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Balloons and Bells: What Really Matters in the Showroom

In an industry that has seen its fair share of extravagant gimmicks, it's time to revisit the age-old question: What truly influences car buyers in a showroom? As I reflect on the above picture, I can't help but chuckle. Is this really what a "first-class" showroom should look like, as the giant balloon seems to suggest? When did we fall prey to gaudiness and noisy spectacles?

From air horns to gongs, loud bells to WWE belts, our industry has witnessed a parade of attention-grabbing tactics. But the million-dollar question remains: do these bells and whistles actually sell more cars? In my years of experience, I can confidently say, "Not a chance!".

Let's be honest – when was the last time you entered a store to purchase a significant item, and the presence of balloons, gongs, or other flashy distractions swayed your purchase decision? The answer is probably never. We are not six years old, and we aren't trying to pledge into a fraternity, well 99.9% of us aren't.

Allow me to share a story that sheds light on what truly matters. It was many years ago when I was 23 years old, working for a Toyota dealership in Toronto. This dealership, though modest in size, achieved remarkable sales volumes. The owners were extraordinary, fostering a culture of growth and excellence. It was there that I first encountered the book "Customers for Life" by Carl Sewell, which left an indelible mark on me.

Fast forward to last year when NADA brought me to Dallas, home of Sewell Cadillac – the very dealership featured in Sewell's book. The moment I pulled up, I was greeted by a meticulously manicured environment, free of balloons or inflatable animals. It was a place of unparalleled elegance, with rows of cars adorned only by large red bows, ready for delivery.

As I entered the showroom, a gentleman named Bill extended a courteous welcome, setting the stage for a truly professional experience. His words, "Welcome to Sewell Cadillac, my name is Bill, and it will be my pleasure to direct you to the department you seek," echoed the essence of professionalism.

But it didn't stop there. When I mentioned my admiration for Carl Sewell's book, Bill didn't merely let me wander the showroom aimlessly. Instead, he offered a tour, a chance to meet the team, and a beverage – extending the kind of hospitality that exemplified the Sewell way.

The showroom itself was a testament to excellence, just like the book had promised. It was a meticulously designed space, replicating the atmosphere of a top-tier hotel. Carl Sewell understood that such an environment sets you apart from the rest. However, the pinnacle of my experience was yet to come.

A senior figure in the dealership, Jorge, invited me to his office. It was an invitation to a masterclass in customer service. Jorge's message was clear: he had 45 minutes to answer any questions I had, and nothing was off-limits. It was a rare opportunity to peek behind the curtain and learn the true secrets of their success. As I got up to leave he asked "Do you still have your book?". I explained that I had paid it forward when opened his drawer "Here is my copy, I have had it since I started but it would be my honor for you to have it. It's got some highlights, dog ears and such but it's yours".

As I left the dealership, I observed the harmony among the team, the genuine smiles on the guests' faces, and the numerous Cadillacs adorned with bows. This was the essence of an unforgettable showroom experience.

The Sewell Cadillac showroom is a living testament to the fact that a showroom is more than just a place to display cars. It is about creating an unparalleled experience. The same principles are applied across all their brands, and the results speak for themselves. Their backlog of customers is three times that of their same-brand competitors. People choose to buy from Sewell because they want the exceptional experience.

Carl Sewell understood that the automotive industry is also in the hospitality business. By creating the best experience, he demonstrated that you don't need balloons, gongs, or gorillas to achieve what both the dealer and the customer desire – a lasting relationship. Moreover, delivering such an experience allows you to charge more because the customer expects more.

So, the next time you walk into your showroom, ask yourself: Is it what the customer truly wants or just what you think they expect? The answer may just be the key to your showroom's success.

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