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The “7 Habits” of a Strong Internet Sales Process
Why our Internet Sales Process matters more now than it ever has, and the seven key points we must execute to be successful.
By: Henry Staniecki
Advanced customer-attracting tactics like SEO and Social Media Marketing are a big focus in the retail automotive industry right now. A great many tools are being developed by every vendor imaginable to take advantage of the latest marketing verticals, either to plug into their existing platforms and suites, or as stand-alone applications from dotcoms who claim to be “experts” in a single field of exposure.
While these applications are very successful at moving the marketing bar forward, and the products themselves are sold aggressively, they will all have their pros and cons once they meet your market and dealership.
However, despite having all of this glitz and wizardry around us, as a business, every dealership must remember its roots. It is crucial for the people that will drive any successes or failures in the store to be bought in and involved with understanding why each new vertical is important to business growth and survival. Yes, virtually everyone at the dealership needs to be involved and has a role to play.
Remember that any house, even your dealership, must be built from a strong foundation. The same can be said for the dealership’s marketing strategy. As the arsenal of tools grows and the complexities increase, we could also be on our way to becoming more wasteful of funds, time and resources if our business processes are not already nailed down.
We should not be investing more marketing dollars unless the store’s customer funnel is proving to convert prospects into deals.
In this two-part blog series are seven major things every Internet sales process should accomplish to become effective. By executing these points consistently and with an emphasis on customer service and the dealership’s brand identity, we will maximize our close rates on internet leads. (Read Part 1 of this article here)
4. Sell the Advantages of your Brand Identity
Does your entire sales organization know and understand your dealership’s Value Proposition, Mission Statement, or Elevator Pitch? Do your staffers even know what they are?
The brand of vehicle your building is franchised to sell is one thing, but more important is the formula your dealership has put together to provide the best customer service around. Your employees should know exactly why customers buy at your store, and be drilled on being able to select the point(s) that may apply to a specific customer question or hot button.
All too often, the sales force or call center agents don’t understand the importance of being able to briefly present one or more of your value points. They end up sounding like a long-winded commercial and very unconvincing. Worse still, if the employee doesn’t believe it, they’re not motivated to talk about it.
What may help re-boot this piece of your store culture is to start drilling on the Elevator Pitch. Four to five sentences in less than thirty seconds about what you do. That’s all you get to make it engaging and convince the customer to want a little more. Try it – write down a few elevator pitch ideas from your sales force and share them with us.
5. Phone Calls to Request Appointments
An Internet purchase request is NOT an excuse to only use e-mail. Designing web forms and contact pages as simply as adding a tiny red asterisk (*) next to the Phone Number has power and authority. You will not work with a client without that secondary form of communication. Which, in reality, is still your most powerful selling tool prior to the customer actually walking in.
If the customer provided a phone number you have permission to use it. Your first voice contact should confirm they received the auto response or a first personal e-mail. The call should be to start a conversation. Break the ice and get to know the customer’s needs and main question behind the purchase request. Make deposits into the relationship account by putting a kind voice behind the digital experience.
The one piece of your product and brand identity another store can’t duplicate is your relationship with the customer, so be sure the relationship you create is strong. Use a phone script or call guide to drive for the appointment; and remember to track your shows.
6. Long-term follow up is a Necessity, not an Afterthought
I believe we could significantly increase our closing rates if we could extend our follow up and engagement process to mirror the action plans laid out with our Internet Lead Process Sheets. By closing on the short-term buyers, we are winning at collecting the lowest hanging fruit on the tree, but many customers are starting their shopping plans well before there is an immediate need to replace their current vehicle or to acquire a vehicle.
The dealership can’t afford to invest time and effort into a customer, only to have them forget about you when the time to buy comes and they jump on the next dealership that comes to mind, maybe even one that has done no prospecting of that lead. They just happened to be there when you weren’t.
Long term follow up needs to be more than automated e-mails or an occasional dealership newsletter. Regular phone calls need to be part of the mix. And our reps working the phones have to understand the need for more patience when reaching out to the long-tail buyers. You can’t write leads off at 14 or 30 days anymore. With average days to purchase research climbing towards 72 days, short-sightedness is costing you deals and gross profit.
If our people are trained properly we are more likely to build and maintain relationships by phone than we are by e-mail. Let’s keep training our sales and BDC staff and use this to our advantage.
(From J .D .Power and Associates 2007 New Auto Shopper Study)
7. Differentiated “customer friendly” sales process
After we have done all this work to get the Internet Customer to the dealership, don’t blow it with a bad “in person” sales process. Continue to promote transparency, answer questions, be a resource and overcome objections. Blend the customer’s Internet relationship (with your Internet/call center team) with a smooth transition to the showroom and management. If your Internet sales staff also works the car deal on the floor, the transition is a bit easier.
Incorporate tools like IntellaCar and mobile shopping sites (on salespeople’s phones or tablets) to enhance the shopping experience and help to grow the customer’s confidence in your selling process. After all, sharing data, pictures, inventory and VIDEOS from reputable sites or tools built by a software provider can’t be faked. That makes you more credible, and you can counter the tech-savvy buyers who did all their shopping online. Not to mention, a smart phone or iPad web browser isn’t tied to the salesperson’s desk inside the building. You can share without making the customer feel uncomfortable about leaving the lot.
You should also demonstrate your brand identity with mobile devices. Highlight the investment your store made in providing a quick and easy way to schedule a service visit or view their financial services account online. Leverage your brand’s ownership tools with your own web and mobile site features to show the customer your long term commitment to their satisfaction. Share how convenient your services are for a customer with these devices.
And then, after all that – get happy customer testimonials and have them “Like” your store on social media like Facebook or Twitter, or just do a “Check In”.
If there is something I would emphasize it’s consistency. Let’s start measuring every step of our process and aiming towards a common and reproducible goal. We cannot manage results but we can manage the activities that get the results. Where does your store excel and where does it fall short? It is time to make a difference now.
Do you want to learn more about forming a fully blended media marketing strategy? Send your marketing manager to Don Graff Automotive’s Digital Marketing and Technology Seminar on August 21, from 1:00-5:00 PM at DeVry University’s Paramus Center campus. More information and a registration form can be found here. Admission is $249 per person.
Henry Staniecki brings over two decades of administrative and senior level retail automotive sales management experience to his role as National Sales and Training Director at Don Graff Automotive Consulting. He knows the ever changing landscape of digital marketing and has guided dealer groups of all sizes in the transformation of their business process to make a measurable and significant impact on their bottom line. Contact Henry Staniecki or any member of the Don Graff Automotive team at 866-980-0202 or on the web at http://tinyURL.com/TryDGA/
With contributions and editing by the Don Graff Automotive team