If 2020 was a wake-up call, then 2021 is being forcibly removed from your bed. The scarcity of new and used vehicles is something we haven’t experienced since World War II. In a society that demands everything they want, when they want it, trying to process it as business-as-usual is a hilariously bad idea. I know what the memes are saying, but blame just-in-time inventory management, not the President.
For more than a decade, DealerKnows has actively been speaking out against static routines. The rigid call scripts and one-size-fits-all Internet sales process that worked great 20 years ago were barely serviceable a decade ago. That’s why we started getting loud about it way back then. Under the current circumstances, they completely fall apart.
“Are You Calling about the Big Sale?”
Upon mystery shopping thousands of dealerships over the years, the main go-to move is all about making it cheap. Under normal circumstances, this practice simply demeans the dealership. It makes it all about price, then primes the ole’ bait and switch. It has nothing to do with value, nor does it do anything to build one iota of customer loyalty. It’s creating volume for the sake of creating volume to satiate the OEM, and nothing more.
Having too much has made us lazy. Instead of creating a pipeline for our own retained opportunities or drumming up our own business, it’s much easier just to buy leads. Instead of studying inventory trends and buying cycles, while at the same time mining equity opportunities, it doesn’t mess up a single hair to throw ourselves to the mercy of the market and manufacturers. Another vendor will come along to solve it. After all, it’s easier to use their words than to adapt to a system that uses your own.
Now that laziness has caught up with us. Once swollen lots have become barren. Ordering new vehicles seems hopeless. Acquiring used vehicles has become so expensive that the costs rival that of a comparable new unit. Through the first half of 2021, almost every customer will be caught in an avalanche of negative equity, and NO ONE wants to admit that. Yet, dealerships all over the continent are still sending emails about getting the best deal, and still telling customers their presence is their best leverage. Good luck with that.
Dynamism Is Always for the Win
While we’re going through a once-in-a-lifetime combination of circumstances, it’s times like these we learn to think again. As many of us have bore witness to so many OEM trainers, speakers, and talking heads over the years, so much of what is considered “best practice” is just the repetition of hypothetical situations. Yes, it does work for a certain segment of the population, and that’s indicative of the 20-25% of fresh showroom traffic that buys, and 10-15% of Internet opportunities who make a purchase. But, don’t believe for a second that the other 80-90% has bad credit, negative equity, bla-bla-bla-bla-bla. Thanks to a copy and paste process methodology built for a best-case scenario, the remaining opportunities don’t care to listen to what you have to say. Now add job insecurity, supply chain issues, fear of missing out, and not being able to get what you want to the mix, and it’s no wonder why potential customers a displaying hostility. Our self-imposed limitations don’t give us the room to process what the customer has to say.
We’re no longer strong enough to swing the hammer to smash a square peg into a round hole. Continuing to try to use the blueprint from the showroom age is holding us back. It like saying 1+2=3, but 2+1, 3+0, or 3-0 are not equal to 3 (more numbers could’ve been used, but it’s really that simple). Having just one Internet process or set of scripts cost business yesterday, even more business today, and will cost much more business tomorrow. It’s so frustrating because it doesn’t need to be that way.
You have the choice. Even the most antiquated CRMs can handle multiple workflows. Processes can be triggered for lead types, sources, and events. Granted, even the best CRMs are only reliable to a point, but most can handle a half dozen scenarios. With phones, chats, and texts, the only limitation is training and imagination. We at DealerKnows can say it works because it’s been painstakingly measured and implemented across hundreds of franchised dealerships across North America, representing about every conceivable combination of demographics and inventories. By transitioning to guided/goal methodology, communications are conversational, not simply a checklist. This provides for active listening and helping the customer achieve what they are trying to accomplish. In simpler terms, it’s creating the environment to facilitate a purchase.
Through all channels of communication, it’s imperative to keep the conversation going with solutions. Instead of locking customers into a particular vehicle (unless it’s through digital retail), it’s up to us to open the range of possibilities as much as possible. Asking customers if there are any colors they would not accept, confirming vehicles that you know are in inventory, and understanding your product well enough to understand when it’s best to suggest adding accessories (e.g., wheels and tires) as opposed to the entire option package, will all keep the conversation moving forward. It’s a square peg for a square hole, and it’s totally up to you.
Despite what your friends are posting on Facebook, the supply and demand issues have little to do with the White House. It started decades ago with a host of regulations, treaties, accounting, and manufacturing decisions, along with a lot of backroom handshakes with little regard to what would happen after a year-long global shutdown. Now you’re left to deal with the ramifications. Do you want to keep supporting the notion that there’s just one way to achieve success, or do you want to prepare yourself to be successful in multiple different ways? The choice is yours.