The following is a comment I shared on my social media in 2011. At the time, I had hoped it would start some conversations and perhaps inspire change. Unfortunately, 7 years later, we still need to have this conversation because most dealership sales department business models are outdated.
“In a few years, auto dealerships will ONLY need Internet Sales Departments. The ground is shifting and it’s time to get on the program.”
There are just too many options today for customers to research, and sometimes even buy a car without leaving their house.
When asked about newer car buying alternatives, 54% said they would “love” being able to sell or buy a car from home and 42% were fine buying a car without a test drive, as long as there was some form of guarantee. (2016 Beepi Consumer Automotive Index)
People don’t just walk into a dealership to buy a car anymore without an online education in their back pocket. That investigation is not always about the price either – it includes research in the dealership’s digital reputation.
Through the many ensuing conversations I’ve had over the years, everyone’s position was based on their hard-earned knowledge and experience. I respect those positions; I’ve had those experiences. However, many positions are based on an out-of-date business model.
Those positions have become myths and they still linger in dealership sales department operations. The sooner we debunk the myths, the faster we’ll clear the way for better, more profitable sales relationships and improved performance.
A study by ACA Research maps out the automotive customer journey and the timing for key events from initial research to final purchase. According to the research, “Generally the automotive vehicle purchase journey for the vehicle and finance can take between 5 and 12 weeks and encompasses the following steps.”
- Develop a shopping list of vehicle brands: approx. 1-3 months prior to purchase.
- Cull the shortlist: 4-7 weeks before purchase.
- Test drive vehicles: 2-4 weeks before purchase.
- Finalize vehicle choice: on average 1-3 weeks before purchase.
Unfortunately, most dealership sales departments are not engaging the consumer at each step of their purchase journey.
The following are 3 myths or beliefs that I’ve heard over and over from dealership sales managers and salespeople. See if any or all sound familiar because staying stuck in the myths will cost you sales.
Myth #1: “Yeah, but you’ll always have walk-in traffic.”
Traditional walk-in traffic is an illusion. Walk-ins today have already been online, they’ve seen the inventory, they’ve looked at social media, and they’ve come to a conclusion about your reputation through online reviews. They know everything about the vehicle they want, often more than the salesperson does.
If the sales staff isn’t up to speed on how customers shop – if they aren’t all behaving like “Internet salespeople” – what are the chances the walk-in will walk out?
What about the customers who didn’t walk in because they saw your Google or Yelp reviews? Monitoring and maintaining your digital reputation will ensure the first impression is a good one. By engaging the ‘walk-in’ online first, they will have already started their relationship with you.
Every salesperson should have a chance to work the deal this way.
Pro Tip: Constantly striving for more leads without an effective lead process is an exercise in futility. At Kruse Control, we’ve had clients who refrain from the “get more leads” mentality until they’ve deconstructed and reconstructed their lead handling process to fit today’s customer expectations. Some take months to test it and all spend time regularly refining it.
Myth #2: “Digital is great but it doesn’t apply to all dealerships”
I’m from Southern California and one could argue that it’s much different here than it is in say, Kansas City or Memphis or Connecticut. The demographics are different everywhere but one thing is certain: Gen Y and Millennials outnumber Baby Boomers and 96% of them have joined a social network.
Dealership salespeople need to speak their language in order to close those deals. Couldn’t every dealership sales department benefit from leads generated through new, digital sources?
Myth 3: “I’ve been selling cars successfully all my life. I stick to what works for me.”
Look, I understand it’s not easy to change, especially when you’ve been doing something the same way for a long time and it’s been working.
I encourage you to continue to do what works.
Many, many salespeople and managers admit to me that some of their old tactics don’t work like they used to. They admit that using technology is foreign to them and allow themselves to develop a resistance to it.
Today’s dealership sales department staff should be motivated to use technology, trained on it and get accustomed to the platforms where customers spend time.
FACT: Customers used to walk on the lot and get Upped – now you can Up them online.
I have a friend who’s sold over 60 cars through social media. He’s a 35-year old sales manager whose friends, family and referral network are well aware he sells cars.
Due to shifting customer preferences and expectations, the dealership sales department operation is shifting. With that shift goes the car salesperson’s job duties and sales tactics. All of this means more opportunity for those individuals who shift with it.
What myths have you encountered or still believe in that may be costing you sales? Are you open to examining those myths in order to improve performance?