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Every contributing member of ADM knows the answer - or they should; of course we need to give the customer the price. The real question is when, what and how!

One advantage that virtual showrooms have over real world showrooms is their ability to provide information - including price - more efficiently and in a more transparent manner. The problems start when we don't use that to our advantage as well as the customers who can now change the dealerships that they are "negotiating" with as fast as they used to change channels!

Low prices posted as either "loss leader specials" or competetive "one price - best price" strategies were fine in the real world when the customer used the newspaper to flip through for the best price on the car they were looking for without reading the fine print that qualified the offer to one stock number or explained the $5,000 down that existed in the disclaimer. Once they drove to the dealership the keys on the roof or the fast talking salesperson still stood a chance to sell them something today since they were tired or running out of daylight and they wanted to buy a vehicle - although "tomorrow's sale and future service" became much harder to save.

Well, tommorrow is here and our reputation has preceded us onto the Internet which is why so many customers prefer it over the real world experiences that drove them online. Unfortunately, the Internet has a completely different set of challenges when it comes to price so our own previous real world experiences have little value on our virtual showrooms.

Many dealer's first experience on the Internet was to use the same pricing policies as they did in the paper. That practice gave them the WRONG impression that you can't make money on the Internet. Their expectations were that if you don't post your lowest price then the customers will not stay on your site and they will go elsewhere.

Well, maybe - but aren't they going to do that anyway? Online relationships are just as large a part in the "buying" process as they used to be so the "best price" isn't always the lowest price. That wisdom survives onlne becasue the human nature that drives the buying decsion survives.

The solution is "TRANSPARENCY" - "HONESTY" and EFFICIENCY" in delivering a fair price on the vehicle that they are online looking for first - followed possibly by the one that they need as well as providing information on other key decision factors like trade-in value and financing with fast and easy answers - NOT MORE QUESTIONS!

There are several newly developing Internet applications that expedite the "negotiation" - or more accurately defined information - processes. Live Chat and click to call applications, online transaction tools, links to trade-in values on credible third party sites, comprehensive credit and payment calculations and legitimate online live negotiations ranging from a self serve desking tool to a fair market bidding application.

I am not limiting my suggestions to "conversion tools" that are designed to force a real world visit or a disconnect to an email or phone call to get the price and the relevant buying information - I am suggesting actual disclosure online - real time - to arrive at a fair price that will survive competitive shopping based on the RELATIONSHIP earned by a transparent negotiation on the virtual world that will transfer to the real one that will earn today's sale while preserving tomorrow's service and future sales.

Of course I don't want to limit this forum - the question or the answer - to my brief comments.

What do you think and how do you post price - OR NOT?

Tags: automotive, internet, lead, management, marketing, price, process, quotes, sales

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Replies to This ADM Discussion

Hello Catherine,

You obviously "get it!" The days of push/pull marketing and B2C online messaging have been replaced with pull/push information researched and solicited by the customer and preferably deliverd as a C2C message in a social networking community vs. an auto dealer's website. If the dealer is lucky enough to encounter an educated consumer on their site anything other than complete relevancy and transparency in their reply will be met with a click to a more responsive dealer and if they are an uneducated customer -- in the minority in today's Internet driven market by the way -- they will also take the path of least resistence -- since they can!

Simply put, the consumer is driving on the Internet Super Highway and those dealers that try to retain control will be pushed to the side of the road -- no back seat drivers allowed!
What an amazing post! I read through each one and find it absolutely fascinating regarding the opinions of those "post replyers".

I agree that 'Shangrila' exixts at the end of this road we're on - where there is no price negotiation and the client just says, "Yes" to the vehicle they select and the profitability works well for the dealership and salesperson. In fact, many transactions are that way today!

However, to ignore the importance of a continued, long-term transition into 'Shangrila' would be a potentially catastrophic mistake.

Not all consumers are preparing to shed their old rules (sometimes multi-generational rules) when shopping-for and/or buying cars. Each consumer, on their own time, will need to be influenced into taking any steps forward in purchasing a "new" or "better" way - as has been described throughout this post.

The points of influence will certainly be in social networks (a prominant point of coaching, these days) and reputation-based posts (scores on dealerrater, yahoo, google, and others). Yet many consumers will need to be influenced by Professional Salespeople.

Why? Because most consumers struggle when trying to make confident and competent decisions when making their major purchases.

Many people who have worked in sales or who even have trained salespeople aren't necessarily huge studiers of professional selling at a global or historical level. The BEST of the BEST sales people in the world understand and practice a very simple philosophy - in order to sell professionally, one must understand the need to help solve problems for people who struggle solving their own problems...and hence influence their buying decisions based upon our learned knowledge of both buying and selling.

Is it difficult for consumers to select the right vehicle? Heck yes! There's so many with so many different quality levels, and so many different packages, and so many different services offered by can this be easy?

As we continue to move forward into the future, I am confident it will get much easier...but no-one should make the mistake of thinking that this transition will be quick and easy for the consumer.

How many people don't like twitter? How many people don't like the idea of buying on EBAY? How many people understand the power of negotiating between car dealerships (and like it)? How many people won't connect with a third party service? How many people don't like the failed tactics of "relationship selling" (this terminology has been just as harmful as it is helpful, in my opinion)?

A bunch!

The smartest dealerships are building and/or will build strategies for transitioning their clients, communities, and their internal business cultures with those tools which are and will be most embraceable over the long haul (and this will be many, many years to come!)

...and the smartest trainers and coaches will guide those dealerships by focusing on simpifying the complexities of their respective transitions.


Tom Vann
Team Hillsdale Chrysler

I was very impressed with your astute recap of tomorrow vs. today. I trust that you will agree that the percentage of people who rely on social media and/or who will accept a simplified, transparent online transaction are limited today -- however --the amount of dealers and online resources are equaly limited. Therefore, the early entrants to this growing audience will capture a larger market share of the willing online shoppers and buyers today while building a reputation as the place to go tomorrow as the online buyer market grows!

Meanwhile, I suggest that the early players rely on some of the newer C2C social media platforms -- like my clients ronsmap and DealerMouth -- to leverage their online investments and to put their customers to work for them since the customers word will -- and will always --- carry more weight than the auto dealers.

After all, what are friends for!
Here! Here!


The fact that the question of to price or not to price is still being asked in ADM and other similarly worded forums to this one in networking sites like LinkedIn suggests that many of us still don't get it!  The answer was hidden in the first line of this post and all of the comments afterwards simply confirmed the obvious.


"Every contributing member of ADM knows the answer - or they should; of course we need to give the customer the price. The real question is when, what and how!"

The internet empowered customers to access information - including price - which had previously been under the control of the dealership.  Once we relinquished control of this critical piece of information we were obligated to explain how we arrived at our own supposedly competitive price to differentiate our dealership from the next one with a supposedly lower price.  That, or we could all race to the bottom and reduce profits to unsustainable levels which would not benefit anyone after we all went out of business.  After all, who would be left to service the vehicles we sold?

Of course we can try to explain how we have nicer sales people, better after sale service, more community support and other less tangible evidence to differentiate our dealership from the one's who provided loss leader pricing to get people offline and into their dealerships but you have to open a dialogue before you can add these elements to the discussion.  If the price filters you out of their online search then all of the promised added value will never be heard.

If pressed to provide a specific answer to the price question from the dealer's perspective my answer would be to approach it from the customers view.  Provide a transparent process that includes vin-specific price as well as other information that the customer may not otherwise have expected to need to make a buying decsion.  Interest and lease terms, rates and payments, realistic trade-in values, comparable vehicles and trim levels to the one initially selected, projected vehicle ownership costs, specific unique dealer provided services such as loaner vehicles, included dealer warranties, etc.

Of course people and personality are also a consideration so providing this information in a conversational vs. a presentational mode will also cut through the clutter and promote a relationship vs. a sale.  The UI of your website and consistency of your messages across all media - including the delivery on the showroom - must be customer friendly if you hope to overcome many price objections; real or imagined.


Want to lose me as a customer in record time?  And be aware that I was a car buying customer for many decades before I worked in the industry........ DON'T TELL ME THE PRICE UPFRONT........I'M GONE in a New York minute. Want me to disappear even faster than a New York minute?  Tell me this is your SPECIAL INTERNET PRICE.  WTH?  That means if I come into the dealership, the price changes?

TRANSPARENCY and HONESTY are my two requirements for a vehicle purchase, followed by.......... *NOW*!

Of course, dealers are at a disadvantage if they get their inventory listed on sites such as CarGurus who will tell the customer if you are over or under priced!  Damn their ethics and they claim to work "for" the dealer?!  Not to worry about such entities......the majority of your customers have never heard of the Gurus.

Synopsis........PRICE YOUR INVENTORY and have an engaging enough personality that your customers will come in and either pay it or take on the challenge of negotiation. 

Now.......WHAT WAS your question, Philip?  ;)

Hi Cherie,

Some questions are meant to be implied answers with obvious conclusions and this post is one of them. Transparency starts with providing a fair price as far as customers are concerned and since their concerns are the only ones that matter give them the price or get out of their way so they can find a dealer who will.

It is interesting to note that this question/answer was posted way back in 2008 and it is still relevant; although the answer is increasingly more apparent.

Thanks, Philip........Since the original question was posted in '08, it's obvious that dealerships are more educated and are being 'forced' to work smarter with the huge and all-powerful threat, if you will, of the internet looming over their heads.  What we could get away with 5 years ago, exists no longer.  Consumers have also become more educated and demanding as is their right.  We work for them; they don't work for us.


Of course we agree and perhaps the best example of increased expectations by consumers regarding price information is the demand to include payments and related finance/leasing terms as well as factory rebates and incentives in addition to the sales price with full disclosure on any other dealer fees; no surprises! The more consumer centric dealers are also wise to include competitor's prices on similar vehicles to give customers the confidence to stay on their site. The ultimate solution is to allow site visitors to build their own vehicles with out the door prices including third party suggested trade in values without ever having to involve a salesperson. Now that is the true definition of transparency for today's empowered consumers!!


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