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Planting the Seeds for Future Sales

December 2008, F&I and Showroom - Feature

by Denny Long

If you are like most dealers across the country right now, a high percentage of your applicants are being turned down by your banks. Though you may not be able to help these consumers today, someone will put them in a vehicle in the future. Will that someone be you? Do you have a system in place to follow up with those consumers, or are you like the many dealers who are only concerned about the prospects in their showrooms today?

There is no doubt that right now may be the toughest time in recent history to get the average consumer financed. But the stock market will rebound, and those who are in a position to take advantage will greatly increase their wealth. In the same way, history tells us that the special finance business will rebound and those who are prepared will prosper greatly. As a matter of fact, we may be more in demand than at any point in recent history.

Now is the time to plant the seeds for future sales. Business and farming have a lot in common. If a farmer doesn’t plant seeds in the spring, there won’t be a harvest in the fall. If you don’t plant the seeds for future sales, you won’t reap the benefits of a great harvest when the time comes. And that time will come!

The taxman cometh

Those words strike fear in many of us because normally when the taxman comes, it’s to take your money. But every winter, the taxman delivers the down payments we need to help our customers get the vehicles they need through one of the many equity lenders available to us. And this year, we may get an extra bonus if the government comes through with the Economic Stimulus Package that has been talked about recently.

Don’t just toss your prospects out the door. Educate your current customers on the availability of this type of financing and there’s a good chance you will be the first in line to take advantage of this newfound money. Let them know that you will be calling them the first week of January to discuss their options. Systems that let you take advantage of tax refunds early also are available, so educate yourself on those products.

Credit education can build future sales

Speaking of educating, why not point the prospects you can’t help today in the right direction for the future? With a little credit education, a little effort and a little time, many consumers can dramatically increase their credit scores. This increase may make it possible for you to help the consumer get financing. If you’re the person who helped them, they won’t forget you. As I’ve said before, it’s all about relationships, and helping people have a better future builds those relationships.

You need to make sure you point them in the right direction. There is a great article on the Federal Trade Commission’s Website about credit repair. This article explains to the consumer that many of the credit repair advertisements they see and hear are nothing more than scams. This article gives the consumer a list of steps to repairing their own credit without losing money to scam artists.

Like the software many of us use to complete our tax forms every year, there also are inexpensive programs that can help the consumer though the process of improving their credit. An Internet search on “credit improvement software” will help you find a number of these programs. Now take all of this information and create a one-page document or brochure that gives your prospects the information they need to help themselves. Hand this out to every prospect you cannot help today, and make sure you have a system to follow up with these consumers. By doing this, you will help yourself tomorrow.

The future is bright! If we plant the seeds for future sales we will all be in the right position to take advantage of the better days coming soon. My holiday wish for you and your family is that 2009 is your best year ever. You can make it happen! Good luck and good selling!

Denny Long is senior vice president at Dealer Marketing Services. E-mail him at dlong@special-finance.com.

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