The title “Automotive Salesperson” has not changed, but how the individuals approach their jobs certainly must. The landscape of car-buying has changed immensely. Salespeople looking to convert more visitors (or shoppers) to buyers need to change the dynamics in which they execute their daily duties, and cater to the customers’ goals rather than their own.
Today, consumers are looking for their experiences to be more “automotive retail” and less “car dealership”. Al Awadia of Google Canada recently shared data from a survey showing that
- 54% of buyers said they only wanted a facilitator at the dealership
- 14% said they wanted a more “hands-held” approach and
- 32% stated they wanted entirely “self service” car-buying and to do away with working with a dealership completely.
If car-buyers are shopping for a facilitator, we need to recognize that preference very early on in the process and deliver them only that experience. A facilitator shows them the available inventory, supplies them a test drive and answers to their questions. Are you delivering car sales training to your team that promotes this? A facilitator confirms the online pricing of the vehicle, and arranges paperwork in which to purchase. This is what the majority stated they want, and yet we’ve created internal processes (and “roads to sales”) that are meant to “hand hold” customers, laboriously detailing every element of the car sale. Dealers still believe that these antiquated steps we’ve devised will allow us to remain in control and maximize growth. This couldn’t be farther from the truth.
Many of these process steps we have insisted on walking our in-store customers through are redundant based on their advanced research. They’re not looking for someone to sell them a car. They’re instead looking for the dealer (or salesperson) that is going to keep out of their way so they can buy a car. Salespeople come to work believing their job is to take customers through the showroom process, show them the vehicles’ features, and overcome objections during negotiations. This is no longer the role of an Automotive Retail Professional.
Today, the best salespeople need to BE four things. Educated, Empathetic, Dedicated, and Proactive.
Al Awadia from Google Canada also shared a study that 73% of customers had spent time on the OEM site, 56% on the search engines, and 51% on the dealer website, with the average shopper looking at 26 different sources. That is during the Research Phase alone. Simply put, when is the last time your sales professionals spent much time researching their own vehicles on these sites. There is more to know than product knowledge. Wheelbase, towing capacity, tire size, and illuminated vanity mirrors do not win you sales. The ability to recite the information that resides on window stickers does not separate you from anyone else. However, push your team to have a deeper understanding of these OEM and third party sites. Make it a mission for each salesperson to be able to swiftly navigate these sites, finding consumer-facing information, and aligning it with your own internal information.
It is time that we stop attempting to be salespeople, and instead become educators. Customers have a world of information at their fingertips, but much of it is incorrect or incomplete. Some sites may have contradictory information from themselves and from you. You must require your sales team to utilize these third-party sites with correct information to their benefit, and validate the customers’ choices, discoveries, and pricing. Know the sites your customers have come to trust (including your own website) and you will be considered an advocate for them rather than a combatant.
Your salespeople need to spend less time showering the in-store shopper with car facts and spend more time inquiring as to what their expectations and goals are while in the store. Not all consumers need a 14-point walk-around and product presentation. Not everyone requires a lengthy negotiation process. These visitors to your store have taken countless steps to arrive at their decision to visit you. You must ask what questions still remain. What brought them to this point? What do they have left to accomplish? Once you know these answers, you know exactly what your job for them is. You know how to facilitate. It is only then that you are not wasting their (and your) time, and are seeing the experience from their vantage.
A great majority of dealerships struggle at customer contact. This is what my firm excels at. How are you communicating with customers that contact your dealership in advance of their arrival? How many follow-up attempts by email and phone is your staff making? (Does your technology trigger those actions for them?) Does your staff prove their worth after the sale by following up with calls, emails, thanks, and invites to service ongoing? This is where the relationship is built. “Rapport building” is only a product of an in-store meeting. “Relationship building” must be continual long after the sale is complete.
Your staff must be trained, monitored and held accountable as to when to call and email and what to say and send. Moreover, you must ensure that contact is happening at all. Automotive Retail Professionals should be cultivating relationships with their clients (before and after) and only the most dedicated sales consultants willing to make those calls and send those personal emails in perpetuity will be able to guarantee themselves future business.
Sales professionals can no longer simply rely on the marketing dollars of the dealership to drive traffic into the store. The dealership may own the customers’ business, but the salespeople own the relationship. Salespeople should find ways to personally brand themselves as an entity with which to do business. Provide each sales consultant their own webpage on the dealership site where they can display a video introduction of themselves, provide testimonials/reviews from clients, and share a personal biography as well as their contact information. Then take this page and it becomes their advertisement. If sales professionals are using social media, they need to be proactive, alerting clients of their position, their successes, their passions, and the personal VALUE they bring. They must leverage their own database and sphere of influence.
Each sales professional must realize that the phone in their pocket is a content creator. They must use this technology to capture pics, videos, happy customer photos, feature/benefit evidence, testimonials, walk-around videos, news, and more. Then they must take all of the content they’ve captured and build their own digital assets to promote themselves as a brand. When shoppers come in asking for the sales professional by name based upon their online research rather than asking for the car by name, you know they have succeeded at being proactive and building a personal brand.
Again, the goal is still a car sale. The end result hasn’t changed. How your team goes about planning their day, completing their tasks, aligning their brand, and educating themselves will determine if they are in this industry to stay, or if it is time for them to clock out. Urge your team to BE better, and your dealership will reap the rewards.