Jason Bateman (left) stars in “The Elevator,” a Hyundai Assurance ad that puts “Car Shopping” on a floor below “Middle Seat” and “Vegan Dinner Party.” - YouTube

Jason Bateman (left) stars in “The Elevator,” a Hyundai Assurance ad that puts “Car Shopping” on a floor below “Middle Seat” and “Vegan Dinner Party.”

“Come check out my new truck!” This is likely something you’ve heard a friend say. You may have uttered those words yourself at one time or another. Everyone loves showing off their new car. The new smell, the new feel, and the new features are, frankly, fun!

There is a sense of pride each of your customers takes with the purchase of a new vehicle. They may decide to park a little farther away from the store to avoid the door ding. They may discourage eating or drinking in their new ride for some time. There is even pleasure, in the beginning, of handwashing their new favorite toy on a sunny day.

So why does everyone hate the purchase itself?

Going Way Down

Hyundai’s most recent Super Bowl ad depicts an elevator full of people on their way down to floors such as “Root Canal” and “Jury Duty.” The bottom floor? “Car Shopping.”

How do auto shows sell tickets to the general population if they harbor such distain for the business? The answer: It’s the sale that gets in the way!

Customers do not trust the buying experience. They arrive defensive and are armed with an attitude to be defiant toward any predetermined “road to the sale.” Dealership sales personnel anticipate this and react with almost an equal amount of anxiety when approaching the customer.

It’s an archaic approach to one of the last few remaining “make as much as you can/save as much as you can” transactions. In concept, most customers are OK with the dealership making a profit. Dealers inherently communicate the passing of savings on to customers by advertising generous discounts and rebates.

Finally, technology has become the great equalizer. Customers have most of the information at their fingertips to prepare themselves for expectations. Discounts, rebates, markups, invoice pricing, stock numbers, trade values, bank rates, and payment calculators are all easy to find online.

If this is the case, then why does the process continue to be met with such scorn? The car buyer has evolved, and the industry has not kept up. According to Cox Automotive, 41% of sold customers only visit one dealership before making their purchase. Statistically speaking, once that customer is on the lot, all we must do is not chase them away!

Flexibility and Transparency

I believe it’s time we change our rhetoric. Why not let salespeople embrace the notion of increasing the fun and reducing the friction?

Consider the notion of changing our initial interaction. Rather than …

“Mr./Mrs. Customer, welcome to ABC Motors. My name is Sean, and my entire job is to give you the best experience you’ve ever had at a dealership. Where would you like to start?”

… try:

“Mr./Mrs. Customer, thank you for visiting ABC Motors. I know you have all kinds of choices when looking at cars and trucks. My goal is for you to have fun. What can I do to make that happen?”

From there, evaluate every step of your process. Become flexible and transparent. Break from the rigid steps of the past. Make the experience informative and, most importantly, fun!

Informationally and statistically, it has never been easier to sell cars. The curtain has been pulled back. The bait and switch doesn’t work anymore. CSI, online reviews, and social media makes it almost impossible for the industry to hide its spots.

Your showroom philosophy can and should focus on offering what everyone wants: a pleasant buying experience. Stop letting the sale get in the way of prosperity and a long-term customer relationship.

Sean Browning is national vice president of development for American Financial & Automotive Services Inc. Email him at [email protected].