In the past year or so, the term automotive social selling has been passed back and forth in the automotive news media, social media and at a conference or two and I’d like to clear up some misinformation.
Way back in 2012-2013, the original term “social selling” appeared on my radar through knowing Koka Sexton via LinkedIn. He spoke about how B2B (business to business) salespeople could use social media to leverage their connections to gather insights and build relationships. He said that the art of social selling speeds up many sales processes, while also improving relationships.
I saw this and immediately thought about how it would work in the car business. Having been a car salesperson myself, and worked every job in a dealership accept technician, I could see how a team of salespeople using social media to sell cars would be a huge value for each salesperson and of course, benefit the store financially.
But I also knew that the automotive social selling process would have to become part of the dealership’s sales process and include operational changes for it to work. The industry would need a training curriculum and support from dealers and their manufacturers. A monumental task.
Ten years later, automotive social selling
Through the years, I’ve tried various approaches to helping dealers adopt social media and during that time many car salespeople have recognized the value of using social media to build a network and generate their own leads. I’ve been banging the drum but for the most part, it’s gone unheard.
Today, we have an opportunity as an industry to evolve and support our employees in the creation of enchanting content that gets shared on social media. With many customers preferring to buy their car digitally in some fashion, the time is ripe for automotive social selling.
What is automotive social selling?
First let me tell you what it’s not.
- It’s not done by the organization, it’s done by the employees.
- It has nothing to do with running ads.
- It’s not “lead generation” although leads will be an outcome.
- It’s not easy.
- It’s not fast, it takes time, attention and skill.
- It’s not for everybody.
Automotive social selling is a sales technique using social media that allows car salespeople to laser-target their prospecting and establish rapport through their existing connections so they can sell more cars.
Automotive digital retailing has transformed how car dealers sell vehicles. It’s the merging of online tools with traditional in-person customer service to better serve today’s consumer.
Communicating with customers and conducting business online is here to stay, which means that salespeople need to navigate the online world as well as they do over the phone or in-person. For salespeople who want to up their game, Automotive Social Selling is the next step.
A basic outline of automotive social selling
There are thousands of nuances to a social selling strategy and it would be futile to try and list them here. That said, here is a basic outline of the steps a car salesperson could take, and a few tactics that I know have been effective.
- Create your social profiles. To do this, pick the platform where your customers spend time and you feel most comfortable (or the least terrified). Be sure to complete your profile with a professional photo, a page header and a well-written Bio.
- Map out the type of content you want to provide your followers/connections. This should be a mix of educational car buying tips, illustrations of how you deliver a uniquely amazing customer experience, and entertaining content that aligns with your own professional brand.
- Join online groups where you can learn and share your expertise with others to become the “likable expert.”
- Showcase vehicles on your profile and share in Facebook Marketplace.
- Engage as much as possible with your followers/connections: like, comment, share and monitor where you can provide value. Providing value is what attracts car buyers, even if they’re not in the market.
- Listen for opportunities to build rapport.
- Create an Introduction Video to use in your lead responses, Facebook Messenger, or anywhere a customer asks you a question and displays buying intent.
- When appropriate, take the conversation to the next step. This could be a private message, text, phone call or, of course, an appointment.
The ultimate goal of automotive social selling is to obtain the appointment.
I know this sounds simple and so many people are missing this point.
Do whatever you can to avoid trying to “out-social” other people.
Keep your eye on the ball, build rapport and work towards the next natural step in the sale.
- Pay close attention to who your local connections are because they will be your customers. Not someone halfway across the nation who will likely never buy from you.
- It’s never good to begin selling the minute you connect with someone (just like in real life!). It’s also a shame to not move the conversation forward to a sale, which is something I see happening too.
The winners are the salespeople who can successfully accomplish a mid-range between both these extremes. Often, if you’re doing things right, buyers will approach you because they know you’re trustworthy and an expert who can help them.
Sales is about harnessing the power of human-to-human interactions, online or offline. People are more likely to buy from people they know, like and trust. But liking and trusting someone is harder if you don’t build a connection. Too many salespeople are sabotaging their opportunities for success from the very start, because they’re not practicing this key approach to social media.
Building digital rapport through social media.
The importance of building rapport is that it establishes trust between you and your connections. Your actions create an environment where the customer knows you’re listening.
When you build rapport and foster trust, your actions create safety and loyalty because the prospect feels heard.
Providing value in every interaction deepens the level of communication and this is the essence of automotive social selling. Your connections will be more revealing and actually let you know what they really want, allowing you to answer questions and move the sale forward.
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