A fundamental challenge in convincing dealers to pursue an aggressive Internet strategy is addressing the old perception that Internet deals are low-gross or no-gross deals.
Some of this belief is because early on dealers were trained by the manufacturer and third-party lead providers to provide aggressive pricing if you hope to sell cars online.
To some dealers this meant at or below invoice deals on some of their best merchandise. That put a bad taste in their mouths for the Internet.
Unfortunately, the training events where this early incorrect information was communicated may have been the last ones attended by many dealers or their managers. So, that lasting perception in some dealers' minds is a misperception of today's Internet marketplace.
Today nearly every customer uses the Internet to do car-buying research. An increasing number of people use it to submit requests for quotes.
This broader demographic means we are working with customers who still have low price as an objective, but more of the online requests are focused on ease and convenience.
Shopping online is a time saver, easier than calling or visiting dealerships. When consumers are ready or brave enough to submit requests for quotes or other information, they are increasingly focused on the experience more than the price.
Price is still an important criterion. But when the customer is handled in a professional manner it becomes less critical compared with the level of service they receive.
Because of the changing marketplace, leading Internet dealers have adopted an “experience-focused process” that motivates online prospects to consider their dealerships based on the level of service instead of the price.
This new focus concentrates the effort on selling the appointment with the early telephone and email interaction and less on offering an immediate price to persuade the prospect to visit the dealership.
By concentrating on the appointment, many dealers are bringing in higher volumes of prospects who haven't even received a price prior to the visit. Dealers do this by strict utilization of scripting and effective e-mail templates. This is why call centers and business development centers are so effective in bringing in showroom visitors.
For the price-aggressive customers that are outside the handling skills of the call center personnel or Internet specialist, the typical strategy is an escalation process that gets the manager talking to those customers.
This allows an experienced person to work with the customer and address the price, trade or financing concern while still focusing the outcome of the call on the setting an appointment.
In working with dealers across the country that utilize an effective Internet sales process, it turns out there are a few key methods to achieving a gross near or equal to offline.
- An auto response with a description of your Internet sales process
- A quick phone call to review the request, discuss options and set an appointment. Explain your process and how visiting the dealership will allow them to get test drives, trade appraisals and price and financing details
- Escalate the price, trade and financing aggressive customers to a manager if the call specialist is unable to address the issue and still gain an appointment
- Focus on selling the appointment. Save vehicle selling for the showroom
By following the advice of leading dealers and focusing on creating an in-dealership experience worth bragging about, you will bring Internet visitors to your showroom.
Once they are in the showroom your normal selling process will allow you to make a good gross and gain a satisfied customer.
David Kain is president of KainAutomotive.com. He is at 866-546-3428 and [email protected]