We have been hearing a lot lately about the use of Artificial Intelligence (AI) when it comes to engaging with Automotive Sales Customers. I would like to weigh in on this phenomenon as well as the general strategy of customers self-serving or perhaps self-selling. As I have the benefit of traveling coast to coast to witness the talent and behaviors of the modern dealership sales team I have been wondering if we are prepared for what the future holds with respect to how customers wish to purchase new and used vehicles.
I truly believe in order to be a “thriver” and not simply a “survivor,” you’ll need to outwork, outsmart and ultimately outperform your competition with both Real and Artificially Intelligent Salespeople.
I started my automotive sales career in 1982 and despite a lot of technological innovation in the last 35 years, I still find that customers want someone whom they trust and who is really focused on their needs when it comes to selecting a car salesperson. In fact, I would consider myself sufficiently qualified to say they don’t want someone to “earn their business” rather, they want someone to “help them buy a car.” The key with artificial intelligence is whether it is more helpful and trustworthy than a typical dealership car salesperson.
As I shop online and even in person in stores, I find myself more and more hesitant to click the help link or actually ask for live assistance. I feel as though the “Do it Yourself” model more closely fits my personality. Kind of like refusing to ask for directions while driving or reading assembly instructions, it’s just not my first choice. This leads me to the thought process of Ease of Use when designing a purchase experience. When reviewing the current car buying process we have to do an honest assessment of whether it really is easier when salespeople get involved. I’ve heard customers say out loud, “It was going along pretty easy until the salesperson got involved.”
Solving Car Buying Process Issues
At your dealership, do you find that salespeople are contributors or inhibitors to the car buying process? I have found in my own selling of cars or services that if I can make it easier for the buyer or solve an issue they are experiencing the response is generally positive and I make a sale. If on the other hand, I don’t, then the response is negative followed by no sale.
So, back to your dealership and your sales team…are they contributors or inhibitors? Are they helpful and trustworthy? Do they know their product and have process knowledge? Or, could you design your website with processes and tools that customers can use on their own to provide a better experience? My guess is Yes — that you can likely design your website to allow customers to effectively and efficiently self-serve –for a percentage of your customers — but not all.
Designing a Smarter Self-Serve Dealer Website
So, if you can design your website to allow customers to effectively and efficiently self-serve and allow them to buy a vehicle, why wouldn’t you allow your own sales team to do the same?
I would venture a guess that most salespeople are fully capable of having detailed one-to-one conversations with their customers about all the finer points of buying a vehicle including financing but this thought intimidates most sales and finance managers. My challenge to you is to have an honest conversation with yourself and do a little digital field trip to find out what is happening with Artificial Intelligence.
In the last few months, I have seen demonstrations of Artificial Intelligence that would blow your mind. It’s truly indiscernible to me, even with my sales experience, to distinguish between a live agent and an AI Bot. And…if I am buying a vehicle and can work efficiently with AI that can answer my questions, focus on my personal needs, provide rich details on price, rebates, trade, financing, extended service plans, etc. then why would I need a salesperson who may not have my best interest in mind? It’s not that I couldn’t receive the same treatment from a true sales professional, but in many instances, the culture in the dealership will not allow salespeople to perform at an equivalent level.
Training your Salespeople to Effectively and Efficiently sell Cars
Let me be clear – I believe with all my heart that today’s modern and professional salesperson can perform well beyond the capacity of an Artificial Intelligent Bot, but our dealership management does not afford them the freedom to do so.
Couldn’t we offer a system for 100 percent of Automotive Shoppers at our dealerships where it is equally easy to work with Live Real Intelligent People or Artificially Intelligent Bots? The answer is of course yes! If and only if we start treating our sales team members as capable and intelligent professionals and training them to effectively and efficiently help customers buy cars. No longer do we need to “earn their business,” we simply need to kindly and intelligently help them with their car buying process.
I encourage you to make the commitment to be a 100 Percent Intelligent Dealership and prepare for the buying behaviors of all your customers by grooming your Real and Artificially intelligent sales team. Show your Real Sales Team the same trust you show your Artificial Team and give them the tools, resources, and training to deliver an exceptional buying experience. By doing so, you’ll be able to outwork, outsmart and outperform your competitors and be the Market Leader.
Thanks for reading and if you have any questions or comments, please share them with me. I’d welcome being your thought-partner as you prepare your dealership for the future.