As supply chains and vehicle production slowly recuperate from the last three years of economic headwinds, dealers grow increasingly worried that their sales team has fallen out of practice. Many sales professionals who joined the auto industry after 2020 are unfamiliar with the needs of customers in a normal market, while industry veterans have forgotten their tactics due to lack of use. Not only are pre-pandemic consumer habits returning, but new trends have formed for which many retailers have yet to adjust their business strategies. Jennifer Suzuki is the President of eDealer Solutions and an acclaimed sales trainer. To discuss what dealerships can do to prepare their sales teams for the new industry landscape, she joins host Jim Fitzpatrick on this episode of CBT Now.
The external factors guiding the average American consumer’s behavior have changed significantly since the start of the COVID pandemic. Trade in values have plummeted, making it more difficult to fund a new vehicle purchase. Interest rate hikes and inventory shortages have driven up both monthly payments and overall price tags to record breaking numbers. These issues can actually benefit dealers, so long as their clients are understanding. However, buyer tolerance is wearing thin, and as the economy recovers the tactics which storefronts have used for the last three years will slowly begin to drive customers away. Sales staff will need to be equipped with the right skills and strategies to avoid scaring off clients. Suzuki recommends that storeowners start the training process now, and to be proactive and preemptive.
More: Identifying and correcting problematic gaps in consumer engagement
Her first recommended strategy is to slow down the sales process. The dealership experience has become much too rushed, primarily due to vehicle shortages. With so few cars in dealer lots, customers have had little ability to “shop around.” However, now that availability is growing, sales staff must learn how to encourage their customers to consider new options and to take their time weighing different models. Suzuki recommends that dealers prepare their sales teams by teaching them to ask questions which identify the needs of their clients, and, above all, allows them to make the decision at their own pace.
Every storeowner should also re-equip their sales team with backup plans. Although inventory issues have improved, customers who are re-entering the market after a long absence are unlikely to find the exact model they want. To avoid losing this buyer to a dealer who obtained stock earlier, sales staff should come prepared with suggestions that match the client’s criteria. Make sure your team know the vehicles they sell inside and out, so they can be ready to redirect a shopper towards a model with the features they want.
Suzuki also recommends that sales professionals become skilled at identifying “pain points.” A pain point is any issue which is preventing a consumer from making a vehicle purchase. Finances are, of course, a major roadblock for many consumers, however other issues such as EV driving range anxiety, model availability, car features etc. can stop a lead from becoming a sale. By anticipating or identifying these concerns, even before a client mentions a vehicle, sales staff can know what remedy to apply. Although this article is about sales team preparedness, analyzing pain points is a skill that storeowners can also improve upon to further the success of their business.
Sales staff need to know their consumers in order to make their dealership experience the best possible. Although some longstanding tactics have fallen out of habit or become obsolete, the process for bringing a team’s knowledge up to speed is the same as ever. By training staff members to ask questions, prepare backup plans and identify pain points, dealers can ensure their stores are prepared for the changing market landscape.
Did you enjoy this interview? Please share your thoughts, comments, or questions regarding this topic by connecting with us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Be sure to follow us on Facebook, LinkedIn, and TikTok to stay up to date.
While you’re here, don’t forget to subscribe to our email newsletter for all the latest auto industry news from CBT News.