Bilingual dealershp staff just the start to success

Downey Nissan leads the Nissan brand in volume sales to Hispanic customers. The ethnically diverse team includes, from left, Rebeca Galvan, Nakita Joshi and Anna Robles.

Secrets of Hispanic-selling success

Spanish advertising, a bilingual staff and a refined sales strategy have helped Downey Nissan lead the brand in new-vehicle sales to Hispanic customers so far in 2017.

At Downey Nissan in Downey, Calif., two women — a Hispanic marketing director and a Nepalese general sales manager — have teamed up to lead a sales surge to Hispanic consumers.

Through August, Downey Nissan sold 1,899 new vehicles to Hispanic customers. That was almost double the 970 new vehicles in the year-earlier period. Through November, the store is the Nissan brand’s leader in selling to Hispanic customers.

Nationwide, Hispanics have become a critical demographic in light-vehicle sales. At Honda, for example, “All of our sales growth over the last year has been [from sales to] Hispanics,” says Vicki Poponi, vice president of automotive marketing operations for American Honda. Through November, Honda brand U.S. sales rose 1.4 percent, against an industrywide decline of 1.4 percent.

In the heavily Hispanic area near Los Angeles that surrounds Downey Nissan, attracting those shoppers has helped make a difference at the dealership. The store’s success, though, stems from more than its diverse and bilingual staff.

New management

In November 2016, Rinaldi Halin arrived at Downey Nissan as a new partner to owner Tim Hutcherson. Halin, 38, then brought Nakita Joshi on as general sales manager.

Joshi, 31, and Halin had worked together at Halin’s Nissan of Duarte store in Duarte, Calif. He is no longer a partner there.

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Most of the previous staff and managers left before Joshi arrived at the store. That cleared the way for her to rebuild and reorganize the staff into smaller teams that are easier to manage and hold accountable.

The dealership now has three sales floor managers, each with a team, an established Internet department and a separate Business Development Center. The Internet department and BDC have their own bosses.

Another major change, Joshi says, was establishing firm sales and communications processes. For example, every customer interaction is now logged and followed up on. The sales team also attempts to complete all vehicle transactions “upfront,” so that customers are approved and given a tour of the service department with their new vehicle in one trip.

“In my experience, a lot of dealerships just wing it,” Joshi said. “We don’t wing it.”

She said, “Driving traffic is extremely important, but if you don’t have a way to manage it and convert the deals, make sure the customer is happy and make sure that you’re following up, then you won’t make any deals, and you won’t retain the customers.”

Joshi adds that technology plays an important role in the dealership. After Downey Nissan staff moved into a newly built, 55,000-square-foot dealership in April, the staff incorporated iPads into their online training and customer transactions.

Hispanics

To draw in traffic, Rebeca Galvan, 28, Downey Nissan’s marketing director, promotes the store with Spanish radio advertisements. She also does a lot of community outreach, such as toy drives and children’s cancer drives.

Halin says the Hispanic community finds they “feel identified with” and “comfortable” because of Downey Nissan’s community involvement and Spanish marketing.

“Rebeca does an excellent job branding the dealership in the Hispanic community and drives in a lot of Hispanic interest,” Halin said. “Nakita and the rest of the sales team are responsible for converting it into sales and making sure customers are happy.”

While the store doesn’t specifically seek out English-Spanish bilingual staff members, Joshi says it’s certainly an advantage that about 90 percent of her 45-member sales staff is bilingual.

Joshi is from Nepal and speaks Nepali, as do her parents. She said her parents would feel far more comfortable completing a vehicle transaction in Nepali, just as many of her Hispanic customers feel with Spanish.

“When a lot of customers don’t speak English or speak very little English, having fluid conversation with somebody, where you understand everything because they’re speaking in your language, makes a big difference,” Joshi said. “It makes our customers feel very comfortable.”

The payoff: Overall new-vehicle sales have almost doubled.

In October 2016, a month before Halin and Joshi arrived, Downey Nissan sold 178 new vehicles. In October 2017, Joshi and her team sold 314 new vehicles.

Secrets of Hispanic-selling success

Spanish advertising, a bilingual staff and a refined sales strategy have helped Downey Nissan lead the brand in new-vehicle sales to Hispanic customers so far in 2017.