Surprisingly, many retail business owners still don’t see a lead from someone online as a “real customer.” If you have a bricks-and-mortar store, there’s a tendency to depend on what’s right in your face when it comes to prospects. You open, people come in, they buy.
I recently had an interesting exchange through the comments on one of my blog posts about what constitutes a “real customer.” In automotive retail, prospects are referred to as “Ups”. The commenter was trying to persuade me that online Ups are not as valid as “real Ups” (people that drive by and stop in). I passionately disagree.
The commenter wrote, “I visit a LOT of dealerships. In most it is difficult to get a real UP waited on because the Gen Y sales staff is busy keeping up with social meeting, texting with both friends and customers, and staying glued to gadgets they think are their salvation.”
Respectfully, there is absolutely no difference between a Gen Y salesperson using their technology and a Baby Boomer salesperson using their preferred technology to connect with customers and friends (ie: networking). So a “real UP” is someone that walks on the lot? Hmmm, I believe a real UP is anyone who the salesperson communicates with about a purchase.
Consumers have changed the way they choose their cars and dealers must adapt. The same goes for most every bricks-and-mortar retail business out there. Radio Shack is closing, Loehmann’s closed, the list goes on for those that didn’t adapt. BMW’s media planning agency Vizeum researched the consumer decision-making process and found that it’s very different from even five years ago. It’s become more complex and a lot shorter.
Traditionally, a car purchase journey begins with a trigger, such as a new addition to the family or a promotion. Those triggers still exist, but customers today head online rather than to a dealer. Part of that process is asking opinions of their friends and family using social media, then checking out online reviews from consumers like them.
People used to go into dealerships a couple of times before making their choice. Now they’re doing all their research online and they’re going into the dealership with a clear picture of what they want. That’s a HUGE challenge for dealers: to tap into that changed consumer decision making process.
OEMs and dealers are not providing the expected dialogue ability: the current approach isn’t matching the emerging customers’ needs. This is an emerging issue and one that I fear may be the death of auto retail as we know it. How can you prevail?
You may like the phone or in person to communicate with prospects and customers. Others like email. More and more, consumers prefer social media. It’s a matter of your own mindset and what you’re comfortable with, however, it’s the same for consumers.
It’s incredibly short sighted to think that everyone connects in the same way especially if your job is to sell stuff. We must take into consideration how the prospect prefers to connect because that’s where the sale happens. Here are 5 social selling tips to prevail in this transitional time for all retail businesses:
1. Know your prospect’s behavior, inside and out.
The tendency for dealers (and most all other businesses) is to generalize about who your customer is. We all want to believe that “everyone” is our customer but that’s simply not true. The more you identify the behaviors of your ideal customers, the better a marketer you’ll be.
2. Be where your customers are.
70% of customers would appreciate getting advice at a location of their choice. Meet your prospects where they are and lead them down the sales funnel. Whether it’s digitally or in real life, use good ol’ fashioned conversations to connect with them wherever they are in the research/buying process.
3. Instead of interrupting what people are interested in, BE what people are interested in.
Create content that engages at each consideration stage of the buying process. Serve content that answers their questions and converts them into customers.
4. Establish a strong program for Social Selling.
Superior networking skills have never been more valuable. Today, social media makes it easier to connect and network with those people most likely to refer you and/or buy from you. Turn your salesforce into networking superstars. Training for social selling is certainly an option. To be ahead of the game, implement an internal process for content creation and publication. This will acclimate your salespeople to the medium and provide evidence of how social selling can make a difference in their productivity (ie: sales).
5. Make it difficult NOT to convert.
One important component of social selling is to attract the lead and escort them down the sales funnel (digitally or not) with optimal conversations. Sales don’t happen without these conversations. Ensure your salespeople are adept at asking questions, listening and responding in kind so that your prospects can come to the purchase decision with as much ease as possible.
If you’re running social ads, make sure you have a well-designed landing page to welcome people when they click. Converting leads into sales is no easy task so increase your chances of conversion by having the right offer and the right call-to-action.
Social selling is a hybrid of networking, marketing, PR, with a bit of advertising thrown in. It’s selling through social media to close more leads. You may still be a bricks-and-mortar store but answer me this: If your customer is online and your inventory is online, then why aren’t your salespeople online?