As an industry, we’ve dedicated dollars, time and conferences to enhancing our online efforts in order to appeal to today’s shopper. Once we feel our marketing initiatives are dialed in, we sit back and relax. Unfortunately, we’ve overused showroom muscles that are weakening dealership sales.
We’ve continued to ignore the painstaking exercises that the customer has endured online before arriving at our dealership. Instead, we take them through circuit training to the sale.
- Out we run to greet them on the lot.
- We walk them back into the store.
- Sit them down for a needs assessment.
- Back up for a lot walk.
- Sit down for the test drive.
- Back up for a walk through the service lane.
- Sit them down at our desk to extract some information.
- Stand them back up to follow us outside for a silent appraisal of their trade.
- Return to the dealership to sit down for a credit application.
The salesperson must now begin their own workout regimen, delivering countless papers back and forth, to and from the manager’s desk to their own until the customer is overcome with motion sickness from the up-and-down nature of our showroom process and agrees to buy.
Then… up and down to finance, and up and down into the seat of their new vehicle.
We’ve made buying a car a real physical and mental workout. No wonder consumers are looking to complete more of the transaction online than ever before. We’ve simply overvalued salesmanship and undervalued the customer journey.
I’ve written before that the road to the sale is dead. It was a controversial article, but I think a better way to say it is that so many elements of the traditional road to the sale have moved online, therefore we need to do a better job of eliminating those from our showroom process.
Inevitably, the majority of consumers want to “experience” the vehicle before they purchase, but they don’t need to go through the rigorous sequence of events to do it. It’s not that exercise in general is wrong. It’s that so many of the activities we ask in-store customers to do are futile based upon their previous research online. We need to do a better job understanding their specific needs and what research, sites and forums they’ve utilized in advance to make us better facilitators for them.
I don’t believe people go to the gym because they like the feel of the machines, the good-naturedness of the personal trainer and the smell of the locker room. No, they go because they are looking for the result. The result of a gym visit can be either for health, fitness, weight loss, physique or countless other reasons. (This from what I’ve been told. Check out my bio picture and you realize I’m no fitness expert.) If people could achieve the same result by walking in the doors and immediately right out the doors with little to no interaction with man or machine, then today’s consumers would prefer that process.
The result of going to the dealership doesn’t need to involve being run through a fastidious process. The consumers are looking to get their questions answered, possibly experience or drive their originally intended vehicle of choice and to inevitably purchase a vehicle.
Very few of today’s car shoppers are looking for someone to hold their hand throughout the process. Research online has been performed to make that much less of a need than ever before. They aren’t looking to be “sold.” They want to “buy.” Shoppers choose the dealership – and sales professional – that seems most willing to step out of their way while giving them their preferred result with the least amount of effort and energy.
Take a look at the showroom process at your dealership. Do you see showroom calisthenics being performed by your guests at the request of your salespeople? If so, do a better job understanding the clients’ needs and you’ll be able to create a less strenuous in-store experience for your customers.
It will likely involve strengthening some new muscles. You may need to bring a trainer or process consultant into the store. But you will be able to promise better results from this streamlined regimen than the type of antiquated road to the sale process those other dumbbells still employ. If you improve your consumer experience enough, people will hear how great it is to visit your dealership. Buying a car from you should be no sweat.