If your dealership has a, “Forever Changed by COVID-19” list, add leads to it. For years, we watched the number of leads decline as shoppers did whatever they could to avoid the inevitable sales attack they’ve become accustomed to in automotive sales. When the pandemic hit, the game changed. Dealerships upped their online retailing game, creating new opportunities for consumers to raise their hand and start a conversation.
Meet the consumers where they are and you’ll see the sales roll in.
It is critical to look at what happens with your sales team once a lead is submitted. It may be tempting to equate an increasing number of leads, apply the same sales tactics, and assume you’ll see more conversions. The trouble is, consumers don’t want to be sold, they want to start a conversation and that means dealers using old sales tactics are missing sales.
So, where do you start? Here are three steps you can take to equip your sales team.
1. Shift the Paradigm to ‘Starting a Conversation’
Shape your team’s mentality. Let’s face it; dealerships don’t have a reputation for putting the consumer first. Recently, automotive has made small shifts towards experience, but unfortunately, not enough to up-end decades of customer experiences. A shopper who submits a lead wants to start a conversation. To win today, we must help sales teams think first about establishing a connection versus pressuring immediately for a sale. It’s up to us to keep that reality top of mind. For salespeople to get their desired result, they must switch the paradigm.
Redefine their goal. People do what is measured and rewarded. To have a team adopt a paradigm shift, it must come with corresponding goals. Creating goals that hold salespeople accountable to how quickly and how conversationally they engage leads will help your team change their mentality.
Help your team build new habits. Create talk tracks around each type of lead you are receiving. These talk tracks need to be centered around the customer’s experience. Once you have created the talk tracks and have shared them with your team, it’s time to practice. Roleplay these conversations with your team to accelerate buy-in and create familiarity, with what is likely a brand-new approach, to each customer.
2. Follow the Lead’s Lead
Pay attention to communication channels. Gone are the days where you engage every lead with a phone call. If a shopper contacts you via email, they expect an email back. When a customer sends in a chat on your website, they don’t immediately want you to ask for their phone number. They want you to answer the question or offer the information requested within their chat conversation. Maximize your dealership technology to respond and engage shoppers in the relevant channel.
Pick up the conversation they start. Digital retailing tools create new reasons for potential customers to fill out a lead form. It is no longer likely for every lead to stem from a VDP page with someone ready to book an appointment to take a test drive. Your team must be prepared to pay attention to why a shopper reached out and match your conversation to the shopper. A great place to start is to audit every different way a shopper can submit a lead and provide strategies for your team on how to cater the conversation based on their entry point into your CRM.
Customers are on their timeline, not yours. Dealers consistently tell me they are barely able to keep up with the leads they receive. Most dealers have follow-up processes for leads that last only 15 days. Based on our data, the average customer takes upwards of 70-plus days to make a vehicle purchase. They are lower funnel when they submit a lead, but the customer still may take weeks to purchase. Plan for how your team can maximize the leads you receive through multiple follow-ups in the first few days and then consistently with the customer through other tools for the following weeks.
3. Help Your Team ‘Think Like a Shopper’
Because your team works in automotive, they don’t buy cars like everyone else. Utilize another buying experience to drive home your point for customer experience.
Here’s an example you can use. If you’re casually shopping for a new house and email a realtor for more information about a specific property and then they hound you with phone calls talking about the deal they could make you, are you likely to purchase through that realtor? No, you were just looking for more information, and instead of helping you and understanding your needs, the realtor just pushes for the sale. It can work if they happen to guess at my budget and give me a good deal, but if they emailed me back with information and then asked about my specific needs, I’m much more likely to engage. If the experience is tailored to my needs, I’ll buy from them again in the future.
I recently spoke with a dealer gaining market share and growing their gross profit. He attributes his success to a paradigm shift, changing how his team communicates with customers. The team now makes customers feel like they are there for them, willing to prioritize the customer’s needs and in turn, their profits.
The game was already changing before the events of 2020. The difference now is that your dealership must embrace the idea that consumers expect something new and their money goes where those expectations are met. Set your team up for success by implementing a new mentality about leads. Meet the consumers where they are and you’ll see the sales roll in.
Chris Martin is Client Command’s senior vice president of customer development.
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