Tough questions can lead to simple to solutions
By Jeff Sheets
As a business owner, you most likely walk into your dealership before the sun comes up and don’t head out until after the sun goes down. What happens in between those two walks is a lot of hard work to serve your customers, build your staff, and keep the books straight. It requires focus and attention to detail, and it’s easy to let seemingly unimportant things slide. But sometimes, the little things are really bigger than they seem. Over time, the shiny, new dealership that was the star of the chamber of commerce ribbon-cutting ceremony fades into a neglected building with weeds in the parking lot, peeling paint and empty spaces in displays that employees walk by every day and don’t notice because they’re busy. But customers notice these things and make buying decisions with their less-than-favorable first impressions.
A sparkling dealership tells customers that your business is doing everything it can to make their experience enjoyable. Here are two things that dealers need to consider to make sure they are promoting the best image for their dealership.
Ridgewoods Soils’ store front before remodeling
Ridgewood Soils’ store front after remodelingMaintain the outside of your property well
Properly maintaining your property is a prime way to show customers how your equipment is an excellent investment to help them achieve a beautiful lawn or landscaping. When I walk into dealerships with weeds growing by the building or neglected lawns, it’s my first clue that things aren’t running smoothly. Your customers will know that too. Make sure your OPE dealership looks like it knows how to use the equipment you sell; it speaks volumes.
Fresh exterior paint can grab the attention of potential customers. Use bright colors rather than muted ones as a nod to the equipment you sell. Manufacturers paint their equipment bright colors like red, orange, yellow and green because they get noticed when we see them in action. Your business is the same way. Bright colors attract attention, and anything that causes someone to notice your business is a win. But I give you a word of caution: If you choose to paint your business a bright color, then you need to be prepared to maintain it. Bright colors fade faster than neutral ones, so they need to be painted more often. But think of it as a cheap advertising strategy that is well worth the effort.
Displaying equipment outside, which most dealers do, can be a problem. I recommend a nice covered area in front of your dealership. Think of it as the front porch, welcoming customers to look at equipment without the elements affecting them or the equipment itself. Ridgewood Soils Inc. in Reading, Pa., recently added a covered area at the front of its store. Michael De Turck, manager of the OPE dealership, said, “Adding the covering has been great because it allowed us to extend our showroom, and not only can we display equipment outside 24 hours a day, we also know they are protected from the elements.”
Make sure your showroom sparkles,
and is organized and brightly lighted
Dealers bring me into their dealerships to help improve profits, thinking that I am going to focus only on processes and numbers. My goal is to help in all areas, and the showroom is a major area that can’t be ignored. As stated earlier, because you come in day after day, sometimes you don’t see the dim lighting, dusty fixtures or missing items that should be stocked. We need to have a critical eye when it comes to the showroom. It is the place where most of your business is transacted, and it needs to be in perfect condition.
Ridgewood Soils’ showroom before remodeling
Ridgewood Soils’ showroom after remodelingLighting is an area where I see a deficiency in many dealerships. I would rather have to wear sunglasses in your dealership because it is too bright than for it to be too dim. Lighting is IMPORTANT! I cannot say it more emphatically. Look at your wall displays. See how bright they are? That is exactly how bright your showroom should be. If there is a difference, then you need more light. Multiple independent studies show that better lighting makes employees and customers happier. If your employees are happy, they will sell more, and your customers will get better service. A win-win in my book! Cleaning fixtures and equipment needs to be prioritized, along with making sure the right equipment is stocked. These tasks need to be a part of an employee’s job description. If you don’t have a designated person responsible for this in your dealership, a salesperson, who is paid by commission and therefore has a vested interest, can be a good choice.
When I walk into a showroom, I also like to be able to see from the front door to the back of the store. I don’t like high fixtures that block the view. Get rid of displays like this or move them to the outside walls. It is advantageous for you to see when a customer comes in and monitor what they are doing. It also allows you to easily acknowledge the person even if you are with another customer. No customers get lost in the shuffle if we can see them. Ridgewood Soils again is great example of this. When I visited them, I noticed handheld equipment was displayed on floor fixtures when there was wall space available. I suggested they make the change, and they did. “We have a small showroom, and this freed up space to display larger equipment and effectively opened the showroom up,” said De Turck.
Last but certainly not least, unclutter your counters. Customers should have as much space as possible to complete their transaction. There may be add-on items that should be on or near your counter area, but be stingy with giving away that space. It is a prime selling spot, and only things that are high gross margin or products that you would want to sell to everyone should be there. Oil and fuel additives are a natural in this area, along with small, in-demand items that customers need such as sunglasses or gloves. Your customers will appreciate the clean look.
The solutions in this article are simple, but can be the hardest to discover. Owners may need someone they trust to give an honest appraisal of your dealership image, especially if you have a hard time seeing it yourself. Once the advice is given, then implementation is the key. You will need to set aside time to schedule whatever needs to be done and establish whose responsibility it is to continue with the task. There may be a need to delay some projects until the season slows down, but cleaning and re-organizing can be done anytime. Dr. Seuss said it best: “Sometimes the questions are complicated, but the answers are simple.” Let’s keep trying to find the answers even though they may be tough questions. Your dealership image is worth the effort.
Jeff Sheets is the founder and owner of OPE Consulting Services. For the past eight years, Sheets has worked extensively with hundreds of outdoor power equipment dealers to address all of their needs from marketing and inventory management to designing layouts of new facilities and helping rescue businesses that are in trouble, and more. He has a vast amount of experience of bringing “best practices” to OPE dealerships. For more information, he may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or (816) 260-5430. You can also follow him on Twitter @opeconsult and connect with him on LinkedIn.