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Top tips for car dealers preparing for the restart from our expert and Frasers of Falkirk dealer boss

Time 3 months ago

With the date car dealers will be allowed to open their showroom doors again still up in the air, an automotive consultant says now is the time to start planning for it.

Reports suggest it could be April before car dealerships are open to the public once again, but Sentience Automotive Solutions boss Ali May-Khalil says the preparation work should start now.

In an exclusive video chat, Car Dealer talks to May-Khalil and the boss of Frasers of Falkirk David Wishart.


The pair explain how car dealers can start getting showroom staff ‘match fit’ and ready to take on any rush of new business that comes from pent-up demand.

Wishart, who runs SsangYong and MG franchises, explains how 2020 was a bumper year for his dealership and how he’s expecting to cater for more customers when he is allowed to open his showroom doors again.

He said: ‘I think a lot of people have used click and collect – but I think there will be pent up demand, maybe not to the same level as the first lockdown, though.

‘There will be a rush of people wanting to look at cars.


‘We have a large number of people who will not do anything without test driving a car, and understandably so. We have got a lot of people to contact when things reopen and we’re able to do that again.’

May-Khalil gives his top tips for car dealers in the video and suggests dealers think about getting staff back from furlough now, so they are ready for the reopening.

In the video, which you can watch above, May-Khalil also gives an insight into his other ideas for dealers to capitalise on the restart.

Ali’s advice includes:

April is the new March

Dealers need to think about making the best of the new plate change. The plate change will happen no matter whether car dealers are closed or not so dealers need to work out how to make the best of it. Prospect customers that might be ready to change – they want to hear from dealers.

People are receptive to deals

People haven’t got anything else to spend their money on, so those in the market for a new car, especially those car dealers have sold to before, will be receptive to hearing how you can change them into a new model for a few more pounds a month. There’s not much else to look forward to.

Don’t let salespeople make excuses

I’ve heard excuses for 20 years – there’s always a reason for sales people not to do something. I don’t believe in that. I’d rather sales people make a call in the right way than not make it all. They definitely won’t sell a car if they don’t make a call. There needs to be structure, a clear offer for March and what the customer’s car is worth. Make fewer calls of quality. 

People don’t realise they can change

When people are on PCP they don’t realise they can change before the end of the deal. The job of a dealer is to help advise these people. Get in the mindset of being customer service oriented and asking customers ‘do you know that…?’ Many people are a bit down out there and not able to go on holiday, so a new car could cheer them up.

Make sure everyone is fit

People who have been on furlough cannot just be expected to come back into the dealership and perform. What will you be getting? People who stayed in the business are in the flow, but are those who stayed at home in the best possible shape to capitalise on what will be a busy period? Could it do more harm than good? Think about bringing people back, maybe even part time to ensure they are fully engaged.

Communication is vital

If people are not at work, stay in touch with them and keep them engaged and warm. That needs to happen, because too often those on furlough simply don’t get contacted. Pick up the phone and talk to those who are on furlough. 

Reopening starts now

You need to get ready for it now. You need people in the business who are up to speed and ready to deal with any rush that will come. To make a success of the 21-plate staff need to be up to speed and in tune with the dealership’s goals. 

Target salespeople with the right activity

Sales are all too easy to be the benchmark, but often conversations are far more powerful. If you target your sales people to talk to more customers they’ll go looking for those conversations. From the website or social media, wherever it is, but the right type of conversations will lead to sales.

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It’s ok not to hit targets

As long as the team is trying to do the right thing, that’s normally enough. People don’t get things right 100 per cent of the time, but make sure your teams are positive about trying. If you’re not positive that can be more harmful than any lockdown.

Everyone should know your targets

Be inclusive. You are employing adults and they understand what the business is all about. Whatever your KPIs may be – activity, F&I, profit per unit, or anything else – share them with your team. Share your numbers, and even better ask for feedback on them from your team. Ask them if they are achievable and find out what the barriers may be stopping the team from hitting them. It needs to be collaborative – make targets a shared objective. 

Above all, be positive

Push yourselves a little bit and be open minded. It might be that it is April or May that things take off, but take the first six months of the year as two halves instead, rather than minute by minute of a game. There are better days to come and there is a market to be had – be positive and spread that throughout your business.

James Baggott's avatar

James is the founder and editor-in-chief of Car Dealer Magazine, and CEO of parent company Baize Group. James has been a motoring journalist for more than 20 years writing about cars and the car industry.

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