The average vehicle transaction today takes nearly three hours. It often includes multiple visits. Along the way, many sales are lost as customers postpone decisions, run out of time or shop around.
Unfortunately, most dealerships using traditional software and sales solutions lose not only a sale then and there, but often fail to gather the vital customer information that will enable them to follow-up and eventually close the deal.
Factor in advertising costs and time spent by the sales teams, and it becomes clear: Time is money for dealers.
To fix the problem requires automotive retailers to significantly shift their thinking about software solutions designed to improve and integrate sales and finance processes.
Typically, dealers embrace this type of technology to improve the sales process from the dealer's perspective. But the most effective new interactive sales-force automation technology emphasizes improving the buying process from the customer's perspective.
Traditional software solutions have evolved from deal-structuring, F&I and other dealer-centric needs towards today's focus on helping sales people track information and contacts, and update databases.
While excellent concepts, these run on disparate systems requiring time-intensive data entry to be repeated at numerous stages. This creates potential gaps or errors.
Today's “best-of-breed” interactive sales-force automation and CRM solutions streamline the F&I process by integrating every function in the desking and deal structuring process, from inventory and credit checks to lease/purchase options.
Using these solutions, dealers can produce a proposal and complete deals in half the time. They ultimately close more deals knowing they've accessed the most precise inventory, trade-in, and financing information while building customer data that enable effective sales follow-up regardless of the first meeting's outcome.
By automating a dealership's efforts and focusing on the buying process from a customer viewpoint, dealers can more efficiently forecast, track and fulfill orders, manage sales cycles and communicate with sales representatives.
It reduces administrative work, increases sales team productivity and enhances the customer's buying experience
Interactive sales-force automation solutions start with one simple premise: the most important part of the database isn't the base; it's the quality of the customer data.
A solution must first reflect the dealer's individual business style and processes. It must then include a “meet-and-greet” system to collect information, a financing database, a deal structuring capability, a link to inventory management, integration with F&I, accurate trade-in valuation and reporting capabilities.
It must be integrated, simple to implement and easy to manage.
The “meet and greet” data collection component can include a kiosk that enables sales personnel to instantaneously and accurately capture every walk-in lead with a swipe of a driver's license and the use of touch-screen technology.
Once entered, data becomes part of the permanent work flow. It can be quickly accessed by any department touching the transaction — from the sales desk to the F&I team — with no further data entry. In the process, data on trade-ins, cash down, and the type of vehicle a customer desires is collected.
The system checks inventory and identifies cars available for test drives. While the customer is on the test drive, the automated system initiates the deal structuring process by automatically:
- Providing trade-value data through Blue Book, NADA, Black Book, and auctions
- Creating and sending an up card to the desk
- Performing credit checks
- Researching financing options
- Developing lease/purchase options
Just as quickly, a quote is returned and submitted to F&I, and the salesperson can start closing the deal.
Focusing on the buying process from the customer's perspective speeds transactions as well as creates more profitable deals, more sales and more “customers for life.”
Steve Hamburger is marketing director for Market Scan Information Systems.