Commercial vehicle sales and service is big business. From local plumbers to large construction companies to government fleets, they all need vehicles and they all need service. The advantages to attracting commercial business customers to your dealership are many.
While the buying cycle for the average retail buyer is around 3 years, you can expect the buying cycle for the commercial customer to be much more frequent. Most medium to large commercial fleets will buy several times per year. The same can be true for government fleets. Even small business owners are proven to replace or add new vehicles more often than every 3 years.
Commercial customers are also known to service vehicles more frequently and to spend more money on repairs. A commercial vehicle is a business’s livelihood. Commercial vehicles are literally losing money every hour they are down, so time is of the essence. These customers are less concerned with cost, as long as the vehicle is back on the road quickly and is fixed right the first time.
While this article applies more to new vehicle dealers, there are many ideas and principles that a used vehicle dealership can implement to attract commercial customers as well. Here are some ideas and principles to consider in Sales, Service, and Parts to make your dealership more attractive to business customers.
- Offer a streamlined sales process for commercial customers.
The buying process for commercial buyers is different than for retail buyers. There is less emotion involved and more common sense. Commercial buyers will generally spend less time test driving and more time negotiating terms.
Larger commercial and government fleets will often skip the test drive altogether, and rely upon spec sheets and written quotes to make a purchase decision. Be sure to accommodate their needs and buying styles by adapting your normal sales process for commercial customers.
- Hire dedicated commercial sales personnel.
If commercial business at your dealership grows, you may want to consider hiring dedicated personnel to handle all of your commercial sales business. The commercial sales process is just different enough from retail, that it can be difficult for a traditional sales person to handle both simultaneously. It’s much easier (and shows more commitment) if you have one person or a dedicated team.
- Offer commercial financing.
Commercial buyers have different needs when it comes to financing. A sole-proprietor will likely not have a problem financing a business vehicle in his or her personal name. However, an owner of a larger business is not going to want numerous business vehicles showing up on his or her personal credit. Banks would prefer to avoid this as well.
You need to offer true commercial financing that allows the business to buy a vehicle in its own name as a standalone entity. True commercial financing does allow for the business owner to personally guarantee the loan if the business cannot obtain financing on its own merits. However, with a personal guarantee, the loan does not show up on the owner’s personal credit as long as the loan does not default.
- Stock the right inventory.
Your inventory display will be the most visible sign that your dealership is serious about commercial business. Stocking the right inventory will attract commercial buyers faster than any method of advertising.
If you are unsure about what vehicles to stock, grab your lawn chair and go sit on a busy street corner near your dealership for a few hours and take note of what drives buy. You can’t go too far wrong buy stocking a mix similar to what you see driving by.
- Offer priority service.
As stated earlier, commercial customers rely on their vehicles to make money. Every day they are down can cost 1000’s of dollars. If you want to attract and keep commercial customers in your service department, you will need to show them they can expect their vehicles to be fixed and back on the road as quickly as possible.
- Stock the right parts.
Your parts department can show its commitment to commercial business by stocking the right parts. If you know you are going to see a lot of similar repairs, or do a lot of oil changes on a particular type of vehicle, make sure you have the right parts available. Again, commercial vehicles lose more money the longer they are down.
There are many other strategies and ideas to consider, but these ideas are a great starting point. Commercial business is steady and consistent and is a great base for any dealership to grow on.