What should you do with down time?


Slow days are a reality in every dealership, but they shouldn’t be filled by simply putting up one’s feet and scrolling social media. Consider it an opportunity to catch up on the tasks that get pushed to the side when the showroom is busy, but can improve your sales techniques and your relationship with customers.

One thing to do is catch up on product specifications, especially when new models are on their way or new F&I products are introduced. Customers need to trust their salesperson, and it doesn’t instill confidence if a routine question sends you scrambling for the answer. Be aware of model-year changes so you can point them out to customers – the latest features may be enough to sway someone who isn’t sure if it’s the right time to trade in for a new vehicle.

Education isn’t restricted to the vehicle. Search for online tips on how to improve your sales technique. No matter how good you are, there’s always room for a bit of improvement. If your OEM offers online courses, do it now, rather than leaving it for the weekend when you’re supposed to be recharging your batteries. Most of them will let you work on the course when you can, and then pick up where you left off if you have to stop when a customer comes in.

Go through your customer list and catch up with people. You don’t want to give them the impression that you’re hounding them, but a quick text or call when appropriate will keep you top-of-mind. You may want to remind them that they should be calling early to schedule a winter tire changeover; or that your F&I may have products that can keep their vehicle looking fresh longer, such as ceramic coatings; or that the parts department is stocking model-specific winter mats that protect better than the one-size-fits-all from the big-box store. Even if the product doesn’t come from your department, it’s still all about customer satisfaction overall.

If it’s possible, arrange internal meeting schedules to take advantage of slow days. Stores can get into the habit of setting their sales meetings in stone, and sometimes to the point that everyone has to be in the meeting room while a customer is wandering the showroom or calling about a vehicle with no one to help. Tailor the behind-the-scenes necessities to the reality of what’s actually happening in the dealership at the time.

Pick up your cellphone, but use it wisely. Snap a picture or video of an interesting vehicle on the lot, and post it on social media with a link. Sometimes it’s enough just to get people talking on the dealership’s media outlets about non-auto items – perhaps an open question such as “What’s everyone doing this Friday night?” or “The weather’s still warm, so what’s your favourite ice-cream flavour?” People love to chime in on such questions, and when they do, it can generate leads as you realize who’s following the dealership’s outlets. Do a Google search on the dealership and see who’s commenting on it, who’s leaving reviews, or other online mentions. Look over the website and make sure everything’s up-to-date, such as the right vehicles being promoted; any new employees have been added to the “Meet Our Team” page with the correct contact information; and even that everything’s spelled correctly and set up to draw customers in.

Look at deals from a year or more ago, and see how they were financed. If a deal was done at a high interest rate, contact the customer. There may be a possibility that trading in and financing a new vehicle could result in lower rates and potentially lower monthly payments – a win-win for dealer and customer. Also look for customers coming up on their purchase or lease anniversaries, and get in touch for the possibility of a trade-in.

If no one’s in the showroom, take a walk back to the service department. Introduce yourself to customers who are sitting waiting, and offer them a coffee. If they seem open to it, ask if they’d like to come up front to see what’s new in the showroom.

While many people are go-getters and will find a way to fill in any down time, managers should generate lists of things such as those mentioned, as guidance when the showroom is empty. There may not be any customers around, but slow periods can still be productive for everyone.