We talk a lot about how the new normal is well informed shoppers who have "self-served" themselves far into the decision process. They have done enough online research to narrow their selection and their short list may only have 1-2 vehicles of interest. This is great - if you are on the short list! If you are on the short list don’t blow it by shortcutting what they need next.
We had a request from a freelance writer who was putting an article together for an auto industry publication. The writer sent a list of 13 or so questions; one of which had us chuckling around the water cooler. It was a simple question with not so simple an answer:
"With all the online research a potential customer can now do on their own now, how do you see this changing the way dealerships sell cars to customers?"
Don't believe everything you read. Just because the average customer now spends 11.5 hours of online research some bloggers and "industry experts" claim that the role of the salesperson is diminished or even unnecessary. Don't you believe it! It's true that buyers today have more easy access information than ever before. Does that mean they know it all and understand it all when they make a vehicle selection? Are they 100% confident that their selection is the very best match to their needs?
A common measure used in financial statement analysis is advertising per new vehicle retailed. Slightly more difficult to get is the advertising per opportunity which is the advertising investment divided by the traffic count. Sales managers sometimes used this figure negatively to badger salespeople into taking each opportunity seriously. The abusive sales manager rants: "it costs me $257 everytime I bring a prospect in and you blow it!"
A recurring theme we have seen all year long is the speed of change in buyer behavior. Almost everyone now does their research online and spends upwards of 11 hours on the activity. Customers visit fewer dealerships in person than ever - their short list is very short! The high quality shopping tools available online mean that a shopper can research, match vehicle features to their needs, review prices, and obtain finance options.
We occasionally run training programs to bring receptionists into the sales process. We usually have a class that has 80-90% of attendees with no idea of how sales works or how the receptionist role can positively impact sales results.
It's no wonder. New receptionists get technical training on how the phone system works but not so much on how their role fits with the sales department. Then management, administration, accounting, and the service department stack more and more little clerical jobs on the receptionist - well because they're just sitting there anyway.
Many dealerships have an unofficial in-house training program designed to pass along the vast experience and knowledge of the veteran salespeople to the new recruits. This highly effective mentoring program is called “the huddle.” Here, unselfish veterans pass along the keys to success – sales strategies and work habits that have made them solid 6-8 units per month producers, year in and year out for decades. The best part for the dealership is that this training is absolutely free!
So we've talked about how the current reality of the highly informed internet shopper has required salespeople to change their daily work plan.
If the customer has done hours of research online before contacting us, when they do we need to be prepared. They saw our car on line, it fits their needs, they know the equipment and pricing. They are calling in to see if it’s still available. More than ever we have to be prepared for our day:
We have been talking a lot lately about this highly researched shopper - that a typical prospect is now spending 11+ hours of online research before we ever see or hear from them. If they have done a lot of research and landed at your place we need to respect that hard work that they have already done - not disregard it and try to force them into our traditional buying process. We see shoppers eliminate the vehicles/ brands/ dealerships they are not interested in before they contact anyone. This is good for you when they do initiate contact but you have to be better prepared because:
We have talked about how our typical shopper is now spending 11+ hours of online research before we ever see or hear from them. If they have done a lot of research and landed at your place we need to respect that hard work that they have already done - not disregard it and try to force them into our traditional buying process. That means we can accelerate the Interview process and make it about "verifying their selection" rather than interviewing to make a selection.