesitant to approach a boss who “takes sides.”

Always follow up. Once people have talked it out and come to an understanding, give it a couple of days and then do a quick check to be sure the issue actually is resolved and everything has moved forward from there.

Foster an “open-door” attitude with your employees. If you handle issues promptly and fairly, word will get out. Either individually or in a staff meeting, let all your employees know your policy: That not everyone gets along all of the time, and you realize this; that it’s best when people are open with each other and try to work it out on their own; and if that isn’t possible, that your door is always open for those who want to talk about what’s going on. Above all, the focus is on everyone working together, and when they do, the customer experience improves and so does everyone’s success in the business.


How do you safely sell safety?


The story goes that some early automakers didn’t want to put seatbelts in their vehicles, because it might give people the idea the car was inherently unsafe.

Today, of course, high-tech safety and driver-assist technologies are a selling point. Understanding the features your customers want will get them into the vehicles that are properly equipped for them.

Conversely, some technologies have been oversold to the public – perhaps through their names, or what’s circulating around the Internet – and people may be expecting more than what’s available right now, such as a car that can completely drive itself. You need to confirm that the vehicle you’re selling doesn’t have whatever amazing new technology they desire, and that’s because no one offers it yet. 

In the walkaround, describing the vehicle’s safety features should give you an idea of your customer’s familiarity with what’s out there, and how to sell them on it.

Some people aren’t aware of what’s standard equipment. If someone hasn’t purchased a new vehicle in a while, they may not know a rear backup camera is now mandatory, for example. And some equipment has been around for so long – such as anti-lock brakes or stability control – that it seldom gets mentioned and some may think it’s missing. If they’re cross-shopping and another dealership shows off features like that backup camera, that might sell them on it because they think your vehicle doesn’t have it.

Highlight how your systems work. Not all driver technologies are created equal, and salespeople need to be aware of exactly what is included in each model. Not all adaptive cruise control has stop-and-go ability; not all rear-view cameras are high-definition; some vehicles warn if you’re straying out of your lane, while others go a step beyond and help guide the driver back and out of trouble. These may be important enough to a customer to move to a higher trim if that’s what it takes to get them.

Families may have extra needs. All vehicles come with child seat tether anchors, but some are easier to use than others – and ones that are difficult could result in a child seat that isn’t properly installed. Show customers how they work, and if it’s a model that’s easier than most, be sure to tell them that. The U.S. Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) tests vehicles for ease-of-use of their tethers. Research the models you’re selling, and highlight any top ratings to your customers.

Be honest about what a feature can’t do. This can be a big deal with highway driving assist technologies, because there are many different types. Some simply maintain their distance from traffic ahead; many stay centred in their lane; some can change lanes when the turn signal is activated; and the most sophisticated ones, under the right conditions, can operate hands-free and even get around slower traffic by themselves. What any system can’t do is just as important as what it can – and because customers may have only seen highlights in thirty-second advertisements, they may have expectations that you can’t fulfill. A realistic approach will help avoid disappointment.

Understand recalls. Many people panic when they hear there’s a recall on their vehicle. Some can be serious, but many are relatively minor – for example, a warning sticker that isn’t in both French and English can result in a recall. Salespeople should be able to answer any questions about recalls. These include:

- Recalls are VIN-specific. When recalls make the news, it’s simply reported as affecting a certain model. Often a problem is related to one batch of parts, or a manufacturing error that was solved during production, and the recall doesn’t necessarily affect every vehicle. If a customer says, “My friend has the same car, and got a recall notice and I didn’t,” ask for the VIN and look it up.

-Many are done as a precaution. A vehicle may fall under the recall but not actually have the issue. In some cases, the technician examines the vehicle and only replaces parts if the issue is present. Automakers may also replace parts as a precaution, not because they are currently faulty.

- Make sure your customers are on file. When selling a used vehicle, file the new owner’s name and address with the automaker – and if it isn’t your brand, do it as a courtesy and make sure your customer knows. This will ensure that any recall notices get mailed to the right person.

Emphasize maintenance as a safety issue. Driver-assist technologies work best when the vehicle is in good condition, with well-maintained brakes, tires, steering components, and other items. Your prepaid maintenance plans aren’t just for peace of mind. They can be vital for safety as well, so sell them on that as well.


Selling your customers on alternative-fuel vehicles


Almost a quarter-century ago, modern hybrid vehicles first went on sale in Canada. They required a lot of explanation: what they were, how they worked, and that they used electricity but didn’t need to be plugged in.

Hybrids are now so commonplace they seldom get a second glance, but that still doesn’t mean everyone understands them. Many customers also aren’t completely clear on plug-in hybrids (PHEVs), battery-electric vehicles (BEVs), or fuel-cell vehicles (FCEV). If you can walk them through it, you’ll have a satisfied customer who will recommend you to others.

Gaining that trust requires being honest about the “cons” as well as the “pros,” and putting that person into the vehicle that’s exactly right, which might mean a different one from what they originally thought was best for them. There are also a lot of misconceptions about EV maintenance and repairs, and working through them could help sell applicable service contracts and plans for them.

Your salespeople need this knowledge even if you don’t offer alternative-fuel vehicles. It can potentially give them an edge when a customer says, “I’ve been considering an electric car – but do you think I should still stick with gasoline?”     

Hybrids are likely your easiest sale. As mentioned, they’re commonplace, and they don’t require plugging in. They’re not eligible for any provincial or federal rebates, but the price on many isn’t a huge leap over a comparable gas-only vehicle, and many drivers can make that back relatively soon with the fuel savings. Still, they need to know a few things about them, such as that they get their best fuel mileage in the city, rather than on the highway - not a huge difference, but some people are obsessed with checking fuel figures and will appreciate that heads-up.

Plug-in hybrids, despite having been around for a while, are still misunderstood by many consumers. The main thing to get across to potential buyers is that while PHEVs don’t have to be plugged in, there’s not much point in paying their extra price if they aren’t regularly charged to reap the fuel-free driving range. Emphasize that they’re viable on a 110-outlet for overnight charging for customers who don’t want to or can’t install a 220-volt charger; and that there’s no electric “range anxiety” because once the stored charge depletes, they’ll still run as long as there’s gas in the tank.

Battery-electric vehicles will usually draw customers who already know they want to go fuel-free, but they’ll appreciate you walking them through it – as well as those looking into the possibility. Go over any provincial or federal rebates early in the process (this applies to many PHEVs as well) to highlight a lower purchase price.

Charging infrastructure is a hot topic, and some people new to EVs may think they have to depend on it. They may not realize most charging is done at home.

Be honest about range, and make sure your customer knows it can be affected by such variables as ambient temperature, driving conditions, what you’re carrying, and even the tires, such as low-rolling-resistance all-seasons versus dedicated winter tires, or larger wheel sizes. Putting that up front helps avoid an angry customer when the real-world range doesn’t match NRCan’s estimates.

Selling plans and maintenance. A surprising number of people think that because EVs don’t require oil changes, “they don’t need any maintenance at all.” Of course, nothing is farther from the truth.

Some components on electrified vehicles may require even more attention than on a gasoline car. Hybrids and EVs use regenerative braking to charge the battery, which reduces workload on the hydraulic brakes – and with EV one-pedal driving, the driver may not use the brake pedal at all. This lack of use can eventually cause the calipers to seize, and it’s vital to examine and service the braking system regularly.

Hybrids and especially all-electric vehicles are heavier than their gasoline counterparts, and that puts extra pressure on steering and suspension components. These parts need regular check-ups, and may require replacement sooner than on a gasoline car.

EV owners know they have a large traction battery, but many don’t realize they also have a traditional 12-volt battery, used to initially start the electric motors and operate some functions. This must also be periodically checked as part of scheduled maintenance to avoid a dead battery and no-start situation.

Your OEM or third-party supplier will likely offer service or prepaid maintenance plans specifically for electrified vehicles. By walking your customer through all the information about these vehicles, including the pros and cons, you’ll be better able to put them in the models that are best for them, and the protection plans they might not even realize will be a benefit down the road.

How are you selling your products to women?


We all know the old movie stereotype of the car salesman as he approaches a female customer, wearing a bad suit and leering, “Hey, little lady, what colour car are you looking for?”

It was certainly rooted in at least some reality, albeit from the days of carburetors and four drum brakes. That’s all in the past, but even so, are you doing all you can to approach and sell to women? And even if you are tailoring your tactic, are you fine-tuning it to each shopper? There are a lot of dealership choices out there, and women will take their business elsewhere – and tell others about it - if they think they can’t trust you implicitly. Every customer is unique, but overall, there can be some areas where women may differ from men when they’re in the showroom. Realizing this may be the case, and working with them on it, is the key to success.

They’ve done their homework. Women are more likely to seek advice – both online research and especially asking friends and family - on what to buy, from the vehicle itself, to the financing, to the plans and products available for it. Start with the assumption that they know what you’re talking about; otherwise, you could potentially come across as talking down to them. Try framing it as a choice – “We have two protection plans for powertrain warranty, and I can show you what each one covers.” From there, look for clues that you can go straight to the plans, or need to explain bumper-to-bumper versus powertrain, for example.

They tend to be more practical. Overall, women tend to prioritize a vehicle’s practicality and reliability. They’re often the primary caregivers for children or aging parents, and they’re buying the vehicle as much for others as they are for themselves. An upsell may be far more likely to involve more interior space or convenience features than extra horsepower. The fact that others are depending on them to get to school or appointments may also make them more open to buying service contracts and prepaid maintenance. Emphasize the peace-of-mind, especially if they include roadside assistance or loaner vehicles. All that said, there are female gearheads too. As soon as that’s obvious, switch your tactics. Even if practicality is still a priority, you need to match their enthusiasm for how it performs.

They’re more likely to stick firmly to a budget. They know exactly what they can spend – and they’ve also read enough articles advising them not to tell you how much that is. It will probably become clear once you’ve reached that pre-set number, and from there, there’s little chance you’ll be able to stack extra products on top. Instead, you may consider seeing what you can swap out.  For example, going back to that peace-of-mind preference, you might run a second set of numbers where you take off an item that may be less important to your customer, such as paint protection, in favour of a more comprehensive service contract that costs a bit more but covers far more items.

They are often “the” customer. If a woman comes in alone to shop for a vehicle, treat her as a woman coming in alone. If she needs something that’s practical for children, or she’ll be back later with a partner for a second opinion, she’ll eventually let you know; but if you assume it from the start and that isn’t the case, you’ve lost her.

They want answers to questions they ask directed to them. If a couple consists of a man and a woman, male salespeople often tend to direct more of their attention to the man. That’s human nature, but they need to change that habit. One sure-fire way to alienate a female customer is to listen to her question, and then direct the answer to the man she’s with.

They’ve had poor customer experiences before. Unfortunately, just about every woman can tell you a horror story about a large purchase. Start with the assumption that every female customer is expecting you to live up to at least some aspect of the car-salesman stereotype. Let that guide you as you tailor your approach to their needs.

They want to hear from you after they purchase. Follow up promptly and in a way that fosters discussion. Rather than just, “Do you have any questions?”, you might start with, “If you’d like a refresher on the infotainment functions, please come in and we’ll do that,” or “Your first prepaid maintenance is coming up and it’s a minor checkup and oil change – want to schedule it now?” Women are often more likely than men to rely on friends and family for recommendations. Sell them on your store and your staff, and they’ll be telling others to come and see you.



Here’s how to maximize the effectiveness of long-term loans


As cash flow gets tighter for many people, longer-term loans are becoming more popular as a tool to help reduce their monthly payments. According to data from J.D. Power, some 45% of loans on the used-vehicle side are for 84 months, and it appears the new-vehicle segment is likely very close.

The popularity of longer-term loans can provide an opportunity for your dealership. You will have to work at methods to stay in contact with customers who, left to their own devices, likely won’t be coming in every three years or so to trade in for what’s new on the lot.

But it also presents an opportunity for product upsell to people who expect to hold onto these vehicles for a long time, and need to keep them in good shape to better maintain maximum equity over the life of the loan. It requires planning at the showroom level, and then later on, working in conjunction with the service department.

In the showroom

Longer-term loans, tailored to your customer’s needs, can allow them to get into the vehicle they want and that best suits their needs. If someone has come in with a particular model in mind – perhaps one they’ve seen on your website – then walk them through it, but look for opportunity.

As you know, people often want something they’ve seen or heard about, especially with first-time buyers, but they don’t necessarily take all the variables into account. Where and how they drive, if they have children, if they camp or cottage, how much they want to tow, or their must-have features could all affect the vehicle that’s best for them, but they might feel that the one that is may not fit their budget. A longer loan term with lower payments might, and your effort to get them into the “perfect fit” could make them more likely to recommend you to others.

In the front office

Once they’ve decided on a vehicle, many people aren’t all that interested in hearing about add-ons, and customers with longer-term loans aren’t likely to be inherently different in that regard. What is different is that, because of how long they’re financing the vehicle, you will have products available that are designed to best protect their investment.

Service contracts are the obvious first choice here. The financing terms will outlast some, if not all, of the vehicle’s factory warranty, and repairs are not inexpensive. It’s a careful balancing act of convincing a customer that an extended warranty’s peace-of-mind is worth its cost, without setting up the potential for buyer to think it’s a necessary expense because the vehicle isn’t going to be reliable.

If the vehicle is a necessity – to get to work, to get children to daycare or family members to appointments – go over the benefits of a plan that includes roadside assistance once the vehicle’s factory coverage expires, along with a loaner vehicle. Many people believe their only option is an auto club membership; and many are also unaware that service contract plans can be available for used vehicles, as well as for new.

This is also the time to talk about protecting the vehicle’s equity. Rustproofing, paint and fabric protection, and anti-theft measures become even more important when the buyer will be hanging on to the vehicle for a long time. Emphasize that these can help keep it in top shape, and maintain as much of its resale value as possible over the long term.

In the longer term

It’s vitally important to remain in touch with these long-term customers, because they’re likely not coming back in to trade for quite a while. On a fairly regular basis – of course in keeping with regulations on privacy and customer consent for contact – send out a “Hi, how are you, how’s your vehicle” message to keep your store top-of-mind. Offer a bird-dog, in cash or goods, if your customer sends someone your way who buys a vehicle from you.

Your dealership’s service department is also vital to retaining these long-term customers, and it’s as important to look at what vehicle owners aren’t doing, as well as what they are. If a recommended maintenance schedule has come and gone, it likely means your customer is going to a fast-lube store or big-box store’s service department. Send out a two-for-one oil change coupon offer for your dealership – buy your first one, get your second one free. Contact the owner with a reminder before the spring or winter rush for switching tires, and if that doesn’t bear fruit, consider sweetening it with an offer such as tire storage. Check the daily service department appointments, and if your customer’s coming in, drop by to say hello and offer a coffee. You’re both in it for the long term, so make it count.