Automotive social selling is a sales technique that allows salespeople to laser-target their prospecting and establish rapport through existing connections in order to develop leads and sales through social media.
Automotive digital retailing is transforming how car dealers sell vehicles. The merging of online tools, including social media, with traditional in-person customer experience provides the transparency that today’s car buyer demands.
But managing a team who uses social media in their sales process has some big challenges. Even the retailers who want to move in that direction have difficulty “leading from behind.” They need more help than they realize to make it work well and coordinate team efforts as part of a total customer relationship and communications strategy.
Social selling is the next frontier
It’s difficult for most sales directors and managers to introduce social selling into their sales operations process, due in part to the varying stages of social media aptitude within a sales team. Sales managers themselves are often new to social selling and some flat-out deny its value.
In order to turn a sales team into social selling champions, specific techniques are introduced which compliment the sales process without disrupting the overall flow of sales production.
There’s a large contingency of sales directors, managers and salespeople out there right now who are completely satisfied with the status quo. The current market conditions – pandemic related inventory shortages mean higher prices – have been good for dealers.
But in this environment, salespeople are at risk of complacency. And those of us who have managed a sales department know complacency is already baked in to a certain extent.
It’s one thing to be selling cars in the current not-normal environment where having inventory is the only thing that matters. It’s quite another to sell cars in the more realistic survival-of-the-fittest ecosystem that is coming sooner rather than later.
Like my good friend and “The First Pencil” podcast partner, Mike theCarGuy reminds us, “Fix your roof while the sun is shining.”
Building social selling techniques into your sales process now will payoff huge when the market tightens and times get tougher.
Lots of opportunity for automotive social selling
In my years managing stores (and salespeople) there were always those employees who would be perfectly fine eking out a month of barely-sufficient income to tide them over to the next month, when it all began again. They prefer the status quo and hang onto it like a bad relationship.
However, there’s a smaller, more proficient group of sales leaders I see who make it their mission to challenge the status quo in order to succeed and shine. These are the superstars who consistently look for better ways to sell – better ways to attract customers. They’re interested in using technology to become influencers in their market and leverage it to improve their sales.
Consider this scenario…
In a large car dealership sales department, a sales manager sees an opportunity to increase sales by leveraging the local hispanic market. Hispanics, especially here in Southern California, are a large portion of the population and many dealerships simply ignore them in their marketing.
He decides to test the opportunity with some social media content ideas but because he doesn’t speak Spanish, the sales manager offers the potential business to one of his Spanish-speaking salespeople.
He asks the salesperson to translate the content into “conversational” Spanish to reach people via social media who they’ve not been able to reach before. They come up with a video series that has the potential to be advantageous for the salesperson, if he takes the actions needed to engage those online customers.
Use automotive social selling to build rapport
71% of Hispanics are more likely to think favorably about a brand or purchase products if that brand includes elements of their culture. Knowing where they come from, supporting their community, and showing interest in what matters to them most are the first steps to proactive engagement with your Hispanic audience.
This salesperson lives his culture and knows that buying a new car is reason for celebration. He begins recognizing his customers’ achievements in buying their new cars with videos and photos on his social media. His bonding with them over these shared experiences strengthens his relationship with them, their entire family and the Latino community as a whole.
Automotive social selling comes with challenges
I’ve witnessed a lot of push-back to using social media as a selling tool over the last 10 years. Even with all the data saying that 79% of salespeople who use social media as a selling tool outperform those who don’t.
Management doesn’t buy in, salespeople don’t have the skills or training, but those special salespeople that are social selling effectively will tell you it’s well worth the time and effort.
FACT: the online platforms aren’t getting any less crowded. Social selling champs need ways to connect with customers on a meaningful level or they will get drowned out amid all the noise.
There is a war for attention right now and sitting on your hands is a losing sales tactic.
The only way to stand out on social media today is to rise above all the noise. But how do you do that?
By making sure your unique voice is heard amongst the decibels of everyone else.
Would you like to learn how to market yourself on social media? Get my FREE Guide: 20 Automotive Social Selling Techniques for More Leads and Sales
5 Secrets to Turn a Sales Team Into Automotive Social Selling Champions
1. Identify and encourage your self-made influencers
Do the salespeople on your team simply go through the motions or are they being proactive about developing sales relationships online? Today’s effective sales managers identify and leverage those on their team who embed their unique personality into the consumer’s shopping process.
In case you didn’t know, a social media influencer is a person who has the power to affect another person’s buying decision based on their online presence and their interactions with their followers. They have this effect on people because of their knowledge, life skills, or experience in a particular niche such as car sales.
Ways to spot self-made influencers on your team:
- They have complete social profiles, including a professionally written bio.
- They regularly engage and are friendly with their followers.
- They post information-packed social media updates to stay connected with customers and prospects.
- They create post-sale video testimonials with customers.
- They find a way to greet clients each time they’re in for service.
- They routinely get customers visiting the store who already know them from social channels and ask for them specifically.
- They are mentioned in 4-5 star reviews.
- They know how to build rapport with leads and move the sale forward.
Self-made influencers view themselves as marketers of their personal brand. Communicating their unique value (and the organization’s unique value) provides that little extra that helps them stand out.
Self-made influencers know that fostering connections and engaging prospects during each stage of the car buying cycle makes them influential when it’s time to buy.
2. Reward tenacity and accomplishments
Whether online or offline, networking is crucial to sales. Networking is the nucleus of automotive social selling.
Savvy sales managers hire social salespeople who bring a network with them. Successful networking means wherever you go, you have a trusted referral network to fall back on and managers should reward those on their team who excel.
Demonstrating expertise is a great way to stand out online (just ask Tim Bartz #FordVideoGuy). It’s one thing to connect with a prospect or customer on social media. It’s another to keep them connected. The key is solid evidence that you’re a trusted resource.
Sales managers can offer a monthly reward for the best post-sale testimonial video or best visual evidence of great customer experience. Publishing this type of content on social networks strengthens credibility and builds rapport.
3. Evaluate online influence
I recently had a friend purchase a vehicle based on the online reputation of the salesperson. More specifically, the salesperson had great reviews on Yelp and Google and those reviews were the deciding factor for my friend’s purchase.
In order to evaluate your team members’ influence, start by having each salesperson Google themselves. This is the fastest way to see what’s being said about them online. Positive or negative, you and your team need to see what your consumers are seeing.
If very little comes up in the search, that’s a prime opportunity for improvement. No one should be a ghost online these days because customers expect to see evidence of successful salespeople.
The most common way that salespeople are found online is through social channels and online reviews. If you haven’t already, create and implement an internal process to capture your happy, loyal customers’ opinions. Convey the importance of these reviews, how they can influence car buyers’ choices and that a mention of their name could make the difference in winning the sale or not.
Recognize each team member when they’re mentioned positively in a review. You can also recognize those that are mentioned negatively as a learning tool in your training process.
4. Implement a policy for employee use of social media
If there’s one constant in social media, it is change. All this change means retailers should regularly assess and realign their policy around employee social media use. There is still a lot of angst and fear around social media from management and team members and when everyone is clear on company policy, it can infuse peace of mind.
Do you have an employee social media policy in place for your company?
- If so, how often do you review it?
- If you haven’t reviewed your social media policy in over 6 months, now is a good time to review it.
COVID-19 changed the way consumers want to buy cars and how dealerships deliver them. Employees are online more than ever so it’s crucial to make sure what’s being promised is correct (legal). A social media policy provides guardrails and important protocols for employees and helps them perform better.
It’s safe to say that your digital reputation is more at risk now that we’ve adopted more digital retail protocols. If you don’t have an employee social media policy, now would be an excellent time to implement one.
5. Check in at Sales Meetings
In every sales meeting, you discuss where sales are and where you need to go with your team to turn out a great month. Your success as a sales manager depends greatly on your ability to motivate the team to meet their goals.
Following up with each salesperson on their social selling results during sales meetings keeps it top of mind for your team.
- Anyone mentioned in 4 or 5 star reviews
- Outstanding content that got a lot of attention (hopefully for the right reasons)
- Social media growth and noteworthy connections
- Recognize trainings or presentations attended (online and offline)
- Prospects in the pipeline
- Leads that go from social to showroom (appointment setting)
- Sales that came from social selling efforts
Checking in each week via the sales meeting is an opportunity to “gamify” your goals. Several of our clients have instituted spiff programs for best testimonials and mentions in 4/5 star online reviews.
Bonus Tip: Provide automotive social selling training for your team
I recently did an informal survey of dealership salespeople and training directors. The majority of respondents said social media is their most desired skill to learn in this increasingly online/digital retail environment.
I’ve spent most of this year creating an online automotive social selling course called: Social Media for Car Sales Masterclass. If you’d like to be part of my “pilot” – you’ll get access to the course at a substantial discount in exchange for feedback – click HERE to let me know you’re in and I’ll give you all the details!
Consumers do business with the salesperson who can provide solid evidence that other customers like them and trust them. Use these 5 secrets to turn a sales team into automotive social selling champions so that once in the pipeline, your prospects know they’ve made the right choice.