Haldimand Motors: Give it Away
How do you sell 5,000 used cars a year? Give consumers what they want – no strings attached.
Canada’s undisputed king of used car sales, John Edelman, owner of Haldimand Motors in Cayuga, Ontario, recently divulged some of the secrets to his success while speaking at the Dealer Talk conference in Toronto, Ontario.
Edelman said the key to his success is his willingness to give. “We both come from families that are very generous, so it’s in our DNA to be givers,” he explained.
What does this mean in a practical sense? “The key is empowerment,” Edelman said. “To me, it means giving my power away. We have power, as car dealers, and we think we can control that power. But we need to give it away to our customers.”
Edelman begins the giving process on his company’s website, which receives a whopping 1.2 million unique visitors per month. “My goal on the Internet is to supply my customers with all the information they could possibly ever need, so that they can shop me,” he explained. “There’s this fallacy that they’re not going to get the information until we hook them. But the truth is they’re going to get it anyways, so why not give it to them?”
My best price
To Edelman that means giving away information about the vehicle, showing photos, being honest about the condition of the vehicle, the vehicle’s history, and most importantly his best price.
“Back in the ‘80s we started by giving the price and telling the customer it was our bottom price,” he explained. “I admit that I lost deals. But I said I will empower you as a customer and I will tell you my bottom line so that you can shop me around the country. And if that helps you get a better deal, so be it.
“I lost them the first time, sometimes even the second time, but I got them the third time around because they started believing that if I said $7,995, then $7,995 was the number. Are you going to empower your customer? If you can, then you become a safe place for the customer.”
Edelman says he has young adults coming to his dealership to buy vehicles without their parents in tow to offer advice or haggle with the sales staff. That’s how much they trust him. “My dad said I could come here, buy a car and whatever you say is right,” is what Edelman and his staff hear a lot.
“That’s because we built a relationship by giving them the information that is totally complete,” Edelman added, “and that’s what builds trust.”
Edelman doesn’t ask for personal information prior to giving away information. That’s a key part of his giving strategy. “I don’t want your email,” he said. “I know we use that for lead generation, but if I’m willing to give it away, I’m going to stick to my word. So I give it away. I lost a lead generator, I know, but I gave the power to the customer. They now have the information, they know it and they can dissect it prior to ever talking to me.”
Another key element of Edelman’s strategy is keeping all information up-to-date. “If I’m going to have an Internet site, I’m going to make sure it’s as current as possible,” he said. “So we update our site every hour. If I sell a car at 3:20 pm, by 4 pm it’s off our site. By doing so, I give my customers the power of current information.”
Although this giving approach may be new to many in the industry, Edelman believes it’s the way of the future. “We are in an evolving market,” he pointed out. “Think of how things have changed in the past 10 years. We now have vehicle histories, which we didn’t 10 years ago. And 10 years from now, the customer will have every bit of information possible. So change now, and get ahead of the game. You might as well start changing the culture of your dealership now.”
And when Edelman says, “changing the culture,” he’s not kidding. Besides giving customers the power of current and complete information, he gives his sales team the power to work in what might best be described as an unorthodox manner.
His nine salespeople work as a team. They also do their own F&I. When they come into the dealership in the morning, they punch in. At the end of the month, they total their hours, and the commission (which goes into one huge pool) is then divided amongst the nine salespeople, based on how many hours each one worked during that month.
This means salespeople aren’t fighting over customers, and they’re not afraid to take a day off to be with their families. They work together as a team and they share the rewards fairly.
This unusual sales process, complete with the giving nature of the company, may seem contrary to what most dealerships are used to, but it works. Besides the 1.2 million unique visitors to Edelman’s website, his dealership sells over 5,000 used vehicles a year. Perhaps his unique approach to business is worth a closer look?
Photo Credit: Jack Kazmierski