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Automotive sales is one of the most competitive businesses in the United States, and you have to be aware of what your competitors are doing to drive their numbers to steer yours in the right direction. If you ignore your competitors, you are missing a great opportunity to learn from their successes as well as their mistakes. When you pay attention to what competitors are doing and how they go about doing it, you can pick up on some of their more successful sales tactics and improve upon them, while also avoiding a repeat of any of their mistakes.
Importance of Training
One of the biggest lessons you can learn from your competitors is the extent to which they provide formalized training for their sales and support staff. Sales team staff members tend to be naturally gifted people and do well with relatively little guidance. However, rare are the sales professionals who can excel on their own merits. Your best competitors most likely utilize training of some sort, whether it’s a mentorship pairing experienced and successful sales staff with newcomers, a formalized training system, or a thorough interview process that vets only the best candidates for the job. If you have one or more competitors who have sales staff who consistently perform better than your own, there is a good chance those competitors have a training system that works better than yours and could teach you and your own sales team how to better conduct business.
Local Brand Positioning
No matter where your dealership is located, you will be catering mostly to the local population, in addition to others who are willing to travel for a good deal. That means you need to know how to position the brands you sell in the minds of your local consumers. When you pay attention to what your competitors are doing, you can get a clearer picture of which vehicles appeal to various people and which ones don’t, as well as how they go about positioning those vehicles for local buyers. Pickup trucks, for example, may be more appealing in rural areas, while compact cars and luxury vehicles generally do better in more urban settings. Knowing how to position particular brands or types of vehicles will make a huge difference in the success of your sales efforts.
One of the best ways to enhance the image of your dealership is to sponsor local programs and civic organizations, like youth athletic programs, museums, and community events. Providing a $5,000 or $10,000 for youth baseball and softball leagues, for example, will keep your dealership’s name fresh in the minds of the parents whose children participate in those sports, and those parents might be looking to buy a vehicle for their family. Many if not all of your top competitors likely sponsor local organizations and events to sow goodwill and reap increased sales from their efforts. If you pay attention to which ones are successfully involved in these partnerships and sponsorships, you can learn which specific opportunities will help to improve your sales and profitability.
Consumers increasingly make use of online tools to search for potential vehicles and the best deals on them. That means you must have a strong online presence that can be easily accessed by anything from laptops to tablets and other mobile devices. Using digital marketing to boost your sales success is easier to do when you can see how your competitors are working to communicate with potential customers. This can include their marketing strategy, offers and promotions, or even deals that are promoted. The structure of their websites, content, interaction, photos and descriptions of vehicles, search features, and many other types of information provided on your competitors’ websites can help you determine if your site is competitive or needs a major overhaul to become more effective.
If your competitors are using social media with any level of success, you should take notes and determine how you can use similar techniques to better communicate with potential and existing customers. Platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn are making it easier for dealerships to extend their marketing reach to an audience previously unapproachable. If your competitors are effectively using social media, chances are they are experiencing success. If they aren’t using such platforms, then you have an opportunity to get ahead your competitors and gain a business advantage.
Traditional advertising on radio and television, in print, or on billboards remains effective, even with the changing technological landscape. You should check how each your competitors utilize these platforms by monitoring their TV, radio, and print efforts and determine how much of each there are using. If any trends become apparent among your top competitors, such as a greater reliance on television advertising, for example, you might need to step up your own efforts. On the other hand, if any poorly performing competitors are overusing a particular marketing channel, such as newspapers or radio, it might be a sign that those advertising channels are not as effective for the local automotive sales business.
Many dealerships plan special sales events throughout the year in effort to boost your sales volumes. You need to pay particular attention to what your competitors are doing to see how their sales events are compare to yours, how they differ, and the varying rates of success that may be experienced. If competitor efforts are more successful, there likely is something they are doing better than you, and you need to make adjustments to improve your automotive sales. Likewise, any special sales events that your competitors put on that produce lackluster results might suggest that a particular approach doesn’t resonate with local customers. Ultimately, you need to examine what your competitors are doing and respond accordingly.
Errors to Avoid
One of the biggest lessons you can learn from your automotive sales competitors is which mistakes are the costliest to your business. If a particular promotion goes awry and suddenly leaves your competitor dealing with a financial loss instead of a profit, that promotion clearly backfired. That doesn’t necessarily mean it wasn’t a good idea. It means something, somewhere in the process, wasn’t properly executed. If you can identify where your competitor went wrong and make meaningful changes, you might be able to turn someone else’s failure into your success.
The more you pay attention to your competitors in the automotive sales industry, the better able you are to learn from their mistakes and successes, as well as your own. With due diligence, you can ensure your business maintains a competitive advantage and remains profitable, even if some of your top competitors struggle.