In an era when new vehicle margins are razor thin, it’s difficult to compete on price alone. The good news is you don’t have to. Although many customers claim that price is the most important factor when it comes to purchasing, we all know from experience that other factors weigh into the decision. 

When a customer is deciding where to purchase a vehicle, it’s important that your dealership has a powerful differentiator or message that sets your brand apart. If you’re a salesperson, the same concept applies. What do you do that others won’t do? 

From my experience, here are a few things that many dealerships and salespeople still don’t do very well, and that more and more customers want from a retail experience: 

  • Answer all questions up front, quickly and honestly.
  • Be transparent about pricing
  • Go the extra mile to provide customers with information quickly and consistently across all communication channels
  • Send the extra email; make the extra phone call
  • Help customers make the best decision for them and their lifestyle, not necessarily the best choice for your dealership
  • Guide customers through the buying process, rather than try to sell a car
  • Speed up the buying process, so customers don’t have to sit in your showroom for four hours
  • Provide service incentives such as off-site delivery, loaner cars or pick-up and drop-off 

Marketing studies show that the most successful businesses differentiate their brands from competitors on something other than price. Companies that try to compete on just price are less successful over the long term because someone can always undercut your price. 

I know that some dealers will disagree with me, mainly because they hear over and over again that customers leave because of the price. That might be true for a small percentage, but it’s certainly not true for all defectors. Remember, customers often don’t convey to dealerships the real reason for not buying. 

When I was in car sales, customers bought from me because they liked the way they were treated, not because I offered them a rock- bottom price. Did I occasionally have to give on price? Of course, but it was not the norm. 

That’s why it’s important to choose a powerful differentiator. Here are a few tips. 

Don’t Differentiate on Price, Quality or Product Line

Many dealerships create marketing campaigns around these familiar attributes, but there will always be a competitor who can promise a better price, more product choices or better quality this or that. These attributes are considered too generic to make compelling differentiators. 

Encourage Salespeople to Differentiate 

Have you heard about the “Pickle Man”? He was a car salesman who gave away jars of pickles to his customers. It sounds ridiculous but he became a branding sensation, to the point where a pickle company sponsored him. Of course, not everyone can be the Pickle Man, and not everyone has to be a sensation. But if you’re a salesperson, you should be aware of why customers like and buy from you, and promote that as a differentiator.  

Your Differentiator Should Be Unique 

Every potential customer should know what benefits you offer that they can’t get anywhere else. You might try touting your leadership in one particular area such as being No. 1 in used cars sales, having the most certified technicians or offering a no-pressure sales experience. Other strong attributes include being the first or best in something, or being the most popular choice among your customers’ peers. Brainstorm and involve employees so they will want to take ownership of the differentiator. 

The most successful companies don’t try to be everything to everybody; they focus and excel in one area. 

Walk the Talk 

A surefire way to break someone’s trust is to fail to deliver on a promise. For this reason, it’s essential to choose a differentiator that you can deliver on. Ensure that everyone on your staff knows what the new differentiator is and why it’s important. Train employees so they know how to deliver on that promise. 

If you’re still not sure what your differentiator should be, ask your customers. What qualities are essential to them when it comes to choosing a dealership? From their perspective, it may be important to buy from a dealership known for its integrity, good reputation or a great service department. 

Once you choose your brand differentiator, communicate it widely and consistently across all communication channels, so prospects know exactly what they’re going to get when they visit your dealership. The more you do what others won’t, the better results you’ll have.