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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.


How are your employees behaving online?


If ever anything is a double-edged sword, it’s the Internet. It’s an essential tool for advertising your vehicles and reaching your customers, as well as doing your day-to-day business. But it can strike at your company, and very hard, if your employees forget that the whole world may be watching if they cause an uproar online.

It's often said there are no guarantees in life other than death and taxes, but that’s not quite true. To those, you can add that if something damaging ends up on social media, someone is going to repost or screen-shot it no matter how quickly you try to delete it. Once that happens, it can keep coming back to haunt you. And, of course, anyone who sees it is likely going to jump to conclusions, rather than seek out your explanation or apology for it.

Bad online behaviour has cost talk-show hosts their jobs; seriously dented more than one celebrity’s fan base; and most notably of interest to you, can affect how customers look at your business. But it can also pose a sticky situation, where you must balance your company’s online health with your employees’ expectations and even their legal rights regarding free speech and privacy.

Your employees represent your company, even if they’re not posting as such. It can be easy enough for people to find out where they work, and if they’re angry over a controversial remark or opinion your employee has made public, they’ll make sure everyone else knows that this person traces back to you. Sometimes the issue can start out innocently enough, when someone complains or makes a disparaging remark about your dealership and one of your employees sticks up for it. But if the conversation gets heated, it looks bad for you.

Most people are responsible and careful online, but the immediate nature of social media, and the lack of face-to-face communication, can often make it easy to get carried away.

Here are some suggestions and tips to keep things running as smoothly online as possible.

- Make sure you know the rules. The HR manager should be up-to-date on federal and provincial policies regarding the rights of employers and employees. In some provinces, searching for someone’s posts on social media sites, other than business-focused sites such as LinkedIn, is considered a breach of privacy. It may seem like a good idea to see how a potential hire behaves online, but it could get you into trouble if you’re not familiar with any applicable regulations.

- Set your policies and put them in writing. Work with your managers and HR to determine a list of rules. These might include limiting personal social media interaction during work hours, or getting a manager involved right away if situations on social media or through emails start to escalate. You might state that work-related posts or videos, such as fun little ads or vehicle walkarounds, must be posted through the dealership’s social media accounts. As well, state your policy – even if it seems obvious – regarding online speech that crosses the line. Have all employees read and sign a copy.

- Emphasize that it’s not about censorship. Instead, it’s about professional behaviour. Interactions with anyone online should be handled the same way as if that person were sitting across the desk. If they aren’t treated respectfully, they won’t become customers, and they could influence others to stay away from your store. Poor online behaviour that’s identified with your dealership also negatively affects other employees, with loss of sales or service as well as being “painted with the same brush.”

- If you receive a complaint, get involved. Don’t simply ask your employee to make good on the issue. Step in right away with an apology for what happened, and a request for that person’s side of the story. Make it clear that the online escalation is considered unacceptable, but don’t be afraid to stick up for your people beyond that if a customer is making an unreasonable request. Again, it’s as if that person is sitting across the desk from you, not communicating through cyberspace.

- Emails and texts matter too. This issue isn’t limited to posts on Facebook, TikTok, or whatever name Twitter is going by today. It’s just as easy to get caught up negatively in one-to-one virtual communications. Make sure everyone understands the scope of their digital outreach.

- Be the example. It goes without saying that your own online behaviour should be the gold standard for the dealership. Your employees also need to know you’ll be fair but firm if slip-ups happen; and if an online mistake affects other in the dealership, that you have their backs as well. As online continues to grow, your dealership needs to always stay a step ahead.


How do you help your employees with their work-life balance?


It used to be that society not only valued work, but also the concept of work for the sake of work. “Good” employees came in early and left late, ate lunch at the desk, never called in sick, and often didn’t take vacation time. The job came first and foremost above everything.

But now we’re finding that wasn’t such a good idea after all. When people don’t maintain a work-life balance, they can easily burn out. Those who focus entirely on their work are at much higher risk of poor job performance, issues with home life, difficult personal or workplace relationships, lack of refreshing sleep, and even health problems.

It can be difficult to reach a perfect work-life balance in a dealership, where people need to be on call for customers and time away can have the potential to bite into one’s paycheque. But it’s not impossible, and if managers don’t make the effort to keep everyone balanced, the store can potentially suffer when people are unable to keep up with what you need them to do.

Knowing what to look for

Obviously, someone who is always in the dealership is going to ping your radar, but burnout can happen even to someone who takes the occasional day off. Some of the symptoms to watch for include these:

Lack of motivation. Watch for people who just go through the motions. They may be unwilling to reach out proactively to customers; they do the minimum needed to close a deal, without trying to upsell or suggest choices that better suit a customer’s needs; their paperwork is incomplete or contains errors; or they don’t make an effort to learn about new products and features. They also fail to take any pleasure or pride in their work.

A change in routine. Someone who’s always been punctual, but is now frequently late should ring alarm bells with you.

They always seem tired. Everyone has a too-late night now and again, but watch for people who consistently seem exhausted or sleep-deprived. They may have frequent headaches, or “zone out” or even fall asleep at their desks.

They’re irritable and easily upset. Burned-out people seldom get along well with co-workers, and you may notice more conflict in the office. Minor problems will set them off, and you’ll find it difficult to resolve issues with them.

They don’t spend a lot of time actually working. They’re at their desks, but their primary focus is on social media, online games, or even just lost in thought or staring out the window.

How do you fix it?

If you’ve identified one burned-out employee, you likely have more and just don’t realize it yet. In addition to reaching out to that person, you must take a holistic approach to the entire dealership. Studies show that many burned-out employees feel they’re not getting the support from management that they need. Some tips to help include:

Open communication. It can be very difficult for someone to approach the boss with a personal problem, and you need to make the first move. People need to know that your door is always open and you won’t be judgemental. If you suspect someone is having problems, pick the right time and place – when he or she isn’t irritated or upset, and when others won’t notice you singling that person out. Don’t mention job performance or errors. Instead, start with something like, “You don’t seem to be your usual self lately. Is there anything we need to do here to help improve things?”

Make sure everyone takes time off. If your employees aren’t taking their allotted vacation time, insist that they do. Don’t accept, “Yeah, I’ll get to it,” but schedule it with them. Discourage them from checking in or working remotely when they’re away. Even if they do relax, a single vacation likely won’t make a major change, so watch for signs of burnout when they return.

Reduce the stress. Be careful about how much you’re potentially adding to the problem. Don’t schedule meetings before or after regular work hours. Watch the workload you’re putting on people, especially if you tend to assign more to the people who “get it done sooner than others do.” And while sales quotas are important, hammering down on them creates more pressure. Focusing on customer service should ease that, and should translate into better sales as well.

Set a good example. Do you take time off? Do you take regular breaks, or realize when you’ve taken on too much? Burnout is a mental health issue, and your employees need to be healthy. Talk to them openly, support them, and if necessary, use online or third-party resources to deal with the issue. Ultimately, it will have a positive effect on everyone in your dealership.


How do you reduce employee turnover?


Back in 1914, Henry Ford made headlines when he increased his factory workers’ wages to five dollars a day, roughly twice what he’d been paying them. Ford claimed it was so they could buy the cars they built. In reality, he was trying to stem the almost one-in-five turnover rate of workers unused to the speed and monotony of his new integrated moving assembly line.

Obviously, employee retention issues are nothing new. It's extremely unlikely your dealership will reach the level of those early assembly workers, but employee turnover can be a real problem for companies. The costs of turnover pile up, starting with the time and money advertising the job, and then the process of resumes and interviews. When you find someone, there’s training to cover. It usually takes time for a new hire to become completely familiar with the job and surroundings, and during that period, they’re likely not generating their highest revenue for your company. With so much at stake, look at these tips to keep turnover to a minimum.

Look at why people are leaving. Don’t just let them go; try to schedule an “exit interview” where you discuss the reasons. It’s possible you could address the problem and that person will give it another chance. If not, it may give you insight into improvements that could prevent others from quitting.

Hire the right people. That’s obvious, but in today’s tight market, you may be tempted to grab the first person who comes through the door. In addition to qualifications and work experience, there may be factors that may not immediately come to mind. Someone with a long commute may be fine with it when they’re fresh into the job, but after a longer period of that daily trek, will they take all the training you’ve invested in them to a dealership that’s closer to home?

Be cautious also with people whose resumes skip among various jobs and industries. There’s always the possibility that someone coming in from outside automotive or sales can positively shake things up with a new perspective – and, of course, everyone in the business today had a “first day” in it. But that said, this isn’t always an easy industry for a newcomer. You could spend a lot of time and money training someone who’s just seeing “if it’s a good fit” and who soon decides it isn’t.

Train new employees properly. A common complaint is from people who felt they got rushed or inadequate training, and then felt pressured because they weren’t fulfilling the job’s requirements. Be sure you’re adequately explaining everything, and giving your trainee time to take it all in and learn all the details. And it isn’t just new employees either; when new procedures are implemented, be sure everyone is completely familiarized with them. Training should be a continuous process, because people who feel “left behind” may look elsewhere.

Ask for improvements. Encourage people to suggest ways to improve procedures and the dealership overall. They’re your “boots on the ground” and can see issues that you might not. And pay attention when new people say, “That’s not how we did it at my old place,” because that method might be better than yours. Listening to and incorporating employee feedback can improve the dealership and make people feel valued. If they aren’t, they may look for another place where they are.

Offer opportunity. It’s not as easy to move up in a dealership as it is in a large corporation, but people like to know there’s a chance to advance when possible. Sometimes even a lateral move can freshen people and make them want to stay. Talk to everyone regularly about their goals and aspirations.

Watch for conflict. No business goes smoothly 100 per cent of the time, but look out for the same issues showing up consistently – often involving the same person, whether it’s gossip, stealing customers, or placing blame – and take action. People will quit if they feel that things are never going to get better.

Pay and perks. Just as Henry Ford did, you may have to revisit your compensation rates to keep your employees from looking elsewhere. These aren’t always easy times, but you have a lot of time and money invested in your employees and it’s expensive to replace them. And don’t underestimate the value of little perks, which might not cost all that much but which make people feel wanted and appreciated. It could be a BBQ lunch, tickets to a sports event or movie night, or an occasional day off with no questions asked about why it’s needed. Even just saying, “You did a really good job there” can lift spirits. People who feel appreciated and fairly compensated tend to stick around.


Profitability: Making the Most While Keeping Customers Happy


Vehicles may still be in short supply and they’re bringing good prices, but that isn’t enough to guarantee the highest profitability for your store. You have a lot of competition, and you need to maximize your reach, make the most of each transaction, and then retain those customers for future sales.

The goal of profitability is twofold – to maximize what you’re able to sell on each transaction but of course without gouging your customer, and then to keep those people as loyal repeat customers who will also recommend you to others. And yes, we have some tips!

Invest in training. People who go into sales usually have a “natural knack” for it, but everyone can benefit from ongoing training. That isn’t just on the products they’re selling, but on their sales techniques. Even if they’re already very good at the job, the right training can help sharpen their skills, teach new ones, or even help get them out of a rut if their methods have become shopworn.

Proper training can help with upsell, provide better negotiation skills, and ensure they’re “clicking” with their clients. This could involve individual online training programs, or in-person training for the group. Even if you’re working with your employees to upgrade their techniques, third-party coaching can be beneficial. It can bring new perspectives into your store – especially since these people are going into various dealerships and can offer perspectives on what it takes to stand out from your competition.

Search out your customers. You’ve heard this a thousand times, but it bears repeating: Times have changed and most people aren’t going to stroll into your dealership to browse around. You must go out and find them. Online is crucial to capturing them, through your own website, third-party auto sales sites, and social media.

Using your social media videos, let your customers know that you’re more than just a place to buy a new car. Tell them about your pre-owned department; how you can help walk them through the financing process with specialized auto knowledge that their lender might not be as well-equipped to offer; or how easy it is to get an accurate valuation on their trade-in.

When you’re watching online videos, on any subject, pay attention to how they’re presented. What keeps you watching some until the very end? What’s wrong with others that you can’t finish and just swipe to the next one? Use that knowledge to design your own “must-see” videos. And don’t be afraid to use a little humour to keep your store top-of-mind with viewers: If you have enough funny outtakes when you’re making yours, how about posting an occasional “blooper reel” to grab eyeballs?

Analyze your balance sheet regularly. Many department managers – and often the entire dealership itself – often wait until the quarterly statements before they look hard at the debits and credits. Ideally, you should be looking regularly at what’s going on. This will help you focus on what’s working, improve what isn’t doing so well, and maximize the return on what you’re spending to run the department. If you wait for three months to dive deep into the numbers, you might have missed opportunities, or paid out money that didn’t need to be spent.

Your department is entwined with others in the dealership, and while most businesses use up-to-date computer systems that interact and show the whole picture, make sure yours isn’t dividing the store up into “information silos.” This is when each department’s information is kept separately, rather than integrated. If this is the case, you may not be able to see if your customers are coming back regularly to service the vehicles you sold them, for example. This reduces your opportunity to see how effective your department is at customer loyalty, and getting the best returns on what you’re spending to obtain it.

Upsell, but do it right. Customers can be leery of extra items that your F&I wants to add on. To maximize profit, don’t just reel off everything that’s available. Instead, consider the vehicle, how much the customer expects to drive and how long they’ll keep the car, maintenance requirements, and the budget and financing, and try to assemble a bundle of products best suited for it. You can always “de-content” the bundle if negotiations require it, but that’s easier than trying to add additional items once you’ve sold them on a couple of individual ones.

Bring them back for service. Your role doesn’t end when the deal is signed. Introduce them to the service department, and then keep an eye on them. If they’re coming in for maintenance, stop by the service desk to say hello. As time goes on, talk to them about resale value and trade-in considerations; or if their model undergoes a makeover, take them to the showroom to see the upgrades over the one they own.

Every touchpoint is an opportunity to work toward a sale, and every sale is an opportunity to make a loyal customer. Always make the most of each one to help ensure your maximum profitability.


Toxic Workplaces: Is Your Store at Risk?


Everyone has heard of toxic work environments, and how they can have severely detrimental effects on how the company runs, but can you identify the symptoms of one? It can often be even more difficult for managers to realize what’s happening, because employees may be “on their best behaviour” in front of the boss.

Of course, that’s not to say that every workplace is toxic – far from it. But there’s always a possibility, and if you don’t know what to look for, any issues could continue to grow. And once you identify a problem, you need to know how to repair it.

It’s not made any easier by the nature of your business, as a sales environment is inherently competitive. It’s important to watch for situations that can spill over beyond that into toxic conditions. Here are some possible warning signs.

Frequent absences or employee turnover. In addition to people staying home to avoid the workplace, excess stress can actually make them feel physically ill. Watch for people who need to take extra “time-outs” throughout the day, who seem on edge, or who frequently want to be left alone. You may also notice so-called “quiet quitting,” where people do the absolute minimum required of their job, or those who hand in a resignation. It could be restricted to one department, or could be a larger issue that affects most or all of the store.

Bullying and manipulation. There’s often a “pecking order” in many businesses, so watch for it and note if it’s getting out of hand. It could include bullying, making jokes at someone’s expense, racism, or people higher up dumping tasks on those lower down. If your salespeople are on a rotating basis for walk-in customers, watch for anyone who muscles in to get to them first. Employees often group together – for lunch, for quick conversations, or maybe even get-togethers after work. If anyone’s being habitually left out, this might be someone who’s being bullied, or conversely, that might be the bully.

Office gossip. Just about everyone loves a juicy story, but gossiping about fellow employees can quickly turn an office into a toxic environment. Even fairly innocent stories can turn sour as they get repeated – the old game of “telephone” where the final story is nothing like how it started out, once people retell what they think they’ve heard. Don’t engage in gossip yourself, and put a stop to it if you hear any.

Online activity. A toxic environment can potentially spill out and be harmful to people who aren’t even part of your organization. Be watchful of online bullying outside of it, such as employees who put up social media posts with jabs at customers or people they know outside of work, even if they don’t specifically identify them. Not only does it make your store look bad to strangers reading the posts, but other employees may wonder if that person is jabbing them online as well.

Blow-ups over mistakes. Everyone makes errors; as they say, it’s “only human.” But if managers take it out on employees when they do make honest mistakes, people will be afraid to own up to their errors, or only do the bare minimum in order to avoid making them. Employees should be told about mistakes and how to fix them, but in a constructive manner. Shouting, throwing items, name-calling or ridicule should never be tolerated in your workplace.

Rude and belittling behaviour. The “Monday Morning Meetings” that some dealerships hold each week are meant to pump up the team, but be careful you’re not picking on some of the members. Some salespeople will often do much better than others, and it’s fine to give them a shout-out, but don’t belittle those who haven’t hit the high numbers. That can create an “us-against-them” attitude, rather than the unified team you’re trying to maintain.

Stand up for your employees. The old line is that “the customer is always right,” but in reality, it isn’t necessarily so. If someone is giving your employee a hard time, step in to defuse it, and then look at both sides. If the customer is being unreasonable, be courteous, but defend your staff. Employees need to know that you have their backs if they’re being treated improperly. Don’t just look after the people directly under you – if it’s someone mistreating people at the service or parts counter, step in to help everyone work through it. A caring environment throughout the dealership makes everyone feel better and more likely to work together for the store’s benefit.

So, what’s the fix for a toxic environment? That toxicity wasn’t installed when the store was built. It’s caused by people’s behaviour, and you must find the root of it.

If you find that people are on edge, speak with them privately – you noticed they don’t seem to be themselves lately, and is there anything you can do to improve things? Watch for recurring themes that will help you find the issues. And always start from the top down, making sure that you’re doing all you can to ensure a safe, friendly, and productive workplace.


Beyond Balloons: How to Make your Dealership Stand Out


When you want to make your dealership stand out, there are a lot of ways to do it. For almost as long as car dealers have been around, there have been streamers and banners over the lot, balloons tied to antennae, or the air-powered “tube man” dancer. But they’ve mostly become cliches, and you’re going to have to go beyond them to make an impression.

You may have some restrictions on your store’s appearance, depending on the auto brands you represent, but there are still many ways to entice shoppers to stop and have a second look at what you have to offer.

Making a first impression. What’s in your front-row lineup by the street? This is where to put your hottest sellers, your brightest colours, any special editions. Mix it up with various models, not just all the same, to give customers an idea of what’s available. If you’re putting prices on the windshields, include your website in each graphic. Then, especially if it’s a pre-owned model, feature it on your site so it’s right there when someone comes looking for it.

Make it look good. Landscaping can make or break a building. Keep the grass trimmed, plant bright flowers, and ensure that small repairs are done. If it looks like you take good care of your facility, customers will feel you’ll take good care of them.

Get the community involved. Service clubs and sports teams are often looking for fundraising opportunities. Offer them a corner of your lot on a weekend to set up a barbecue or similar event, and publicize it. People who come by for the event will get a chance to see your store, and those holding the event will remember your generosity. Throw in a couple of prizes for them to raffle off, such as a bucket of car cleaning products or coupons for oil changes.

Host a clinic. Most people now look for their information online, but some things are still best done in person. Contact local first responders or auto member clubs to see if they can host a child seat clinic – especially since studies show that many seats are incorrectly installed, which potentially creates a safety issue. First-aid and CPR clinics could also bring people into your dealership, or a “get to know your vehicle” event that gives people more information on how their cars work and why maintenance is essential – which can lead to service department visits. This can also be an important opportunity if you sell EVs. A number of people think battery-only vehicles don’t need any maintenance, and don’t necessarily understand the importance of regular inspections for brakes, steering, tires and suspension components, especially since they’re not coming in for oil changes.

Speak to people in their languages. If you have multilingual employees, make use of them. Put a sign out front telling customers what languages you can offer. It will always put them at ease if they can communicate fluently, especially when it comes to closing a deal.

Get schools involved. If there’s a trade school or college nearby, there may be interest in students getting a first-hand look at jobs in a dealership, whether in the office or the shop. It might potentially lead to apprenticeships as well, which could be a bonus with the shortages the industry is experiencing.

Engage people on social media. Polish up the lens on your phone and shoot short videos to post online. They don’t have to deal directly with cars; instead, you want an opening to engage viewers so they’ll respond, even if it seems trivial. Shoot some road construction and ask, “What are your tips for getting around when everything’s torn up?” Take a sip of your morning java and ask, “What’s your go-to for coffee?” All the replies could potentially be leads. As well, feature your staff in your videos. Customers who come in tend to be more comfortable if they spot a familiar face, even if they’ve never met in person.

You can also use videos to help people properly shop for a vehicle. Many of them think “comparison shopping” is just checking to see which vehicles are roughly the same size, and then looking at their prices. Instead, if you’re offering a vehicle that has more features than a competitively-priced rival, use the video to show them what extras they’re getting if they buy yours.

Consider a car show. Local auto enthusiasts are always looking for places to display their vehicles. Hosting a car show, or even a weekly cruise night, brings in both the car owners and spectators, who can be invited in to see what’s in the showroom. If there are enough people with older versions of the brand you sell, the show could be specifically for those vehicles. Throw in some small prizes with your card tucked inside, or sponsor a trophy for your “pick” of the show.

Of course, you can still put up streamers or an air dancer, but don’t depend on them entirely. Look beyond them to see what’s going to entice customers to visit your store.


Are you communicating effectively with your employees?


It’s a time-honoured dealership tradition: Managers regularly hustle their salespeople into a room for a “pump-up” meeting that can involve sales figures, sales leaders, sales targets, sales bonuses and sales sales sales, and then finishes up with fist-pumps and cheers.

It’s been done that way forever, but is the best way to communicate with your employees? Rather than rely on that one regular meeting, a wide range of communication methods could be a far better way to get your message across, as well as help to avoid the dreaded “meeting fatigue.”

How often you communicate and how you do it depends on a number of factors. Finding the right methods and the right balance can help keep everyone informed and attentive.

Many companies are actually reducing the number of employee meetings they hold. In many cases, it’s because of that fatigue, made worse by the fact that so many firms had to switch to the dreaded squares of the digital meeting during COVID. Many are also reporting that attitudes have improved with this “softer” schedule – that people are paying more attention because they’re not burned out by more frequent get-togethers.

Look at your schedule objectively to see if there’s room for improvement. If you’re repeating the same things over and over at each weekly/twice-weekly/even-more-frequently meeting, are your employees really getting anything out of it? They may leave the meeting pumped-up and ready to take on customers, but is there a chance that time might have been better spent on reaching out to contacts, or reading up on the latest vehicle features?

When you hold a meeting, do your employees participate, or is it just a lecture? People want to feel they’re a vital part of a team, not just a warm body in the chair. Engaging them can go a long way towards that. In addition to telling them what you want from them, ask them what they think everyone can do to improve the dealership. Even if it doesn’t sound doable, there may be a germ of an idea that is. Don’t single anyone out to speak, and accept if people don’t want to participate publicly. Later on, you can send everyone a text telling them that if they come up with ideas outside of the meetings to send them along to you.

Every few months, you might consider including other departments to participate in a meeting. All of them operate independently, but at their core, they’re all entwined in the store’s operations, and everything goes smoother if they’re working together. It’s not so much for airing grievances, but for finding better ways for everyone to interact. The service department may be more open to salespeople coming back to greet customers if advisors realize it’s about leases coming due or new models to show; while salespeople might better understand why parts aren’t in or a customer’s car can’t get into the shop right away.

While it’s not always easy to pull off successful group meetings, it can often be tougher to communicate effectively one-on-one. Everyone reacts differently to speaking directly with “the boss.”

Texts and emails are quick and easy, and of course they’re invaluable when getting a message across that needs attention right now. Keep them short-and-sweet, even using bullet points if that will make everything clearer and straight to what you’re trying to say. That said, when an issue gets complicated, texts can sometimes bog everything down. If that happens, a phone call can usually sort it out much faster and with a lot less trouble.

When you tell people your “door is always open,” it must be, whenever anyone wants to talk. They’ll be more willing to do that if you’ve already shown that it’s a two-way street.

Not everyone is good at face-to-face, especially when there’s a power imbalance of supervisor and employee. There’s a fine art to putting people at ease. If you have to deliver discipline or criticism, do it in private, never during the meetings. Make it constructive, rather than just a judgement on the person’s performance, by showing what was done incorrectly and then walking the employee through the way you expect it to be done. Work together with that person to come up with a solution. It may be something as simple as a lack of up-to-date information, and perhaps some training videos or working closer with others can solve the problem.

Conversely, if praise is due, say so without going over-the-top. In group meetings, that means walking the fine line between recognizing an employee for a job well done, without making others feel that their work is inferior.

If you find it’s tough to get your employees to engage in meetings, to talk to you, to keep you in the loop, then in addition to looking at them, have a look in the mirror. Is there something you could be doing better? Are you making the meetings interesting? Do you glance at your phone during one-on-one, or are you giving them your full attention? If you fully engage with them, chances are good they’ll fully engage with you in return.


Are you spending your advertising money wisely?


Advertising is always a fair-sized chunk of any successful business budget, and you need to ensure you’re getting the best return. It isn’t how much you spend but how you spend it that can make the difference in how effective your advertising is.

There’s no question that digital advertising has emerged as the number-one way to reach people, but not all online campaigns are equally effective. And while most experts agree that traditional advertising has lost its lustre overall, there are still some “old-fashioned” promotional investments that can provide a return.

Digital is relatively inexpensive compared to the number of people you can reach, either through your day-to-day online advertising or through special campaigns. It’s estimated that the cost-per-car for digital can be one-tenth the price of traditional advertising. But even so, you need to focus your resources on where they’ll do the most good, and that can include a variety of advertising choices.

Your website needs to be updated regularly, with new vehicles on offer and news about your dealership. If you have a “Meet Our Team” feature, update it if someone joins or leaves, and replace the “Photo Coming Soon” square with an actual picture as soon as you can. Anything that makes your site look dormant will turn off people who happen upon it.

The site should be feature- and fact-filled, but it shouldn’t be too busy, which can make it difficult to navigate. Be especially careful with your pop-ups. They’re almost universally hated by users and many people will use a blocker to avoid them. Studies show that they do work, as much as people dislike them, but they should be used with caution. Don’t have too many of them, don’t have one take over the screen as soon as someone visits your site (studies show they’re most effective if they appear after someone’s gone through two or more pages on your site); change them regularly so repeat visitors don’t get tired of seeing the same ones over and over; and use them to help engage the viewer, not simply to figuratively yell, “Hey, look at me!”

Spend your money on having your site optimized for SEO (search engine optimization) so people can easily find you. Many dealerships also find an enticing ROI on social media advertising, such as on Facebook and Instagram. Your website and paid online advertising also give you the opportunity to use digital tools to monitor their effectiveness, so you immediately know what’s working within the advertisement, or what needs to be tweaked to improve it.

But what about the traditional methods? It’s no surprise that dealers are spending far less on these than they did in the past, but there may be some life – and some return – in some of these “old-fashioned” ways of reaching out.

Direct mail can still work, but it needs to be targeted, rather than the “Hi, how are you?” letters that dealers dropped in the mailbox in the past. These could include a note when a lease is coming due, or warranty is expiring and there’s a chance to sell an extended plan. You’re most likely to do these through email, but especially for older customers, an envelope and a stamp might be worth the investment.

Newspaper advertising is the least likely outlet for most dealers, but could be worthwhile if you’re in a smaller city or town that’s served by a local free community paper. People often leaf through them for local news and coupons, and they’ll notice your ad. Mall displays have also generally fallen out of favour but still generate interest, especially in colder weather when people are more inclined to linger indoors.

Television and radio advertising has also dropped, but it may be worth looking into what’s involved and how much it will cost. People listen carefully to radio during traffic and weather reports, so focus your advertising there. In all advertising, repeat your website address as often as your physical street number.

An excellent resource, especially for dealerships in suburban areas or smaller towns, is community-building through sponsorships and events. When they’re car-shopping, people will remember that you sponsored their child’s sports team, especially if your dealer’s name is on the jerseys.

You can also participate in charity events such as food or toy drives, where people come into your store to fill a truck or SUV with items; offer shuttles or tow vehicles for fairs and parades; or buy advertising at hockey arenas or charity golf tournaments. People may be more receptive because sponsorships don’t really look like advertising, and it promotes worthy causes in the community.

Overall, you should be looking at your advertising budget on a monthly basis at least, to determine what’s working, what isn’t, and what you can do to improve. Customers only find out about you when you reach out to them.