Today’s customers are on a quest for what is genuine and authentic. Take the role of marketing for example. For years, marketers made things shiny, bigger, and better with a lot of smoke and mirrors – thinking customers would pay more attention to the special effects rather than if the product or service actually worked for them. As sellers, we coveted the knowledge we had, unbeknownst to our customer, for the mere fact we felt either they didn’t want to be or shouldn’t be bothered with the intricacies of a deal.
Transparency runs counteractive to traditional business practices, and there is a sense of vulnerability — although misplaced — the word brings to many of us. It feels as if we are handing over our secret sauce to get the most money for the product or service and grow our bottom line, when in fact — allowing our customers to get more information and understand the service will increase the approval and buying process.
As technology provides the substantive information many consumers desire before making a purchase decision, dealers may feel the power they once possessed being peeled away. Think about what our customers do before we even meet them in person:
- 97% of car shoppers use the Internet for vehicle research
- 73% say they read and trust online commentary to provide perspective in a purchasing decision. They are more likely to buy a particular model or brand if they find positive comments on social media or online review sites.
Let’s think about what those numbers say to us:
- The consumer wants what they believe to be unfettered opinions about the vehicle they want to purchase and the company with whom they want to do business.
- Shoppers place an astounding amount of trust in perfect strangers who, in the depths of their office after the kids are fast asleep, feel compelled by their pleasure (or displeasure) with a product or company to share their experience across multiple community platforms.
As an industry, we are already starting out with a degree of mistrust in the eyes of the consumer. To overcome this perception, we have to adjust the way we do business to have a fair shot at building a relationship with a customer. The market, evolving technology, and consumer demand has forced dealerships to be transparent in the way they do business. “The average customer comes in armed with mountains of information,” stated ELEAD1ONE Regional Sales Director Billy Reynolds, “they research and uncover as much information as they can, not only on the vehicle they wish to purchase but even on the reputation on the dealership they may eventually approach in person.” In essence, customers have already selected the car they want to test drive, then hopefully buy.
It appears this shift has made dealerships vulnerable to a decrease in per-unit profits. While there is absolute truth to that vulnerability, the change has also opened up an opportunity for a long-term, repeat relationship with the customer. Growth in the dealer-customer relationship creates a more cyclical move from sales to the service lane and back to sales once more.
The sales and service relationship is really no different from any other relationship in our customer’s lives. Our customers want the sense that we are listening to their needs and value their time – just as any other relationship would require. They want a relationship based on being forthcoming with information, with the notion they are in control of how the relationship moves forward.
Valuable relationships take work and are based on being upfront about who we are as a person. The same applies to a dealership. The more upfront you are, the more honest and forthcoming with the information you are – the more I trust you as a salesperson. It is that confidence that will sustain and grow a relationship after the initial purchase, creating an environment where unprompted referrals are given to other shoppers, and repeat purchases and service appointments are made because the relationship is so strong, so trustworthy – establishing a new relationship with a different dealership feels unnecessary and a waste of time.