Automotive Marketing Professional Community for Car Dealers and their Managers
Your Online Meet and Greet
The sales process we all know and love starts with that initial handshake and introduction. It establishes rapport, trust, and most importantly your first impression. We all know that customers shop online first, and Autotrader says that they spend an average of 11.5 hours online before they visit your lot. So technically, your meet and greet happens well before the customer ever steps foot out of their decade old trade-in.
You most likely spend a lot of time helping your sales team learn how to greet a customer effectively and earn their trust, so why do you not spend the same amount of time making sure your online Meet and Greet is up to the same standard?
Your Online Needs Assessment
How many customers buy the exact vehicle they originally look at and want? One of the amazing talents of sales professionals is their ability to land the customer on the right car. A true sales artist can perform a needs assessment and know exactly what car to land them on.
Let’s face it…customers do not always know what vehicle is within their budget, what color they like, what features they want, how much performance they “need”, etc. When your customer pulls in with two kids, a dog bowl, ski rack, hitch bicycle mount, and soccer gear in their trade, are you going to show them a 2 door coupe? The customer is attempting to do a personal needs assessment online before coming your dealership. Is your website designed to help them with this process?
Most websites aren’t helping the customer determine what car is right for them.
Your Online Product Presentation
We have all lifted the hood on a brand new car and seen that shiny plastic covered motor. It’s the psychology of the sales process that allows us to de-value their trade, and it offers a talking point as to the reliability of the vehicle they are looking at. When the customer comes on the lot, how often do they know more than your sales person about the vehicle they are looking at? I have seen customers list the trim and engine lineup for the entire Ford F-series line of trucks without taking the mandatory OEM training your sales staff goes through. If the customer is spending 11.5 hours online learning about ONE vehicle, you should spend the same effort making sure your website provides them relevant information. If you are not providing what your customer is searching for, they are going elsewhere for that information.
The product presentation is arguably the most important part of the sales process, and it is the one we ignore the most online.
Your Online Test Drive
The test drive is where the emotion happens. Car buying is an emotional experience! When the customer test drives a vehicle, they are imagining themselves driving to work, taking kids to school, pulling into Starbucks, etc. How the car feels, smells, sounds, shifts, drives, parks, locks, and honks are all part of this emotional process. Your sales process on the lot includes letting every customer test drive ANY vehicle they want. Can your customer do the same thing online?
The more you replicate the emotional buying process online, the higher chance you have to convert a shopper into a buyer.
Your Online Trade Evaluation
One of the biggest profit centers in your dealership is your used car department. Buying 70% of your used inventory at auction is not profitable or an effective use of your used car managers time. The perception of undervalued appraisals is money walking out your door. The silent walk-around and ranking the trade are vital steps towards increasing gross and fueling your used car retail operations, yet we do not replicate any of these processes online.
Your Online Negotiation
Negotiation of a vehicle price is part of our business whether we like it or not. It is one of the last forms of commodity negotiation save for the housing market (which is becoming more of a single price model due to the lending and appraisal market). When is the last time you bargained with the teenage grocery store bagger on the price of milk? Despite all the four squares, pencils, desking tools, and TrueCar, customers still enjoy negotiating on the price of their car, and expect to negotiate when they come on your lot. Make your website negotiation friendly and offer the customer ways to trust you MORE, not less.
Your Online Delivery
Owning a vehicle can be just as stressful and confusing as buying a vehicle. After a customer has spent over 4 hours buying a car, we spend another hour showing them the complex electronics and phone pairing steps they need to know about their car. We also expect them to remember everything we showed them, or hand them a manual written in four languages. One of the biggest reasons your CSI can drop when a customer purchases a vehicle is when they do not understand the electronics after 30 days of ownership. When the customer enjoys the delivery process, they are more likely to visit you in service and purchase their subsequent vehicles from you. What are you doing on your website to promote happy vehicle ownership?
Your sales process has been refined over 50 years. Unfortunately, your online process does not match the dedication and effort you place into making sure every potential opportunity chooses you to do business with. Car buying is still an extremely emotional and psychological experience and most dealers believe the internet has taken that away from them. I would argue that the internet can enhance and compliment that experience, thus making the car buying experience more enjoyable.
KPA Marketing Manager