Making Your Dealership Grandma Ready

It’s Not Rocket Science

You feel it the moment you arrive. You see starched white shirts pacing out front, hungry faces looking at you as you pull in. You smell second-hand smoke and step over cigarette butts on the ground as you open your car door. You’re a target, a bogey, an up, and the boldest of the bunch greets you with an artificial smile and an outstretched hand saying, “Can I help you?” You feel like a character in the movie Suckers.

It’s unnerving. You’d never send your Grandmother to this dealership. But you’ve seen a great deal in a newspaper ad that compels you to move past the pushy salesman to put your hands on the ad car.

Your salesman tries selling you a car like Larry David in Curb Your Enthusiasm that’s been sitting on the lot for several weeks. After all, there’s a $300 spiff on aged units and the ad car nets him only a mini, or $100. You might just do the same thing yourself if you were in his shoes. You listen to his pitch, but request a test drive in the ad car.

After several hours of negotiating, trade appraisal and F&I talk, you sign papers and leave the lot in your new car.

As you drive away it occurs to you that you never learned anything about the dealership or your salesperson; you were never offered a drink; the magazines in the waiting area were old, stained and tattered… there was raw tension in the air throughout the entire experience, as if everyone’s job was on the line, including the GM’s. You didn’t get a business card from your salesman. In fact he disappeared shortly after you started talking with the F&I associate. He was working another customer.

Days later, still no follow-up from your salesman or the dealership to make sure you’re happy with your new car. But you have some concerns about the use of your navigation and stereo system, so you call the dealership only to be put on hold for several minutes — and then dropped by the unfriendly receptionist. You decide to Google it.

Your next door neighbor likes your car and asks where you got it. You’re ashamed to say. “I got it at Dealership X,” you tell her, “but I’d never recommend you go there. I’m sure other dealerships in town sell a car like this.”

Epic Fail

Imagine if when you pulled up to Dealership X there were no hungry faces pacing and waiting to pounce on you? What if your salesperson genuinely cared about why you were visiting the store and shared a little history of the dealership? What if your salesperson’s pay-plan was tied more towards delighting, surprising and following-up with customers? What if the receptionist was a people person who handled calls more efficiently, more friendly? In this scenario, you might not be so embarrassed to share where you purchased your car. You might even say something nice about your salesperson! (Imagine That!)

Passing the Grandma Acid Test

Many GMs in the car business are managers, not leaders. They figure out what they want done and get people to do it through title power and intimidation. They try to get people to do what they did last month, this month, only a little more, a little cheaper, with a little better CSI. Leadership, on the other hand, is about attracting and keeping the right talent, agreeing on where you want to go, and getting out of the way.

Owners and GM’s should consider making their dealerships Grandma Ready at all times.

They should take the time right now and call their own dealership and discover what a customer experiences on the phone. They should drive up and park where a customer parks and inspect the area for garbage, weeds, directional signage. They should experience the meet and greet of a salesperson, take a test drive (is it an appropriate route?), sit through a mock sales negotiation and F&I talk. They should spend half an hour in the waiting area with other customers and experience how they spend their time. Is there Wi-Fi? Coffee and other drinks available (Cream? Sugar?)? Appropriate and current magazines and newspapers to read? Are the restrooms clean? They should review and religiously, as well as other social media channels that provide candid, colorful customer feedback on the sales and service experience. In the end, if it passes the Grandma acid test, it’ll pretty much pass everything else. It’s not rocket science. It’s taking the time to do the right thing. It’s about time more owners and GMs step into their customers shoes and high heels — to get their customer’s view of things, from applying for a job to buying a car. It’ll never happen behind a desk or on a golf course.


Hey there, I’m Michael, I’m a dad, writer, sales & marketing consultant, recruiter, life-long learner… oh and passionate Growler too. You can learn more about my services by visiting LinkedIn, and crawl into my stories right here on

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