I’ve noticed a troubling trend in the course of training last week, and it’s time to air some grievances. It seems as if ISMs are so stuck in their routines that they miss crucial signals from the customer. While we at DealerKnows are probably the staunchest advocates for a tight process, it doesn’t mean that the customer should be ignored. Being obedient can come at a cost.
The most glaring example of this oversight is disregarding the customers preferred method of contact. If a customer responds to an ISM’s email in mere minutes after it was sent, then that ISM should promptly engage that customer via email (the same can be said for text, chat, courier, or carrier pigeon.) Despite the fact the ISM may have a scheduled call to that customer, the customer has already signaled that they are willing to engage immediately and email is their preferred method of contact. The ISM can always offer to call to speed things up, however short, dialogue-inducing emails should be used up until the point the customer is willing to give permission for a call. Leaving repeated voicemails after not addressing a customer’s email just adds insult to injury.
Although it’s not as common as it used to be, customers still submit Internet leads because it’s the last ditch effort to find what they are looking for. They’ve done a ton of research, they’ve been to several dealerships, they’ve already test driven, they’ve settled on a package, colors, etc (I’m not talking about the credit challenged, either). For whatever reason, no other dealership has been able to meet their specific, but mathematically plausible, needs. So when that customer takes the painstaking effort to lay out every single buying condition, payment range, credit score, how much they owe on their trade…everything a dealership needs to put a deal together…and the response back is something “[Customer First Name], my name is James and I’m the Internet Sales Manager of ABC Motors, and it’s my God-given blessing to help you with your buying needs…” it’s just a slap in the face. The response is plain and simple:
- We do have that particular vehicle in inventory, and based on the information you’ve shared, we should be able to meet your needs. When is the best time to come in (Time A) or (Time B)?
- I ran a locate, and I’ve found a vehicle that will meet your needs, and fits within the criteria you shared. When is the best time to come in (Time A) or (Time B)?
- I ran a locate, and the vehicle you’re looking for is not available in a six state radius. I have a very similar vehicle that meets almost all of your needs. When is the best time to come in (Time A) or (Time B)?
I’d recommend being a little more detailed, but you get the premise. At this point, they’ve given the dealership everything. There is no other reason for the customer to continuing shopping unless the dealership completely drops the ball. If the next email does not directly address what the customer has shared, you’ve basically said keep shopping. It’s your sale to lose.
Finally, ISMs have a tendency to underestimate the person on the other side of the screen. It’s true the many leads are bogus, un-contactable, or the prospect has no intent to purchase. It’s also no mystery that the odds are stacked against dealerships every day. Like baseball, if you’re a .300 hitter, you’re hall of fame material. Because ISMs get used to dealing with “strokes,” “tire kickers,” and (insert your favorite pejorative term here), they completely lose site of the fact they could deal with someone of equal or, dare I say, vastly superior intelligence. Despite the fact the customer’s email signature indicates that the customer is a physician, attorney, CFO, or has PhD in physics, an ISM will attempt the game of chess that they’ve been taught to play. During the ISM’s crafty attempt at a chess match, a competitor hit the customer right between the eyes, stood tall, and stole the deal. The ISM is then left with a pawn in their hand, wondering why they lost.
Before you chuck your rulebook, realize that the majority of your customers will give you little to nothing in the way of information. Hell, they may never communicate with you at all. You will know more about vehicles, financing, and market pricing than 99.9% of customers. You have to understand the process inside and out because your process will yield the best results the majority of the time. But, the rulebook can’t have all the contingencies. Sometimes, you have to run the ball.
At its root, sales is about mutual gain. There is give and take on both sides. As Joe and I always say, answer a question, then ask a question. If a customer volunteers enough information, don’t be afraid to skip a few steps. Ask a manager if you need to. If the customer isn’t afraid to share information with you, then they’re probably sharing with every dealership they contact. If your customers are giving, and you’re not taking, someone else certainly will.