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Lose Trust, Lose the Customer

Customers buy from businesses they trust because they are being treated with fairness and honesty. Break that trust by not doing what’s promised — or by providing products that do not meet the promised benefits — and the sales department can kiss off any repeat business.

As dealers now move past the pandemic sales boom — a time that was more like taking orders than selling for salespeople — the need to actively sell is now clearly returning. Also returning is the tendency for salespeople to make claims about a product that may be convincing to the customer but not accurate in reality.

A business classic example is found in the infamous Volkswagen scandal, one of the biggest corporate humiliations in business history that unfolded worldwide starting in 2018. It still serves to emphasize that in business, breaking trust with customers has disaster written all over it.

In the Volkswagen case, breaking trust with a half-million U.S. customers (and 11 million worldwide) sent shockwaves throughout many industries. It resulted in extensive VW management resignations; fines exceeding $18 billion; a tidal wave of class action lawsuits; plunging future sales and much more.

VW simply didn’t understand trust, contends Alan Winston, co-author of best-sellers Green to Gold and The Big Pivot. VW wanted to make everyone believe their diesel cars were cleaner and better for the environment, explains Winston, “but when you stake your reputation on being clean and green, you better make sure you actually are.”

To be big in the U.S., VW promised diesel cars that delivered high mileage and performance while boasting low emissions that met the more stringent U.S. emission standards than those in Europe. But they didn’t.

VW rigged the cars with software programmed to cheat emissions tests, thus allowing VW to avoid more cumbersome and expensive pollution-control systems. It worked, for a while. It’s amazing VW’s leadership thought the truth wouldn’t come to light.

At today’s boat dealerships, the desire to increase sales may make it tempting for a salesperson to stretch some facts or claim some benefits that may not actually there. But remember, now more than ever, endless data is being gathered and made available everywhere online. We’re in a new world of transparency.

Here, then, are seven considerations to avoid losing trust with customers and prospects:

· A Bad Reputation. No one buys from a business when they hear others claim the owners, managers and salespeople don’t keep their word, including when it comes from online reviews. This calls for always proactively managing your reputation online and off.

· Demonstrations. Salespeople misinterpret demonstrations as showing what the product does. They’re not. They should show how the product or service meets the customer’s desired goals that the salesperson take the time to listen to the customer.

· Bad Websites. Likely prospects will look at a dealer’s website before visiting the showroom and making a purchase. Make sure your website is not slow, confusing or outdated. Indeed, making certain the website is current with the times is now fundamental.

· Lack of Proof. Find ways to show people that other customers have achieved what they wanted by working with you. For example, seek out positive customer testimonials. Share success stories that likely will fit another customer’s expectations.

· Content. Check all communications with customers the dealership is engaged in. Communication builds relationships, especially when you convey stories that customers can identify with and find valuable. How-to and where-to articles are great, as are stories about other owners’ adventures.

· Associations. Who is the dealership associated? Always make known the dealership’s strategic partners and connections that are well-respected brands and industry leaders.

· Consistency. You want to create the same great customer experience for every buyer, every time. It can start with having a process in place for immediate response whenever someone completes an initial inquiry form online or requests literature or a demo.

Overall, trust is the secret sauce in every dealer/customer relationship. No dealer can afford to have it destroyed by a lack of planning and focus.



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