Thursday, December 4, 2008

5 Signs You Are At The Right Dealership

My name is T.J. Houghton and I am the General Sales Manager at Jim McNatt Toyota/Dodge in Denton, TX. I got started in the car business in 1991. I worked my way up from sales person to business manager then to sales manager and finally to general manager during my 14 year tenure at Leadership Ford in Dallas Texas. I have been approved as a dealer by both Ford and Dodge. My remaining career years have been at Jim McNatt Toyota Dodge.
There are things that you can do get the “best deal” and moreover make your buying experience enjoyable and ensure that you end up with the car you really want. Most of which is strictly a matter of observation on your part. I promise that I will not insult your intelligence nor waste your time.

1. No Pressure Atmosphere. I have spent the better part of 17 years trying to find the perfect balance between taking care of the needs of our customer and the needs of the store. I have found the best way to do this is to study and learn as much as I can about human nature. The biggest challenge that I have found is that everyone looks at things from their own unique perspective. Let me just say it the way it is… WE ARE ALL A LITTLE SELFISH.

Here’s a perfect example. Ask just about any salesperson what the steps to the sale are and they will immediately go into a standard list of first I meet and greet my customer then I fact find (ask the customer to give me a bunch of information). After asking a few questions I show the car and then we appraise the trade-in if there is one, etc. All are from a salesperson’s perspective and it is amazing to me that the customer (You) are just a piece of the sales puzzle. Ask the same question of a customer, and if they pondered on it a little while, their steps would probably come down to I hope that I find a salesperson that I like, that will give me good information that will help me find the right car. I want to trust this person enough to buy from them. Therein lies the problem! Your typical salesperson will ask too many personal questions that will make you uncomfortable and not feel like answering. You probably came with a few questions of your own and just looking for some information so that you can make up your own mind and getting answers may be like pulling teeth. This, my friend is the very definition of pressure.

We teach our sales people that we are here to serve our customer and we genuinely thank them for coming to us. We let them know that we will do everything we can to assist them with finding just the right car that once is done makes paying for it much easier. Yes, unfortunately you still have to pay for the cars here. J

2. Easy Information exchange. Every salesperson here is empowered with the ability, to take ownership if you will, and promise that before you leave they will personally get you all of the information that you want or request to help you make an excellent decision. The decision belongs to you and it could be in our favor or not.

The information you need may only be pricing. It could be a value on your trade-in or other financial information like what kind of interest rates do we have. If you have shopped for a car before and asked these kinds of questions you probably think that you were asking for some kind of government trade secret! This is where the selfishness part comes in. Most places will stonewall you like crazy because they are afraid you will shop and buy from someone else. (Which is probably true if you felt pressured and had trouble getting information.) The facts are that identical vehicles at different dealerships will have identical MSRP’s and the dealers where charged the exact same price by the manufacturer when it was shipped to them! This is the law. In the automotive industry there are no “Power Buys” like Wal-Mart or Costco. The smallest to the largest dealers all pay the same. Some dealers like us are better operators and manage our expenses a little better so that we have less overhead expense which can ease pressure on price for you.

This is what we live by and what I expect from our people. I know that someone may take our information and use it somewhere else and possibly buy from another dealer. This is the risk and also the leap of faith we take. I know that when you find out that fair pricing ends up being the within a few dollars everywhere then you will probably make the decision to do business with the people you liked the most and was the easiest to deal with. (More of that human nature stuff that I was talking about before.)

3. Negotiating. True story: I have a very sweet 62 year old lady that sells cars for us. That should tell you right there that we are a different car dealership. She sold an Avalon to a man the other day that had been shopping at our competitor up the road. We were working on identical cars and he had a trade-in that ended up being worth a little over $3500.00. We gave a fair price for ours and a good value for his trade. He said that we were only slightly higher than the previous dealer. Our salesperson asked that if we matched the deal would he go ahead and do business with us. His reply, that sounded logical to her, was if you just match it then why shouldn’t I go back to the dealer that gave me the deal in the first place. She was puzzled and came to me for help. I visited with the customer and said that I understood his position and that we all pay the same for the cars so inevitably we would end up in a similar deal. I told him that it was my experience that something must have happened at the other dealer that made him uncomfortable and was probably the reason he was here. We visited a little more and he said that they had originally offered only $500 for his trade and he said that he thought it was worth $3500. After a while they came to an agreement they both could live with but he just didn’t feel comfortable completing the sale. The customer asked the sales manager why, if his trade was worth $3500, did they offer only $500? The sale manager replied, “Because if you were a PUMPKIN we wouldn’t want to miss you!” Can you believe it!? There are actually trainers and dealers that actually teach this to their sales people and say it to customers. THIS IS IMPORTANT. IF YOU ARE EVER AT A DEALERSHIP AND ANYONE SAYS THAT TO YOU… RUN! FOREST RUN!!! Once again, the selfish side of human nature rears its ugly head. We finished our conversation with me stating that’s why I wouldn’t go back to the other dealer. We would never send our sales people out with insulting values like that and would never “try on” a customer to see if they were a “PUMPKIN”. He is now driving an Avalon purchased from here!

I don’t like to negotiate. I tell my friends that come here that I won’t do it. But, many people buy cars here that don’t know me personally so I have to engage in it to some extent. If you come here and want to negotiate after you have asked for our best deal, just realize that we have to sell our stuff for a little more than we paid for it. (You know. It’s Capitalism.) It has to be fair for us too. That is the balance I referred to earlier. It needs to be fair for you and for us.

You will never hear a salesperson here say, “I don’t know if we can do it. I will go ask my manager and fight for you!” To me that is equally as insulting as being a pumpkin head. Our managers are here to help facilitate your car buying experience. If you make an offer to a sales person it is probably true that he or she may not know if it is acceptable. We have too much inventory and too many options to know the price of everything in our heads. You will probably here something like, “Thank you for your offer. I will go and check to see if it can be done and if it is fair for us. If so, absolutely we will do it!”

4. Customer Satisfaction Rating. The proof is in the pudding! We are #1 in our district and finished the year in the top seven percentile in the country. Ask us. We are proud of our accomplishment (there is the selfishness again). The beauty is that this honor was given by you to us and it shows that somehow we have managed to find that wonderful balance. We made you happy. Most of all, even though we ended up with a figure that may or may not been your ideal goal, was fair. And you didn’t have to feel like a pumpkin head and go through and awful high pressure process to get it!

5. Spider Senses. This is the most important part. Trust your instincts. If it doesn’t feel right, call time out. Ask questions. And above all, don’t beat around the bush. We know what you’re here for. When I introduce new sales people to the business, I tell them that between our customers telling us they are just looking and our sales people pretending they are not here to try and sell something, it is a wonder we get anything done at all. You the customer are in control. It is OK to say that you are here to get a new car as long it is the right car and the right deal. I just don’t know if I like you yet, want to listen to you yet or trust you enough to buy from you right now.

We encourage input and involvement and questions. If you are at a store and this isn’t happening your “Spider Senses” should be tingling. And for goodness sakes, Run! Forest Run!!

T.J. Houghton
General Sales Manager

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