I visit many different stores weekly and it occurred to me that I seem to be encountering the same conversations with similarities in the questions asked. For instance, while recently in a dealership that I will refer to as ABC Motors, a manager asked me questions about social media, search engine optimization, digital media and all the other buzz words we are reading daily. I answered the questions based on what developers, bloggers and peers have preached and what I have been reading the last few years. However, one question that I have not had to answer lately is, “How does all this translate into making dealers money?” There are a number of stores today that hire employees to monitor social and digital presence and email customers back and forth. Unfortunately, high-level process and sales training seems to becoming secondary.
A top salesperson will always be a top salesperson. So, why don’t dealerships hire and train these top salespeople that are intelligent enough to also understand and create a social and digital customer experience? Personality and great service will get them a few more dollars per deal – it always has and always will. We are in a professional business, yet it is becoming increasingly rare to have a fully developed professional that understands data, service, negotiations, digital marketing and then takes the proper steps to socialize their customer base. These stores have salespeople that spend hours daily socializing with friends using apps, text and email to communicate. Yet, instead of fully utilizing these salespeople, stores are hiring and paying someone else with little or no sales experience. The reality is, there are 2 or 3 people involved to sell one unit, which was priced online by a person not hired to sell – but just to communicate. The result is, these stores have difficulty holding sales staff accountable to gross because they remove the only way to produce it up front. Salespeople should be customer-focused utilizing technology and digital tools available. I’ve seen stores hire amateurs, put them in a room and call it a BDC or Internet department, while trained sales staff sits waiting for an up while playing an app or Facebook.
Stores have talked about survival and economy, then about hope and getting back on track and now, the newest one, “How to use technology to help drive customers into the dealership”. So basically, the back-to-the-money and how to make more of it question. When will it occur to managers that the extremely valuable digital tools now available, if maintained and utilized correctly, can really build a superstar sales staff? Getting a new customer and selling them a car is still the bottom line in any store.
If the customer goes online and ABC Motors is at the top of the search engine, with the most stars and positive customer comments, then it is likely that the customer will click on ABC Motors. If the customer receives an informative, above average, quick response to a question and the salesperson has a good opening process to turn the customers inquiry into an appointment, then the customer is likely to ‘show’ at the dealership. It takes skill and training to set an appointment, have a customer show and build value in a product. It doesn’t take any skill to offer the lowest price in town to get an appointment. This is why a fully developed professional salesperson builds value and makes gross. The goal for every dealership is staffing salespeople that are informed or even better, understand objections and can close a customer on making an appointment without giving up every penny. In contrast, when dealerships hire non-salespeople for a BDC or Internet position and allow them to speak with the customers first, chances are that value, unit gross, and long-term customer loyalty suffer.
More and more, dealers and managers are discovering ways to utilize technology, marketing, and training to get their store and staff to meet or exceed higher levels of customer expectations. They understand utilizing a single company to house technology, social media, web presence, reputation, lead management, CRM, and follow-up simplifies the customer and dealership processes. Dealerships can eliminate the confusion of multiple vendors. Secondly, maintaining the daily execution of continuous follow-up and training to develop a professional environment and maintain a clean database of customers ultimately retains a professional sales staff. Why not get ahead of the game and make everyone accountable for the store’s success? Dealerships who use multiple vendors don’t have streamlined processes and are losing valuable time and revenue every day. How does a dealer manage return on an investment without full integration of every vendor? The best answer is, have everything you do under one proven technological, return-driven company.
The customer is key so develop, train and arm your staff with customer-driven processes. Make sure that the online presence is positive and proactive, driving a customer to the phone or email. Make the effort to pair your staff with a company that will train and monitor them, ensuring they are detailed, process-driven and service-oriented. Manage response times, tasks completed, appointments set and shows. Answer customers effectively and quickly. Process the need to follow the customer forever, not for a week or two, FOREVER. A manager needs to proactively manage everything, from customer processes to ensuring traffic is logged in one place. Marketing correctly to customers should take a few seconds, not hours or days. Customers need to be followed-up with until the appointment is set and should be expedited; the road-to-sale completed quickly along with printed, first-class presentations. The professional salesperson gets them in and out of the store within 2 hours – with their new keys and a thank you. This happens with one login and fully integration of every process and department within the store. After the sale, every customer should be asked to write a review on the website and rate your dealership. Now, a dedicated service customer follow-up and retention program should automatically begin.
The point is to keep customers from shopping online for another vehicle – ever because the professional salesperson stays engaged and it becomes personal. Customer service is easier today than ever before and customers are actually more loyal, if serviced. With the amateurs and confusion, most customers are not given the opportunity to be loyal. Get back to a quality process, quality customer experience and service, and a plan for every customer’s loyalty and retention utilizing available technology. Hire one company to integrate processes and seamlessly do the heavy lifting, now concentrate on the customer in front of you and sell more service and units. Not only will this set you apart from the competition, the cost of sale will decrease and the dealerships revenue increase. That’s real return on an investment.