The industry is driven by a number of charismatic characters and if you take a close look behind the scenes of independent dealers you’ll always find the most enthusiastic of them running the business.
Specialist independent dealer Umesh Samani is a perfect example. He’s dedicated to running his business, he’s always in high spirits and the motor trade certainly enjoys his quirky comments and waves of opinionated views on Twitter — it’s safe to say he’s got his social media skills aced!
Samani founded his small family business, known as Specialist Cars, in 1997 in Staffordshire. He decided on this as the next step in his career after working as a salesman at a main VW Audi dealership for 15 years.
Based in Stoke-on-Trent, Samani sells a wide variety of vehicles from his small dealership in Elder Road. From 8.30am sometimes until 7 or 8pm, he has passion pouring from his pores. ‘I run the dealership alone and I’m always learning,’ says Samani. ‘If I’m not here, the doors don’t open. But I love what I do and I enjoy running my business, especially because of all the new people I get to meet.’
Trained as a qualified mechanic, Samani manages to run his business as a one-man band but still generates enough local interest to buy and sell a satisfactory number of quality cars each month.
However, these sales aren’t always achieved through the usual methods of car dealing, where the majority of sales are made within the dealership showroom.
In fact throughout his years as an independent dealer, Samani has learnt that building relationships with his customers is the key to generating leads and making the majority of his sales. Samani searches for and buys a substantial number of cars to meet the particular needs of his regular clients.
‘I buy 20 to 30 per cent of vehicles offered to me, as long as they match the requirements and criteria of my customer,’ says Samani.
‘I work with my customers to find cars which suit their individual needs and not many dealers do this.’ Even when the forecourt remains quiet, Samani manages to keep busy by doing exactly that. On an average day, he takes anything from fifive to 10 calls all for that very reason, and when potential customers do come in to browse the stock, Samani refrains from questioning or hassling them at the chance of making a sale.
Instead, he lets buyers browse at their own pace. ‘It’s not just about making sales, it’s about building a relationship. A large majority of my customers become friends,’ Samani explains.
‘I sold roughly five cars this month and there is a lot of trust on both sides. Of the sales I made, three were previous customers and two were new. In most cases, these were blind sales; my clients trust me to find them the car they are looking for and that I have found them a legitimate one.’
What’s more surprising about Specialist Cars is the fact that Samani does not buy stock from auction houses. He much prefers to view, touch and feel exactly what he’s buying rather than take any risks.
‘Eighty per cent of my stock I have bought from previous owners,’ Samani explains. ‘I like to know what I’m buying and I like to see and get to know the customer.’
While auction houses are out of the question, online auctions are also offff the list. But Samani explains that his aims and ambitions are just the same as any other dealer, whether they’re independent or franchise. ‘I’m not keen on the idea of using online auctions,’ says Samani. ‘I’m far too fussy when it comes to my stock and it’s personal to me.
‘I’m still trying to buy and sell as much as possible, but in a difffferent way. I promote my business locally and make sure that customers are aware that I buy cars for cash, all of which are prepared ready-to-retail.’
The majority of cars in Samani’s stock are ready to be sold and driven away the same day, and to ensure that customers travelling from a long distance can take their new vehicle away, Samani will help in any way he can to prepare the car.
‘All the cars I stock are ready to drive away and if a customer wants one they can take it,’ he says. ‘Eighty per cent of them are ready to turn and go. One time, I actually went to the post office to tax a vehicle while the customer was drinking his cup of tea.
‘This also gives me the chance to buy new stock and replace the vehicles I sell straight away. This means I’m never short of stock and always ready to make more sales.’
He adds: ‘I’m extremely fussy when it comes to service history, and everyday a vehicle is sat on my forecourt it’s not making money. But I don’t worry about how long the cars are on the forecourt — I don’t have the pressure to sell like the larger franchise dealers do.’
These sales also help Samani to generate further leads, as his satisfied customers ultimately spread the news of the generous customer service they receive at Specialist Cars and he finds new customers are always being referred. ‘It’s like a continuous cycle,’ says Samani.
‘My customers end up recommending me to their friends or family and they then contact me when they are looking to buy their next car. Word of mouth and recommendations are the best form of advertising – money can’t buy that. The leads I have to keep finding cars are what keep me going.’
Samani finds that local and online advertising is crucial to the running of his business, not just to make sales but also to remind people of the service Specialist Cars offers.
‘It’s not just about stock, it’s about the business and reminding people about the brand,’ Samani explains. ‘Giving potential customers the opportunity to read previous customer reviews and comments is extremely important.’
Looking to the future, Samani is very keen to explore and develop his multimedia skills. In fact, he has already produced a number of small YouTube videos that give a brief overview of the vehicles he has on sale.
He believes video content is the next step in building the future of Specialist Cars. ‘I’ve started producing videos of cars and posting them on my Specialist Cars YouTube channel.
‘I really hope to develop and progress with this in the future,’ Samani explains. ‘Video production is definitely the next big thing to introduce to the business.’