If you work at a dealership and think you are selling vehicles, think again. Before you can sell a vehicle, you must sell the customer on why they should buy from your store.

Today, there are almost 20,000 franchised dealerships in the U.S. and Canada. This gives consumers the power and ability to choose whom they wish to do business with and where they want to do it.

So, why would they pick your dealership?

Unless a customer has done business with you before, basically the only thing they’ve decided when they arrive is what kind of vehicle they are considering. Going to a location has nothing to do with their decision to work with a dealership. And, at this point, they are not sold on why they should.

Customers arrive for a variety reasons. They may have seen an ad or found the dealership on the Internet. The store may be conveniently located for them. They may know it has a vehicle they are interested in. They may have been referred.

But that has nothing to do with their decision to work with a particular dealership.

This is why salespeople must answer the question, “Why should I buy here?” Think of it like a job interview.

As a job candidate, you put your best foot forward, including the way you dress, listen and answer questions honestly, thoroughly and correctly. You strive to prove you have the skills, commitment and passion that will benefit an employer now and in the future.

The same applies when customers “interview” you. They need to know why they should buy at your dealership. They look for a professional who is committed to listening and understanding their needs. The key word is “listening.” This is the only way to completely understand their needs. It is imperative that you listen before you try to answer questions.

What’s at stake?

Giving customers a reason to buy at your dealership has immediate and long-time benefits. Short-term, customers will be delighted with their experience and tell their friends. This can broaden awareness and generate referrals. Long-run, it means customers will be back.

On the other hand, if you don’t develop a relationship built on trust and confidence, you will always end up selling on price. Even if customers purchase, they may never be back.

What’s involved?

Dealerships must cultivate, train and educate their people so they become the best professionals they can be, people who embrace work as a profession, not as just another job.

These professionals choose to work at the dealership because of its values and its commitment to leading-edge technology, processes, customers and employees.

In these cultures, everyone knows their job is important. If they don’t, then they are misemployed.

In this type of culture, managers have confidence in the people they hire and trust them to do their jobs. Management trains, coaches, educates and mentors.

Here is what happens in this type of culture:

Professionals answer questions truthfully and completely. If they don’t know the answer, they find out. They know nothing can replace honesty and integrity in business.

Every customer is treated equally and without judgment or prequalification.

Everyone in the dealership is trained on every aspect of the business. Salespeople understand how the service department works and the benefits it offers. Service professionals understand financing and sales. Greeters and administrative personnel can clearly communicate value.

The dealership is clean, inviting and professional. Every opportunity is taken to showcase technology and equipment and communicate the investment being made in the dealership and the community.

The dealership proudly features its involvement and commitment to local schools, youth leagues and charities. By showcasing its employees, the dealership demonstrates its contribution to the economic well-being of the community through job creation.

Customer loyalty isn’t what it used to be. People don’t return simply because it’s where they went previously.

They return because salespeople built a relationship. They gave the customer a reason to buy from the dealership and them.

When you have a relationship with a customer, everything is easier. But remember, even one mistake can cause a loyal customer to leave. It is up to you to sell them on your dealership and then to keep them sold.

Richard F. Libin authored the books, “Who Stopped the Sale?” and just-released  “Who Knew?” and is president of APB-Automotive Profit Builders, a firm that works with sales and service departments on customer satisfaction and maximizing gross profits. He can be reached at rlibin@apb.cc or 508-626-9200 or www.apb.cc