Issue: May/June 2011
Collection Auto Group’s reinvented Saab-Spyker dealership holds sales lessons for any business.
When customers walk into Saab of North Olmsted, they find themselves standing on a black entrance mat, built into the floor, that leads them right to a reception desk and a smiling face.
Most dealerships place the reception desk far from the main entrance, usually toward the back, in hopes of drawing customers’ attention to the showroom’s shiny cars. But Saab of North Olmsted’s new $3.5 million location isn’t like most dealerships. It’s the first exclusive Saab facility to open in the United States since Spyker acquired Saab in February 2010.
“We could have saved money by putting [our receptionist] back in the cashier area,” says Bernie Moreno, president of Collection Auto Group. “But now, when the door opens, it’s impossible for her not to look up, and the customer sees someone immediately.”
Moreno says the dealership was built to create the sort of memorable experience that’s essential to establishing long-term relationships with customers.
Car dealers are hardly the only ones who can learn from that sales philosophy.
Make a statement
The dealership’s building is nicknamed “The Iceblock,” because the square-patterned windows and silver facade resemble large blocks of ice. The look is Scandinavian — simple and striking.
But it can also be plain and cold. So Moreno warmed up the place by alternating white floor tiles with copper-colored red oak. Wherever there is a place for a customer to sit, the tile floor changes to either wood or carpet, creating clearly defined spaces.
“We want to have both the facility and the sales process mesh together,” Moreno says. “We want people to feel at home.”
At Moreno’s Saab dealership, the car featured in the latest advertisement stands prominently to the left of the reception desk. For May, it’s the new Saab 9-4X, a sporty crossover SUV. “If they’re looking for a car that’s advertised,” Moreno says, “they need to see that it’s available immediately.”
Other dealerships try to hide their advertised car because its discounted price generates the least profit. But openness is a must for getting past a one-time transaction, Moreno argues.
“The Internet makes so much information available,” Moreno says. “If a business isn’t heading toward transparency, they will fail dramatically.”
Create an easy sales process
The four selling booths are intimate, with semicircular desks and a backdrop that creates some privacy without closing the customer in. Moreno wants customers to feel relaxed, as if they are being consulted with, not spoken to. “Rather than sell them a car, we’re going to assist them in buying a car,” Moreno says.
It’s impossible to completely remove the negotiation process from car-buying, Moreno says, but his goal is to minimize it and take the customer step by step through how they arrive at the final price. “Our goal is to sell people cars for a long period of time,” Moreno says.
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