That was my recent post on my Facebook wall and Twitter and, as I had hoped, it started some conversations. My strategy was inspired by Automotive News writer Donna Harris’ article All hands should be ready to handle internet leads. We need to have this conversation guys because our business model is outdated. Many respected financial websites including SmartMoney.com recommend buying a car online because it saves money. People just don’t walk into a dealership to buy a car anymore without an online education in their back pocket. That investigation is not always about the price either. It’s about dealerships’ online presence and reputation.
There were 3 main schools of thought in our conversation. Everyone’s position was based on extensive knowledge and past experience. I respect those positions; I’ve had those experiences. What I am trying to say though is that those positions are based on the past…the way we’ve been doing it for 50 years. I see those positions as illusions now, myths, and the sooner we debunk them as such, we’ll clear the way for better, more profitable sales relationships with the customer.
JD Power and Associates found that 75% of the public spend on average nearly 7 hours on the internet when making a new vehicle purchase. They found that consumers focused on three types of websites for information: Third party sites for referrals and recommendations, manufacturers’ sites for product information, and dealership sites to search for inventory (source: The Auto Channel News). Staying stuck in the myths will cost you sales.
Myth #1: “Yeah, but you’ll always have walk-in traffic”. Sure, but not the way we think of walk-in traffic, that’s an illusion. Walk-ins now have already been online, they’ve seen the inventory, they’ve seen your Social Media presence (or lack thereof), and they’ve seen your online reviews. If your sales staff isn’t up to speed on that stuff, if they aren’t all internet sales people, what are the chances the walk-in will walk out? What about the customers who didn’t walk in because they saw your reviews on Yelp? Monitoring and maintaining your online persona will make the first impression a good one and the ‘walk-in’ will have already started their relationship with you online. Every salesperson should have a chance to work the deal this way.
Myth #2: “I’m from Southern California and one could argue that it’s much different here than it is in say, Kansas City or Memphis. The demographics are different everywhere but one thing is certain: Generation Y now outnumbers Baby Boomers and 96% of them have joined a Social Network. Dealership sales people need to speak this language in order to close those deals. Couldn’t every dealership benefit from leads generated through new sources?
Myth 3: “As a life long salesperson, this thought really hurts” That’s because your thinking is still based in the old model. The new Dealership Sales Dept staff will be trained on and accustomed to the platforms where customers are. Those customers used to walk on the lot and get upped. Now you can up them online with Social networking tools. I have a client that has sold 12 cars through Facebook. He’s a 35-year old Sales Manager whose friends, family and network know he sells cars. I smell MORE closed sales, don’t you?
The dealership vehicle sales model is shifting and with that, so is the car salesperson’s job. To me, this means more opportunity for those that shift with it. What’s your opinion?