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Share your dealership’s sales ethics to increase customer trust and change public perception
When you first opened the doors of your dealership, you had a vision in mind. You wanted it to be a special place where customers felt comfortable buying from you and trusted your employees, vehicles, and intentions. You pictured it as a cornerstone of your local community with a reputation as an ethical, caring business.
It’s been a long time since you became a dealership owner, and as far as you’re concerned, you’ve come a long way and have created a business your whole family can be proud of. You practice what you preach, and word-of-mouth recommendations are a big part of your customer base.
However, for all of your success, you’re still fighting against an industry-wide perception about sales ethics that seems impossible to break: many people just don’t trust car dealerships.
A survey of 200 U.S. adults age 18 and older, conducted by Total Dealer Compliance, showed that almost 65% of consumers believe dealership business practices are unethical. That means that for every 100 customers that set foot in your dealership, 65 of them assume you aren’t trustworthy before one of your salespeople even says hello. Those are dreadful odds to work against on a daily basis.
Don’t worry, though — there’s good news. The survey’s results also revealed that 50% of people would be more likely to shop at an auto dealership that displays its code of sales ethics in the showroom.
“A code of ethics is designed to reinforce a dealers’ personal commitment to quality service and high ethical standards,” said Max Zanan, president of Total Dealer Compliance, speaking with Auto Dealer Today. “Our survey confirmed that the trust between the consumer and car dealer is truly broken. Ensuring a code of ethics is on display will be the first step in rebuilding the consumer’s trust, where compliance is of top priority.”
Prominently display your code of sales ethics
It’s not enough to create a basic code of ethics that only lives within the pages of your employee handbook. Show your customers how committed you are to gaining their trust. Why?
1. Helps increase sales
Remember the survey numbers that showed 50% of people would be more likely to shop at an auto dealership that displays its code of sales ethics? If you’re in a town or city with a lot of competition, taking the time to hang up your list could ultimately be a huge differentiating factor for many customers.
2. Decrease ethical violations
Ethical violations are contagious. There may be one bad seed on your team that tries to cut corners whenever possible. If other employees witness him continually getting away with sketchy behavior, they may join in. Having your code of sales ethics on the wall reminds them of how you do business, what you expect, and that you’re always watching.
3. Enforces compliance
As a dealership owner, you probably live and breathe compliance and work hard to ensure you stay on top of all possible issues. The visible sales ethics reminder in the showroom will encourage your employees to take compliance seriously and follow proper protocol when conducting sales.
4. Shows customers you have nothing to hide
Some dealers tackle the problem of customer trust by acting like the issue doesn’t even exist — “What do you mean consumers don’t trust auto dealerships?! Of course they do! I’ve never heard of such a thing!” By posting your code of sales ethics, you’re saying “We know most people don’t trust the motives of auto dealerships, but we want you to know that we’re trying our best to show you that we take honesty very seriously.”
5. Serves as a reminder for employees
Auto salespeople have a lot of information being thrown at them all the time; recent recalls, details about new models, an update to your sales process, or a new law they need to be aware of. They constantly have a tornado of thoughts swirling around in their brains, and your code of ethics is just another thing on the list.
Help them out by posting your dealership’s sales ethics in the showroom. It takes the pressure off them to remember because it’s always in plain view, and after a while of seeing the list every day, your code of ethics will become second nature for your salespeople rather than something they have to remember.
Creating and posting your code of sales ethics
Depending on your preference, you can create your list of sales ethics on your own, or enlist the help of your employees. Brainstorming a code of ethics could be an excellent activity for your regular sales meetings. It forces employees to think about how they should conduct business, and it also turns it into a group effort rather than just another “must do” handed down from management.
If you’re a little stuck on where to start, the National Automobile Dealers Association provides a great code of ethics you can use if you’re a member, or use as a jumping-off point to create your own list. Example sales ethics include:
• We promise to operate this dealership in accord with the highest standards of ethical conduct.
• We promise to treat every customer fairly, in an open, and honest manner, and fully comply with all laws that prohibit discrimination.
• We promise to advertise our products in a positive, factual, and informative way.
Where you post this code of ethics in your dealership is up to your discretion. Some dealerships like to create one huge code of ethics that they display in the showroom, while others prefer to post multiple, smaller lists at each desk or in every office. Think about what would work best within the design of your showroom, as well as what would be most visible for both employees and customers.