Regardless of the state or city, car shoppers have multiple choices for a selling dealer. Within a five-mile radius, there could easily be two or three dealerships retailing the same brands, and more than a dozen others. For rural buyers, the same rings true on a wider scale. New vehicles are extremely accessible. It’s mostly a matter of preference and choosing which dealer the consumer will give their business.

For dealerships, attracting customers to their physical or virtual showroom hinges on two primary factors: locality and uniqueness. The physical distance from a dealership to their clientele is out of their control, but uniqueness is not. And in many cases, sales managers attempt to attract customers by offering a vehicle configuration no other dealership has in stock.

President of J.D. Power’s Automotive Division, Doug Betts, calls these vehicle builds ‘unicorns’. They’re the new car builds ordered from the manufacturer that a dealership uses to entice buyers. A certain trim level dressed up with all the interior and exterior options or a regionally-badged unit might be examples. And in his data, Betts identifies that in 2019 unicorn configurations typically sell just 22 units, and 98 percent of unicorns sell fewer than 50 units. Two percent of all configurations make up 74 percent of all vehicle sales.

For perspective in 2020, there are more than 423,000 vehicle configurations on the market. sales

Identify the Best-Selling Configurations

There’s nothing wrong with placing a special order for a unique build if it’s requested by a customer and supported by a significant deposit. However, the number of special orders a dealership will process in a year is likely in the single digits.

The most profitable course of action is the one that results in the highest turnover on the lot, and that’s selling the most popular models in the most desirable configurations.

Betts says, “When person buys a particular vehicle, are they buying it because it’s the configuration they dreamed of and they found it or is it because it was there? They went to the lot. There could have been 2,000 versions of the car they were interested in but there were only five versions on the lot, and they picked the best compromise.”

Focus on In-Stock Inventory

As Doug Betts indicates, customers have a proclivity for buying in-stock inventory. When your inventory contains the trim levels and configurations that are most sought after in your area, you’ll see it turn more consistently. The number of vehicles on the lot for 60-plus days will diminish. 

Market the Dealership’s Uniqueness, Not the Vehicles

As salespeople and sales managers, it’s easy to feel bored of the product. Although you’ve seen it day in and day out for months on end, shoppers are seeing it new when they get a walkaround. Highlight the vehicle’s uniqueness compared to other brands, but let the shopper discover how well the vehicle fits their needs.

Rather than focusing your presentation on the vehicle’s cues or a unicorn’s exclusivity, the focus should be on your dealership. Why should the shopper choose your store? How does your dealership make them feel special and serve their needs? What involvement does your dealership have in the community that a shopper might connect with, and what differentiates your store from the other two or three of the same brand within five miles? These are the points that will not just help change the topic away from price, but it will also ensure a connection that sees the customer come back for service and their next vehicle. 

Related: Road to the Sale: Selling in the Age of COVID


Did you enjoy this article from Jason Unrau? Read other articles from him here.

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