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Dealership Stickiness: How First Appearances Make or Break a Deal

Family buying new vehicle
Article Highlights:

  • Lessons dealers can learn from a five-star steakhouse.
  • Make your dealership a "sticky" place full of repeat customers.

We’ve all heard the phrase website stickiness, but relatively few people have considered the concept of dealership stickiness. What I mean by this is providing an experience at your dealership that leads to a customer base that sticks with your business for life.

Let’s consider a steakhouse. Food aside, top steakhouses separate themselves in three key areas: service, atmosphere, and consistency. Excellence in these areas lets customers relax and enjoy themselves immediately upon arriving. Customers know they will be taken care of by a friendly, well-dressed wait staff in a timely manner, and the tables and floor will be immaculate every time.

If people expect a first-class experience for their steak dinner, can you imagine the type of experience they expect when they come into your dealership to drop thousands of dollars on a new vehicle? Like a five-star steakhouse, you need to make sure each and every customer that steps foot on your lot is getting a first-class experience so you can build that long-term relationship.

There are three key aspects to dealership stickiness:

  1. First appearances
  2. Customer service
  3. Dealership environment

My first of three articles touches on how first appearances can make or break your chances for dealership stickiness.

Attracting Customers:

The first glimpse of your dealership a prospect has is from the road. Attract people with a well arranged lot that has two distinct areas: one for pre-owned vehicles and one for new vehicles. I like to encourage dealerships to showcase their top used cars from another OEM right out front. If you’re a Ford dealership, put your top used non-Ford vehicles on the front row. This gives the perception you have a wide variety of pre-owned vehicles and you’ll be able to meet the needs of any used car buyer.

Once a customer enters the lot, there should be plenty of signs that clearly lead to your main dealership areas. Be sure to have a well paved lot with plenty of parking spaces set aside for customers so searching for parking is NEVER a hassle.

The Introduction:

You need to be prepared to interact with the customer as soon as he parks his car and gets out. Unfortunately, a proper greeting is often lacking at dealerships. I suggest meeting the customer immediately with a friendly “hello” and a handshake. Remember, your goal during this interaction is to assure the customer he will get the very best treatment.

I like to tell salespeople to look at it like this: one of our top jobs is to quickly build a relationship with the customer. Once the relationship is established, the customer can rely on you to get him in a car to test out. If he wants to test multiple vehicles, that’s not a problem. The salesperson should always be more than courteous, ready to devote as much time as needed.

Be Prepared:

Excellence goes beyond just being courteous. You also have to have superior knowledge of your product and a preparedness to sell all vehicles. Your salespeople should be able to sell both pre-owned and new vehicles.

In the event you have a customer enter the dealership without being greeted on the lot first, all employees should be ready to greet the customer. If a customer walks into the showroom looking for the service department, do your salespeople get up without hesitation to make sure the customer gets to the right place? Do your service employees make sure to walk a customer to the front desk if that’s where the customer needs to go? The answer to these questions should always be an emphatic, “Yes!”

Where does this leave you?

When you first walk into a top-notch steakhouse, you’re going to notice that everything from the lighting to the tablecloths is a step up from your average chain. More importantly, you’re going to be greeted by a smiling host who offers to take your coat. These characteristics increase the likelihood you’ll return because you get the feeling your money is being spent well.

Likewise, if you truly want to make your dealership a “sticky” place full of repeat customers, it starts with a great first impression. Car buyers assume they’ll have to pay a lot of money to get a quality car. What they’re not always sure of is whether or not they’ll be treated to a quality experience. Put their mind at ease right away by making the first appearance of your dealership a memorable one.

Stay tuned for the second article in this three-part series on achieving dealership stickiness, “Customer Service Is Key.”

For more information on training and dealership improvement, contact Reynolds Consulting Services at 800.657.9784 or send us an email at consulting@reyrey.com.

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Director, Reynolds Consulting Services

Carl Bennett is the vice president of customer success services. This team, under Bennet’s leadership, teaches automotive retailers in the U.S. and Canada how to achieve higher levels of success and better results throughout their dealership. Bennet has spent over 15 years with Reynolds, helping dealerships through training, consulting, and installation roles. Prior to joining Reynolds, Bennett worked in dealerships for 15 years as a general manager, finance director, and sales manager.

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