A statement we often hear from companies that study the Automotive Industry is that we need to “Modernize the Dealership Sales Experience!” Perhaps this is accurate but it should quickly be followed by the dual questions of “Why and How?”
Let’s talk about the Why first because it’s an important consideration. Most of us heard a variation of the same response from our parents when we explained why we joined our friends in an activity they felt was dangerous. It was some version of this phrase…” Would you jump off a roof if they told you to?” Depending on our mood, some of us may have muttered a “Yes”, while others would quickly say “No, of course not.” Unfortunately, I said Yes once and learned quickly that it was not a wise choice.
So, the question is: Why should you Modernize your Dealership Sales Experience? I’ve been in the car business, literally, since I was a kid. Many of you know that my father was a car dealer the day I was born and as a child of a car dealer, and even as a little kid just hanging out the store, I learned all about the consumer experience. I’d see smiling salespeople shaking hands with smiling customers and then see the happy buyers drive away in their shiny new vehicles.
When I was told as a teenager that consumers thought car dealers were shifty and untrustworthy, I was stunned. To my knowledge, dealers and salespeople were kind people and built loyal relationships with people who depended on them for their knowledge and ability to secure them a good deal. I feel like this was the situation at our family dealership but when I entered the business after college as a salesperson I quickly learned not everyone operated with the same principles.
I didn’t need a survey or study to tell me this…I learned it firsthand from my customers who would share stories of their experiences while shopping other dealerships. My guess is most dealers and salespeople don’t need studies either to assess the need to Modernize their Sales Experience. Dealers just need to understand the 3 T’s. Transparency, Trust and Time have become the norm with access to the Internet and that’s the most compelling Why I can provide.
Transparency, Trust and Time are the keys to modernizing your Sales Experience and I’ll explain that in the How description.
It goes without saying that with so much access to data that auto shoppers can quickly surpass your salespeople in vehicle knowledge. In the pre-internet days, a less knowledgeable salesperson could get away with a lack of product knowledge because the consumer could not easily find answers.
With today’s available information Transparency is a stumbling block for salespeople who lack the initiative, or discipline to learn about the products they represent. As someone that values product knowledge, I say this is the first place to start in your Modernization efforts.
I have the benefit of visiting several dealerships and training hundreds of Sales and BDC team members each year and a common issue is a lack of even fundamental product knowledge. This is a crushing blow to the need for Transparency because customers are reliant on Product Experts to guide them in their purchase. The Product Experts should be your salespeople and when they know and love their products, they can step up and be Transparent with car buyers.
To a large degree, some salespeople are simply sales clerks instead of sales professionals. If they could just ring up the customers when they wanted to buy, they would be perfect. For those of you who know and love your products, I applaud you. You benefit yourself, your customers and your dealership.
To be effective in a hyper competitive environment we must make Product Knowledge a cornerstone element in all our sales training. It’s a confidence booster and allows us to Walk the Talk. Customer love it and they are drawn to professionals that know what they sell. This builds on their Trust. Customers have shared with me that they bought because they trusted the salesperson because they really knew the product and they also provided experienced guidance in the buying process.
The last of the 3 T’s is Time and the Internet has spoiled every one of us. It started for me with my first order from Zappos.com where I now buy most of my shoes. Their site was quick and easy to navigate and that was important but what took me by surprise was the overnight delivery. It was not expected and it has now spoiled me. For those of you who now rely on Amazon for easy shopping you understand exactly what I mean.
The Easy button commercially promoted by Staples is not even good enough these days; we want it Easy and Fast at a Competitive Price. The internet has caused all dealers to provide competitive pricing so now all we need to address is Easy and Fast. This would benefit the dealership sales team as well. If we could sell two cars in one hour instead of one car in four hours our salesperson productivity would increase dramatically. On Saturdays, with an Easy and Fast consumer buying experience it would be normal for salespeople to sell four or five vehicles.
The time issue seems to be impacted by slower than necessary Finance processes and that’s the challenge the industry must face. I’ve seen the future and witnessed firsthand how this can be addressed by a one-person sales strategy. One-person who handles the entire transaction with a customer really takes the slack time and inefficiency out of the selling system. It also requires true professionalism on your staff but when you achieve this it is magical.
I don’t have all the answers but I know the right questions and I bet you do too. Study your own situation and evaluate your own 3 T’s – Transparency, Trust and Time – and decide if it’s the right time as well as beneficial to Modernize your Sales Experience. If you’d like someone to kick ideas around with, let me know, I’d be glad to listen.
Thanks for reading. If you have any questions feel free to reach out to me.