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Contributing Author: John Stephens Executive Vice President EFG Companies

Contributing Author:
John Stephens
Executive Vice President
EFG Companies

As a native Houstonian and an automotive industry executive, I am closely following the news coverage of both the impact of Hurricane Harvey on the Houston area itself, and on the automotive industry within the area. A recent article from Wards Auto caught my eye, with the headline, “Expect Post-Hurricane Car-Buying Surge”. The article details how auto demand will increase in the extended aftermath of the hurricane as people evaluate the damage to their homes and vehicles, and begin receiving insurance payouts.

This is good news for those dealers who are able to quickly replace their damaged inventory with new vehicles. With an estimated 500 dealerships affected by the storm, it can be expected that while it will be a race to update inventory, there will be a period of “downtime” while both dealers and consumers survey their homes and businesses to understand the full scope of the damage.

When a large scaled natural disaster occurs, dealers can typically expect an upsurge in unit sales. However, this means that in addition to addressing inventory concerns, dealers need to prepare their teams to better manage an increase in foot traffic. In the immediate aftermath of a natural disaster, dealers have the time to undergo these preparations, and it’s important that they use that time effectively.

One of the biggest challenges during a car-buying surge is simply servicing the increased traffic. This could mean extending dealership hours, scheduling to have more employees cover the showroom floor for longer hours, and even hiring more sales and F&I team members to help spread the load. In addition to ensuring coverage, it’s important that your sales and F&I teams manage each customer’s time effectively.

When experiencing an upsurge in consumer traffic, it is an automatic reaction for sales teams to rush the car-buying process and focus on just moving steel. This reaction is a classic mistake made my most sales teams. When sales teams focus on just pushing cars, they lose an important aspect of customer service that ensures happy customers and dealership profitability. They stop paying attention to important customer cues, such as employment status and income level in the rush to sell a vehicle. This often leads to lost profit margin and potentially lost customers when those customers reach finance and realize they may not be able to afford the vehicle they were set on buying.

This is why it’s so important to take the time to train your team on time management in building customer relationships. When preparing for a car-buying surge, train both your sales and F&I teams on how to qualify customers to structure their buying experience based on their needs and budgetary constraints.

Prior to test driving any vehicle, your sales representatives should conduct an initial interview to truly understand the needs of the customer. This will ensure that the customer is shown the right vehicle early in the process. It also helps keep the F&I process smooth, as the sales person directed the customer towards vehicles that qualify for financing given their current employment and budgetary status.

In addition, by training your F&I managers to conduct their initial interview on the sales floor, your managers will have the time necessary to submit loan paperwork and prepare their F&I product presentations without an impatient customer watching the clock. By completing the final portion of the sales process while the F&I manager submits the auto loan paperwork, your team can significantly shorten total transaction time. This will make it possible to increase the number of customers your dealership can serve in a given day.

With more than 40 years helping dealers achieve their profit potential, EFG Companies knows how to position dealerships to maximize market opportunities with training support, ongoing in-dealership engagement, and market-differentiating consumer protection products. Contact us today to put your dealership on the road to success.

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