As the new year begins, the new norms inherent in conducting business during the COVID-19 pandemic continue. The adjustments to these new norms affect everyone personally and professionally, which has in some ways created an opportunity to connect at a more authentic level than ever before.
Consider this: Every Zoom call brings you into someone else’s private space where there might be a dog barking or kid waddling by in the background. Everyone is casually dressed, more laid back, and no matter who is in the meeting, everyone shares the common denominator of managing life through a pandemic.
But life must go on, deals must still be made, and people must still find ways of connecting through business or pleasure. In automotive retail, it’s been a bit of a perfect storm. Consumers dove head-first into buying or leasing a vehicle as ride sharing and public transport stalled, sending car sales projections through the roof and creating a steady surge of demand for inventory.
But the sales and research process – often done on the showroom floor and sealed with a handshake and eye contact – was forced to transition almost wholly online. Everyone has had to adapt to learning and trusting new technologies and processes.
Much of what makes a dealership stand out is the personality of the staff, experience in the store and trust in the process. When the stage changes from a showroom to a screen, how do auto retail professionals build and nurture that consumer connection?
All it takes is a little more creativity, dedication and a “back to basics” mentality. Sales and F&I professionals should focus on what matters most – establishing confidence and loyalty through a personal touch. Here are some tips:
Take time to make a meaningful first impression.
Create a personalized video introduction for customers letting them see who you are, get to know you and visualize the person who will be on the phone or email. A 30- or 60-second video biography of themselves can be attached to an initial email or text with a customer.
Make the information easy to access and understand.
Recognize that every customer likes to receive information a bit differently, so be prepared with digital and hard copies of desk deals, financing, F&I menus, legal notices and service menus to easily share in the preferred format. Get used to a blend of old school and new school communication methods.
Let’s be real: There will always be issues and concerns to sort out. Don’t hide behind email or texts when things escalate. Get back to the basics of connecting through a personal touch and try to get face-to-face via screen time. It helps reset and ground the situation and will give you a chance for your skills in service and knowledge to shine through.
Speaking of skills and knowledge…
Refresh your talk tracks and techniques to address current customers’ concerns and needs. Understand that buying decisions are greatly impacted by everything from job stability and politics to safety and economic outlook. Be aware and knowledgeable of all the opportunities your customer can take advantage of, from the latest finance rates, OEM deals, service loyalty programs, insurance options, etc. And …
Everyone is at risk of burnout or getting stale. Keep your and your team’s skills sharp and spirits motivated with regular professional development and compliance training. The investment in nurturing the careers of yourself and your team will carry over into positive relationships that exude confidence with existing and future car buyers.
Gerry Gould (above) is lead trainer for Product Prep, which provides online training and certifications for auto retail sales and F&I professionals to keep their skills current and compliant.