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Eighth Element of the Automotive Consumer Journey

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 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



Views: 366

Tags: Automotive, Buying, Consumer, Eighth, Element, Journey, Modern, Shopping


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Comment by Big Tom LaPointe on September 18, 2012 at 10:42pm

Great philosophy. I especially agree with the early TO. If i transpose this to a restaurant, it is a different experience if I have to address an issue with a manager who has already stopped by to introduce him- or herself, rather than a new face. I am prone to express less frustration because i know they are human. It ALSO gives me a chance to compliment my server if things are going well at that point.

Comment by Jerry Thompson on September 17, 2012 at 10:08pm

I attended AutoCon and Joe Castle did a fantastic presentation of how he runs his dealerships.  Maybe Ralph could invite him to post some information from his presentation.  In short, he completely changed the structure of his dealerships from the top down to reflect the current realities of consumer behavior, knowledge and expectations and as an answer to the antiquated methods of the past.  They have positioned the BDC between the GM and all Dept managers so that the messaging and pricing that customers are responding to is fed from the top down through the sales managers to the floor so that their is consistency in price, information and process when the customer walks in the door and meets the dealer's representative.  Their closing ratios are through the roof and their people are compensated for following the process.  Over 85% of their sales are from digital marketing that run through the BDC.  It truly is a paradigm shift in how a store is run and the benefits, in his case, definitely outweigh the difficulty of restructuring his stores and the resulting change in culture.  I don't feel it appropriate to go into too many details without his permission, suffice to say his unit sales are up 250% per month and his grosses are higher.  His forward thinking and conviction to make the necessary changes continues to drive his success.  When consumers come into his stores they are buyers that have stopped shopping...

Comment by Doug Davis on September 17, 2012 at 6:32pm

I vividly, remember the Aries K.  You had to convince the customer that Chrysler was going to be around longer than the warranty and then provide a world class walk-a-round and demo drive, if you ever expected to sell one.  Some of the best salespeople, that I have ever known, came out of those Dodge stores.

Prior to the internet, customers would set out to shop a half dozen stores.  That was the only way that they would know what is out there.  These were "shoppers".  Now, the average customer only visits 1.8 stores.  These are "buyers".  

Any dealership that isn't focused, like a laser, on closing ratios, is missing business.  Improving those closing ratios will require a close examination of your processes.   A closing ratio of 20%, that NADA recommended, might have been adequate 20 years ago.  It is deplorable, today.

Comment by Ralph Paglia on September 17, 2012 at 5:29pm

Thanks for posting... All too often the process that is applied when the customer visits the dealership in person after doing "their homework" online is disconnected from the people in a dealership who are assigned responsibility for the web based content, offers, inventory and messaging.  This can lead to a failure in the customer experience when they arrive at the dealership.  More dealers need to address the disconnect and ensure that every salesperson and desk manager is well versed and aware of all content published online by the dealership.

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