Don't forget Eighth Element in Modern Automotive Consumer Journey from Shopping to Buying!
When I read The Zero Moment of Truth (ZMOT) I think back to my early sales days – with more hair and less weight! – standing in the showroom next to a brand spanking new Dodge Aries. From that vantage point, I'd see consumers who would drive from dealership to dealership, gathering information and brochures while adding or removing cars from their consideration list. In-store sales processes back then were constructed around stopping the shopping, and if we failed to do so, our manager's idea of constructive criticism and coaching was to call us "weak." Yikes! What a memorable First Moment of Truth (FMOT) that must have been for the consumer!
We know from ZMOT that seven of the top eight automotive buying influences are online. The "eighth element" is your in-store processes. Sadly though, as I've witnessed in too many dealerships, a winning ZMOT strategy combined with antiquated in-store processes equals a recipe for disaster. Digital processes are improving, but what about the 89% of consumers whose First Moment of Truth takes place over the phone or by walk-in? For many dealerships, the eighth element, phone and in-store processes, is as antiquated as a K-car.
Tips and Tricks for Creating a Modern In-Store Process
Manager Meet and Greet: The Manager T.O. worked great when cars still had retractable seat belts and cassette players, but now consumers don't want to be turned over to a manager after they have made a decision to leave…or introduced to some mysterious person when a deal can't be agreed upon. Dealership managers should get out from behind their desks and walk the showroom meeting and greeting customers at the beginning of the sales process, not at the end. This simple change in your sales process creates a friendlier environment for the consumer and injects a feeling of transparency into the sales process. If this is not a standard practice in your dealership today...it should be!
Customer Qualifying: Let's start with some good news: if they are physically in your dealership, you've already won the Zero Moment of Truth! But you still need to win the First Moment of Truth, and expanding your qualifying process can easily help you deliver a victory for your dealership. Embrace the fact that your consumers will likely have received some serious education by the time they set foot in your showroom. Let your customer know that if they have questions or need access to additional information while they are shopping, that you have a computer or iPad available where they can privately get online. This simple statement provides transparency in the shopping process and helps you remain in control of the sales process. It's better for the consumer to do additional research in your dealership than leaving to do it at home.
Negotiating: Consumers want transparency as well as an expedited sales process. They don't want to spend five hours in your dealership buying a car. As Sales Managers, you control the deal flow. So when it comes to negotiating price, don't implement a sales process that requires your salespeople to run back and forth negotiating numbers with the desk. Your dealership sales process should allow the sales manager's first pencil to be directly with the consumer. Remember, your consumers are educated and have the same information in front of them as do you. So get out from behind the desk and go in and close the deal! If your sales process includes the Manager Meet and Greet as mentioned above, you'll be well on your way to delivering a positive First Moment of Truth.
Do we still want to "stop the shopping?" Of course! But today, by the time the consumer has entered the dealership, they have stopped shopping. They have narrowed their consideration list to a small handful of vehicles and dealerships. With seven of the top eight buying influences occurring online, it's up to dealers to deliver that critical eighth element that is going to take shoppers from the floor to over-the-curb.
Written by Steve Hanson, Cobalt Performance Improvement Consultant
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