Why Dealers Should View Almost Everyone as Possible EV Buyers

Despite their different preferences and priorities, someone seeking another ICE vehicle may consider switching to an EV when presented with the right option.

Eric Linder

October 6, 2023

4 Min Read
Dealer - EV buyer screenshot Getty
Education key to empowering staff to sell EVs.Getty Images

Selling electric vehicles as dozens of new models reach the market is starting to resemble the Wild West. Customers and dealers alike have many questions, and the rules – whether they are about incentives or customer behaviors – are largely unknown or are still changing.

Historically, dealers could use various sets of data to help find leads for new-vehicle sales or, taken together, predict what new-car buyers might want. But as EVs become mainstream, dealers must remember that customers stepping onto the lot may never have even considered an EV – but might after a test drive. That means dealers must be willing and able to educate customers at a time when some of their competitors are moving too slowly to embrace EVs or worse – are reluctant to even try.

Dealers need to recognize that the shift toward electrification is inevitable, and failing to embrace the change puts them at risk of losing sales opportunities to competitors. To avoid being left with lots of aging inventory, there are a handful of key factors to remember.

Stay Informed About Influential Factors

Because there is no established track record for new EV models, dealers must understand a wide range of factors that may persuade a customer to buy one.

Dealership sales staff must be able to talk about available incentives, as well as answer questions about range, charging and the installation of in-home charging systems. In addition, dealers located close to state lines need to understand differences in incentives offered by the state next door.

For example, Charge Up New Jersey provides up to $4,000 to purchase or lease eligible EVs. A dealer in New Jersey may know who qualifies for the program, but a potential customer from Pennsylvania or New York seeking to purchase an EV may not. This is one example of how incentives are multi-layered: While a financial incentive exists, there is also a complexity for dealers and consumers. To effectively communicate the selling points without losing the potential sale, dealers need to show they are an expert source of value to the customer regarding the understanding and application of each unique incentive.

When considering all matters influencing EV adoption, an informed dealership can better adapt its sales and marketing strategy to easily pivot between selling internal-combustion-engine vehicles and EVs. A little awareness goes a long way in planning longer-term strategies – but to ensure success, this must be paired with a staff empowered with the tools and knowledge to sell EVs.    

Educate Dealership Staff and Collaborate

Of course, persuading customers to buy EVs will be extremely difficult if the sales staff is reluctant to embrace them.

While a dealer can employ a dedicated EV sales expert to lead this push and handle EV sales, this method can prove costly and isn’t always an option for smaller stores. It also creates two separate classes of sales staff and can cause tension. Instead, dealers should make sure the entire existing sales team is motivated to sell EVs as much as ICE vehicles and has access to resources that allow them to effectively answer and address any consumer objections about the vehicles.

Working with an outside partner is one method that can help make this process easy for dealership teams. Dealers should seek a dedicated partner who brings knowledge from an outside perspective and provides tools salespeople can use to fully grasp the influx of their leads, including where they are coming from and what factors could influence potential customers to purchase an EV. 

Understand EV and ICE Customer Profiles

Dealers must develop a mindset that accounts for the needs of ICE and EV customers. Remember that despite their different preferences and priorities, someone seeking another ICE vehicle may consider switching to an EV when presented with the right option.

To test the waters with a potential buyer, dealership sales staff can use a two-model-offer sales method, which involves offering an EV model similar to the buyer's current ICE vehicle. For example, a Ford Explorer owner might think they just want another Explorer but may also be open to purchasing a similar electric model such as the Ford Mach-E when presented with details about both vehicles and available incentives.

Eric Linder Headshot - 2023.JPG

Eric Linder Headshot - 2023

By engaging in meaningful conversations with customers, dealerships also gather valuable insights that inform inventory decisions and improve the buying experience. Since relatively little data currently exists to determine who an EV buyer is before they set foot in the store, these personalized conversations are essential.  

Selling EVs and identifying potential customers require a fresh approach and a willingness to navigate uncharted territory. For many dealers, this may sound time-consuming and expensive – and it is. But those who successfully navigate the evolving landscape of EV sales will develop a new set of repeat customers and, along with it, a leadership position in an electrified automotive future.

Eric Linder (pictured, above left) is national vice president for dealer relations at automotiveMastermind.


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