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Let dealership reputation and trust, not price, drive the value proposition when targeting these customers.

BY ANNE FLEMING

Based on how they approach the car buying process, women buyers tend to identify multiple choices of a dealership and choose from whom they will purchase based on different reasons than men use. Understanding the nuances of women’s buying habits can mean the difference between your making the sale or losing it to a nearby dealership.

It is easy to operate on the assumption that price is the top priority for your women customers Price does matter, but they weight it along with other more emotion-based priorities such as trust and respect. In fact, when women car buyers are asked their reasons for purchasing (or not purchasing) at a particular dealership, price tends to be the No. 2 factor. Most often, their top reason is a positive perception of the sale associate or the dealership’s level of service.

Now, think about the newspaper car ads you see. They almost always focus on price. Compare that ad copy with the advertising for power tools sold by the local home improvement store. Again, price is the prominent focus. The value of cars and power tools may be perceived the same by men, but women usually see more nuance in the car deal.

Why is this? Let’s explore some reasons.

5 Factors With Women Buyers

1) Planning on a future business relationship. The fact that women car buyers value customer service above price is a good indicator that they seek a relationship with the dealership for the life of the car and beyond. They want to be assured they can bring the car in for service at that dealership and receive quality work from folks they can trust.

2) The dealership’s reputation. Prior to purchasing her car, a woman buyer likely will have done her homework about dealerships in the area. In surveys that ask about the websites women buyers researched, the dealership’s site usually ranks first, and one in three also visited the dealership’s Facebook page. While women customers will often check out other resources including the manufacturer’s, AutoTrader’s and Kelley Blue Book’s websites, the dealership sites seem to be their perfect place to compare the competition.

3) Multiple dealership choices. On average, women visit 30 percent more dealerships than men do before buying. And, six out of 10 women do not purchase at the dealership closest to home. The bottom line: Women customers usually are willing to spend more time looking for what they want and to drive a little farther to land a better deal.

4) Confidence issues. Despite their careful research, women customers tend to approach the vehicle purchase with less confidence than men do. When reporting the emotions they felt when buying, nervousness usually ranks right behind excitement. Remember, more than half of women customers bring a companion. There may be lots of underlying reasons for these emotions and behaviors, but it is clear that women really want to know they are making the right decision about a car.

5) Trusting the sales advisor. Women rank trust and respect as the top two reasons for purchasing from a particular salesperson, and the price and/or perceived value of the vehicle only sixth. These priorities may arise from confidence issues and the desire to avoid buyer’s remorse.

What’s Exceptional About Your Dealership?

It is important for your salespeople to take all of these factors into consideration when their customer is a woman. At the end of the day, price will certainly matter, but other dealers can match price. Other factors like establishing trust, dealership reputation and bolstering the customer’s confidence about the deal become even more important during the sales approach.

Here are four suggestions for ensuring your dealership’s sales approach doesn’t fall into the “power tool sales” category.

1) Sell more than just cars in your advertising. Women look at car ads, read dealer reviews and use social media in researching a car. Do your ads (through whatever medium) only talk about price? If so, consider changing your ad copy to convey your dealership’s reputation for excellent service and trustworthy sales practices. You want to establish yours as the dealership that attracts women buyers because they can get a great deal from a trusted, respectful sales advisor AND great service for the next five to eight years.

Also, show that your customers matter before, during and after the deal. Include reviews by women customers on your website and social media. Make a point of demonstrating to women visitors that your service center is professional, fast and trustworthy; and provides amenities women tend to value such as a comfortable waiting area, favorable service hours extra services.

2) Understand and respect a woman’s emotional approach to buying. Be sure your sales advisors understand that women are not just price shopping. Train your salespeople and service personnel about the importance of trust and respect factors. Teach them how to read a customer’s body language (e.g., folded arms, stiff body and curt responses probably mean the customer is not engaged and the conversation is not going well). Let your sales associates know that listening is the most important activity during a sale to a woman customer.

3) Be ready to answer tough questions. For women, a car is much more than a way to get from point A to point B. They will have done extensive research before visiting your store, so expect many questions and have truthful, knowledgeable answers ready. If you don’t, the dealership down the road will.

4) Sell your dealership as well as a car. When a woman customer signs on the dotted line and drives away in her new car, everyone at your dealership should perceive this as the start of a relationship. Provide follow-up communications to be sure she is happy with her purchase. In addition to the standard CSI survey, give her a call to be sure everything is okay. Make sure she has the GSM’s contact information and let her know you really want to hear any comments or questions.

The work doesn’t end there, however, or with a service reminder postcard. Offer special deals to your women customers and their friends. Discounts on oil changes accompanied by a gift, gift card or two-for-one offer for a friend are great ways to cement your dealership’s value and recruit new business from friends and family. When women customers return for service, think about ways to create a convenient experience through a loaner car, expanded service hours and a quiet waiting area where she can relax, exercise or conduct business.

Women Buyers’ Factors Will Change

At the end of the day, the most important thing to remember when selling cars to women is: Assume nothing. Change is constant. Nearly 40 percent of women out-earn their husbands. Women now buy more than half the cars in this country themselves and are directly involved in more than two-thirds of deals. When a car is scheduled for service, it is most likely a woman who is setting the appointment.

Understanding the criteria women tend to use in deciding about a vehicle purchase is critical to keeping up with the pace of change with this important market segment.

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