My first day in retail sales, I was told (not taught, told) “the road to the sale”. This was, as we all know, a very specific set of steps that we had to take customers through (read: drag them kicking and screaming sometimes) in order to sell them a car our way.
I’ve caused controversy in the past with my blog that The Road to the Sale is Dead. Regardless of the hate mail I received from naysayers and old-timers (much of which was received in email, not text or Messenger, natch), I still stand by this statement. There should be no series of required steps a person must adhere to in order to purchase an automobile. Certainly, there are necessities such as filling out a credit statement to get approved for a loan, but that does not need to take place in any specific order.
Fortunately, I’ve been able to consult for other retail industries outside of automotive so see beyond the four walls of a dealership’s showroom floor when sharing my beliefs. In other industries, they talk of a “Path to Purchase”. Again, semantically, I don’t love this either – but at least with a “path”, it leaves room for flexibility of processes.
This is why every process we create on behalf of DealerKnows’ clients is meant to allow the customer to dictate their needs as part of the buying process, while maintaining control of the actions. This is what I like to call embracing the “Bridge to Buying”.
When you think of a “road to a sale”, you envision a sequence of rigid steps one must complete in chronological order while in store as a means to purchase a vehicle. Close your eyes and imagine a road. What does it look like? It’s long, isn’t it? Goes off into the distance where you can’t see it end? Maybe some turns that get you off-balance? That is not what a purchase process needs to be built like.
When you hear of a “path to purchase”, you may think of a sequence of tasks that give you the ability to buy a product. At least they’re somewhat on the right path because you can deviate from a path. Close your eyes and think of a path. Is it made of dirt? Are there trees and bushes around that you may have to brush away? You can’t see where it ends, can you? Again, when designing a sales process, a path is not what you want to mirror. While the customer is in charge, there are still obstacles they must traverse.
Now close your eyes and imagine a bridge. It is a short distance that allows you to travel safely over dangerous terrain or water. It gets you past what you want to avoid. In this instance, consumers want to avoid the troubled waters of a long, drawn-out car purchase. A bridge is the quickest way to get over or around a chasm of traffic or doom. So when designing a showroom process that mimics a bridge, you’re allowing shoppers to buy something instead of being sold something, you are thinking of the customers’ needs first rather than the need to control.
A Bridge to Buying can include digital tools that allow easier, quicker researching, shopping, comparisons, approval, on your website so it can be done at their speed with little interruption. This also includes in-showroom technology that speeds up the shoppers in-store visit. (Think trade kiosks, online shopping tools, and key tracking that geo-locates in-stock inventory, not tablets in the hands of the salespeople). Every instance in which a process can be built where you aren’t standing in front of a customer and blocking them from the inevitable purchase, that is the place for a “Bridge to Buying”.
Some consumers will always need additional guidance. Alerts of new inventory, consideration sets, or purchase scenarios will inevitably be a desire for shoppers. Yet, forcing customers through our way of doing business has been the impetus for online buying services and brands such as Carvana, Roadster, Vroom, Honcker, and, even Tesla. Sales is no longer about required activities, as it has evolved into adaptability and active listening measures. Serve the needs of the customer before the needs of yourself and you’ll find profit on the other side of their Bridge to Buying.