It is a common belief that customers want to get in and out of a dealership as quickly as possible.
Understanding and changing the reason for that is the first step to creating a successful automotive retailing culture.
Research indicates that prospects who want to make it fast find the dealership experience uncomfortable because the sale is not moving in a positive direction, the salesperson is not connecting with them or they are not being shown a vehicle that meets their needs.
An automotive retail culture that makes car buying comfortable and where sales professionals spend quality time with customers results in higher sales, higher gross margins and satisfied customers who make referrals.
First, change the vernacular. It affects attitudes and perceptions.
Train professionals to stop regarding prospects as “ups” — a direction, not even a human being. Train them to think beyond “customers” who make a single purchase and leave. Train them to think of prospects as clients, guests with whom they should foster a long-term relationship.
Re-characterize their jobs as selection specialists instead of sales people.
This perception must be supported by a structured and defined process designed to help customers select three things:
- The dealership. Make customers glad they came and eager to purchase from you now and again.
- The car. Guide customers, help them build an emotional tie to the car that meets their needs, wants and desires. Only then talk price.
- The selection specialist. He or she spends quality time with the customer, gives them the red-carpet treatment, connects, listens, learns and leads the sale in an inviting and comfortable manner, avoiding confrontation at all costs.
Training selection specialists in a customer-centric culture to use this type of sales process results in a scenario such as this:
- The greeter welcomes the guest saying, “Welcome to APB Motors. My name is Susan.” Then she collects the guest's name and introduces the guest to a selection specialist. This becomes the start of the monitoring process for management to support the selection specialist.
- The selection specialist says, “I'm glad you are here. My job is to help you select a car and get you a price.”
- The selection specialist communicates with the customer (interviews them in a manner of speaking) listens and learns about needs, wants and desires.
- The selection specialist efficiently identifies a vehicle model that fits those needs. Throughout the demonstration drive, the selection specialist guides the guests as they experience the features that will satisfy wants and desires and build an emotional bond with the car.
- Returning from the demo drive, they visit the service department where the guest receives a thank-you gift. After picking a vehicle, they move to the showroom to close the deal.
- Price is the last point of discussion, raised only after the guest feels at home and has built an emotional bond with the car, dealership and the selection specialist. This process results in more sales, higher grosses and happier clients.
Ideally, technology supports this. But the technology must mirror the sales process.
With mounting external pressures, automotive retailers must refine their internal systems to drive sales and profits, train personnel and use technology that supports the process.
Such efforts develop ongoing relationships with guests and turn them into lasting clients.
Richard F. Libin is president of Automotive Profit Builders which provides management consulting and training for dealership sales, service and technology. He's at [email protected] or 508-626-9200.