December 12, 2018
Putting It All Together
Automotive sales and marketing vendors, like technology providers in any other business or consumer field, are always demonstrating newer and faster tools. “Breakthroughs” are forever being announced and the “latest and greatest” is constantly threatening to disrupt the marketplace.
For dealers and GMs trying to keep up with all these changes while still focusing on their primary job — selling vehicles — this can be exhausting. Worse, it can be so overwhelming that they might not be keeping up with what technology can truly help them make a difference for their business.
Focusing on the right tools your staff needs and training them on using this technology to their fullest is an effective way to help your dealership compete and succeed in an increasingly complicated marketplace.
Defining Your Goals
One of the first, most fundamental things leaders in a dealership must determine is what they actually want to achieve. “A dealership must know what it wants to be,” said Jill Howard, director of client services for A2Z Sync, which delivers single-login solutions for everything needed in the automotive sales process. “Do they want to be more transparent? Do they need a digitized sales process? A more fluid menu process? Are they wanting to become a best-price dealer? A one-price dealer? Do they want to have one person lead the customer through the sales process? A lot of dealers don’t know where to start, but they know they want something.”
Another basic need is to determine if the tools they have in the store are effective or could be made more effective. “Transparency is critical, especially in the marketing world,” said Valerie Vallancourt, vice president of marketing for Outsell. “Vendors,” Vallancourt said, “should always be held accountable for results. If you can’t prove it’s working, it’s probably not an effective strategy. If you’re going to be spending money, you have to see a clear result at the end. You have to see that there has been engagement because of that vendor’s efforts.”
Today’s consumers demand both transparency and a quick sales process. Making sure your dealership can accomplish both of these tasks is critical for long-term relationships with your customers. Short cuts and stop-gap measures are not the recipe for success.
“Taking a short-term approach to customer service might make the month for your sales goals, but it can also mean losing that customer for life,” Vallancourt said. “Ask about best practices when evaluating vendors. Gain some additional knowledge. Think about things differently. Don’t be afraid to change with the times.”
The Human Element
While technology can be a fantastic tool, it’s only as good as the people who are operating it. Proper training not only makes the process run smoother for your team but also serves the customer better. And, the better your staff is at using the tools available to them, the more effective your technology spend will be.
One of the challenges dealers, GM and managers often run into, however, is staff members who are stuck in their ways and hesitant to try new tools and methods to boost sales. With the right approach, this is a challenge that can be overcome, Howard said. “I always want to seek to understand where this resistance is coming from. Is it just because it’s different and different is scary? Or, are there some questions they need answered that will help them be better and more successful at their job?”
Seeing results of well-functioning technology is the best way to “sell” the new methods in the sales process. “As people start to use it and they see their paychecks increase and that the new way is easy, they start to feel good about it,” Howard said. “The resistance goes away pretty quickly.”
Again, though, dealerships should select vendors who are willing to stand behind their products to make sure the dealership’s employees are using an effective tool. “As a vendor, you’ve got to prove it,” Vallancourt said. “It’s got to work for the dealership. In marketing, when you engage a specific customer and that person comes in to buy, it’s really hard to argue that.”
To make the most of the technology, uniform adoption is critical. “It’s important that everyone gets on the same process,” Howard said. “It increases both employee and client retention. It’s good for customers because they get the best sales process possible, but it’s also good for dealership employees, because it helps create a career path for people within the store.”
Innovation and anything new may seem scary, but times have already changed and no dealership can afford to be left behind. Some tips to remember from our series:
- Dealerships and consumers need to be on the same side
- Prepare for likely customer questions and how to answer them
- New technology and tools exist to make innovation easier
- Automation is imperative for giving consumers they experience they expect
- Evaluate current staff, vendors, and training practices to take your next step
The future is about putting the customer first, which we’ll discuss more on our webinar tomorrow at 2pm EST with James Kurtenbach, Marketing Director at Schomp Automotive Group, and Jill Howard, Director of Client Services at A2Z Sync – “Success Through Innovation: Tips for Your Dealership.”
December 11, 2018
The Seamless Customer Experience
The modern dealership customer is one of the most educated, engaged and skeptical consumer in any marketplace. They will spend hours researching vehicles they believe will suit their needs, have a good idea of what the vehicle should cost and have their guard up against “typical” dealership tactics. They’ve also been trained, thanks to Amazon, Apple and other retailers, that transactions can be quick, seamless and efficient.
Increasingly, they are demanding this experience in all their transactions — which includes purchasing a vehicle. Far from being an obstacle, however, this mindset represents an opportunity for dealerships that are willing to examine their own processes and put tools and training in place to allow their staff to not only meet the customer’s expectations but exceed them.
New Mindsets, New Methods
For most consumers, a vehicle is the second-most expensive item they purchase. Therefore, this is not a transaction most enter into lightly. The vast majority only come to a dealership when they are ready to buy; they’ve done all their “tire-kicking” research online. Also, as Millennials become the most dominate force in auto sales, the concept of haggling for price is becoming outdated; they fulfill a lot of their shopping needs online, where the price is the price.
For the dealership, this new mindset requires giving the consumer a seamless, transparent sales process, where they can have their questions answered, experience what the vehicle has to offer firsthand and understand how the dealership arrived at the price presented.
The marketing that made the consumer aware of your dealership should also be transparent and complement the in-store experience. No surprises. No baiting and switching. The sales process starts with your marketing offer and, in the best case, doesn’t end; it continues because you build a rapport and become their dealership for life.
In order to build this kind of rapport, your dealership should be marketing to customers with targeted, individualized messages. Millennial shoppers demand to be treated as individuals and older generations have found that they, too, enjoy the personal touch. Once in the dealership, the path should be seamless, leading from the greeting to the sale to the delivery as one process, and not as a series of juddering handoffs.
Automation is the key to achieving both of these goals.
Using Automation to Get Personal
From a marketing standpoint, the consumer leaves a huge trail of information about themselves through their shopping behavior, both online and off. To take full advantage of the marketing opportunities that big data provides, it’s necessary to bring in a marketing solution driven by artificial intelligence. This allows the dealership to reach the consumer with targeted, relevant messages to bring them into the store.
Once they’re in your dealership, other automated tools can allow your salespeople to provide the customer with the seamless experience they demand. By using software that unites all the elements a salesperson needs to lead the customer along the path to the sale, the process is streamlined, allowing them to access all the information necessary without having to toggle between different programs, logins or interfaces.
These software tools free up the salesperson to do what they do best: build a relationship with the consumer and become their advocate throughout the sales process.
“Automation doesn’t mean that you are getting rid of the human element,” said Jill Howard, director of client services for A2Z Sync, a company that delivers solutions allowing single-login access to everything needed in the automotive sales process. “There still needs to be that human element and a conversation; somebody should be there to answer any questions that might come up. But through automation, the experience can be made more seamless and gives the customer a much more efficient path to purchase the vehicle.”
When salespeople are given the correct tools and training, the customer, the salesperson and the dealership all benefit from the process. There’s a flow to the sales presentation that can’t happen when there are awkward transitions. These breaks in the flow are where consumers start to second-guess their decisions or, worse, pull out their smartphones and start researching their choices again. Buying a vehicle should be both a relaxing and exciting event, rather than being stressful and confusing.
This only happens, though, when everyone is properly trained on the tools they’ve been provided.
Educating the Team
To provide the customer with the best experience, training should be established as one of the most important elements in the sales process, and that should be a “top-down” requirement. It’s just as important for the dealership’s leaders to take part in continuing education as it is for the sales staff.
“The more competent you are, the better that employee is going to feel about their job and their role at the dealership,” Howard said. “Also, it’s a much better experience for the customer to deal with somebody who can actually answer their questions right off the bat. Training is incredibly important.”
To maintain the seamless experience for the consumer, it’s important that the sales process is consistent throughout the dealership, and sometimes this means getting some team members out of their comfort zone. With the right tools in place, however, this discomfort is temporary.
“Most people want to do a good job when they come into work,” Howard said. “If your expectations are set, you’re trained and given the tools to meet those expectations, it makes the workday much easier and smoother.”
The modern consumer themselves may be trained with certain expectations about the sales process, but buying a vehicle is a special moment in their lives. The dealership that can help them navigate the sales path with professionalism and empathy will earn their business now and for the long term. By providing a seamless process and becoming their advocate rather than their adversary along the way, your dealership will become their dealership.
Which leads us into our final blog in this series covering how all of what we’ve discussed so far comes together, to then conclude with our webinar on Thursday December 13 at 2pm EST, “Success Through Innovation: Tips for Your Dealership” with James Kurtenbach, Marketing Director at Schomp Automotive Group, and Jill Howard, Director of Client Services at A2Z Sync, as well as a case study featuring Schomp and Outsell.
No Fear of the Future
Evolution is a natural element in sales because change is inevitable. Customers are changing. The marketplace is changing. The products are changing. And yet, in the automotive field, the idea of change is often resisted far more than in other sales arenas.
Dealers who want their business to not only remain profitable for the present but to grow in the future need to be on the lookout constantly for new tools to help them serve customers better and maintain the bottom line.
Effective Customer Contact
One area that has seen the biggest transformation in recent years is automotive sales marketing. Not so long ago, broadcasting blanket marketing messages, launching random email blasts and blindly sending out mailers in the hopes they’ll connect with an in-market buyer was all that was possible. Today, consumers ignore messages that aren’t relevant to their current situation. Fortunately, there are tools available to dealerships today to help them cut through the noise and reach consumers at the right place and right time.
Tools such as AI-driven marketing automation and predictive analytics help marketers zero in on the desires and shopping history of individual consumers in order to present information and offers that are relevant to their needs. This is done through the use of the volumes of data generated by a consumer’s shopping patterns, both online and off. There’s so much data generated, in fact, that it would be impossible for a human to comb through it all to find information that matters to individual prospects. That’s where the tools driven by artificial intelligence come in. Far from removing the human from the sales equation, having this kind of insight into the needs of individuals allows salespeople to better serve them and the dealership.
The “Average” Sales Path
Part of the difficulty of blindly marketing to a mass of consumers is that each consumer’s lifecycle is unique. When you take into account all the factors that figure into a large purchase decision — family, finances, vehicle preferences, personalities and more — it becomes clear that messages targeted to an individual would carry far more weight than a generic “come to our dealership” commercial.
With AI-driven marketing tools, dealerships can provide the information consumers want — sometimes before they’re even aware they want it — and be part of a back-and-forth conversation, rather than presenting an easily dismissed all-purpose sales pitch.
As long as you’re providing a consistent and relevant message, becoming that tap on the shoulder to let them know you’re always there, you stay top of mind when it’s time to make that next purchase decision.
Between This Sale and the Next
While the sales department can sell one vehicle, it’s often the service and marketing departments that keep the customer engaged and bring them back in for a long-term retail relationship. It’s important that the marketing message change after vehicle delivery so that the dealership becomes a partner with the customer in keeping the vehicle safe and reliable.
Automation is key to maintaining the relationship that was built in the sales phase. If left to busy salespeople, regular communication can be put off and forgotten in favor of making new sales and gaining new customers. And, as salespeople leave the dealership for one reason or another, customers become “orphans,” with no one remembering that client’s history with the company.
AI-powered tools can step in and help a staff maintain the connection between the dealership and the consumer. No matter what changes, you have consistent branding that’s going to speak to that customer. It’s that soft, dependable touch that lets them know you’re there to serve them when they need it.
What’s Old is New Again
With the evolution of “smart” marketing tools available to the modern dealership proceeding at a rapid rate, it’s necessary for dealers to keep track of the innovations and be aware of new technology. However, the future may have a resemblance to the past.
AI is going to continue to expand; that’s pretty obvious. Traditional marketing is making something of a comeback, but it is becoming more refined, pairing AI with direct mail, for example, where you’re not just blasting it out and hoping someone brings back a flyer. It’s putting a relevant message on a vehicle that the person may have been shopping for, putting that in their mailbox and pairing that with a potential offer.
Consumers are changing; dealerships have the ability to change with them and serve them better than ever before. Rather than fearing the future, the most successful dealerships are embracing it.
Now that you know you need automation, we’ll cover next how to use it to give that personal touch for a seamless customer experience.
Register now for our upcoming webinar December 13 at 2pm EST “Success Through Innovation: Tips for Your Dealership” with James Kurtenbach, Marketing Director at Schomp Automotive Group, and Jill Howard, Director of Client Services at A2Z Sync.
December 7, 2018
On the sales front, there are plenty of opportunities for a forward-thinking dealership to serve the customer, increase profits and build for the future. One element that can often be overlooked, however, is not how the vehicles are sold, but which vehicles are sold. Having an in-demand inventory makes the job of sales easier and can bring customers into the store with less effort. And, when it comes to acquisition, determining the trade-in value with the customer can make or break a sale. With inventory, GMs and dealers must have a strategy in place to answer three essential questions most customers have.
“Do You Have the Vehicle I Want?”
It has always been challenging to stock a dealership’s inventory with in-demand vehicles because tastes change, the availability of popular models can be inconsistent and local demand can be very different from national trends. Taking into account the access consumers now have to information about inventory — not only locally but on a regional and national level — a dealership can’t afford to have low-demand vehicles on the lot taking up valuable retail space.
Fortunately, the technology now exists where dealers don’t have to rely on guesses or gut feelings for what to carry. Inventory management tools are available to assist with both stocking and pricing in-demand vehicles. These tools use both the dealership’s data and data from the surrounding area to determine the best mix of inventory for a dealership’s unique marketplace. These tools also aid in determining popular trim packages and other features that help sell vehicles more rapidly.
For smaller dealerships, inventory stocking can still be done on a case-by-case basis, but you have to pay close attention to what the marketplace wants. This process is more time consuming and less accurate, so regardless of dealer size, an educated, data-driven process may still be necessary to achieve your goals.
“What Is My Trade-in Worth?”
In many cases, part of the sales process is making the customer an offer on their old vehicle. In earlier times, the manager would make an offer and the customer could either take it or leave it. That process has changed.
Today’s educated consumer has not only researched the vehicle they’re interested in buying but also has an idea of what their trade-in is worth. Through Kelley Blue Book, Edmunds and other online guides, the customer comes in with a number in mind. That number, however, is often flawed without the customer realizing it. If not handled properly that flaw can sink the entire deal.
“People tend to not factor in what possible reconditioning the vehicle needs,” said Jill Howard, director of client services for A2Z Sync, a company that delivers solutions allowing single-login access to automotive sales tools. “These guides put different condition levels on their site, but many customers overlook that. So, that’s where that human element still comes in, for instance, to remind them that they have a big dent here where they accidentally hit that pole.”
When determining the value, a salesperson or manager must walk the line between what’s good for the deal and what’s good for the dealership. “As a dealer,” Howard asked, “what would you pay at auction for the vehicle being traded in?” Many times, a customer will be more receptive to an offer if they have some context.
“How Did You Arrive at That Number?”
The discussion about a trade-in should be part of the conversation much earlier in the negotiation than many salespeople realize. Springing what can be a rude surprise at the end of the process can ruin any rapport built with the customer along the sales process.
One way to do this is to bring the manager — or the person in charge of making the offer — into the process sooner. “One of the common missteps is having managers who hide behind their desks,” Howard said. “They never go out to look at the vehicle or speak to the customer. They simply try to get as much profit out of the vehicle without explaining the number.”
Customers demand transparency in the automotive sales process, and that extends to the trade-in negotiation. In addition, people often have an emotional attachment to their vehicle. When what they might consider an insultingly low number is simply pulled out of the air, it can sour them not only on the deal but the dealership as well.
Being able to show the customer how a price was determined using software that takes into account reconditioning, market value and other information can go a long way toward building trust. With this, what could have been an uncomfortable situation for everyone is now another positive step on the way to making the sale and creating a long-term relationship with that customer.
Once you have a good understanding and process for handling new trends in in-demand vehicles and trade-in negotiations, it’s time to consider other tools and technologies available to better serve your customers. Next, we’ll cover how there should be “No Fear of the Future.”
Register now for our upcoming webinar December 13 at 2pm EST “Success Through Innovation: Tips for Your Dealership” with James Kurtenbach, Marketing Director at Schomp Automotive Group, and Jill Howard, Director of Client Services at A2Z Sync.
Putting the Customer First
One of the reasons people want to avoid going to a dealership until it’s absolutely necessary is that they are anticipating a fight. Through their own experiences, the experiences of family and friends or just buying into the stereotype, many see dealerships as a battlefield where only the most committed walk away with a “good deal.”
If you want to earn a customer’s business — and earn it for life — your dealership must be seen as the opposite of what they expect. Instead of being their adversary, you’ve got to be their advocate.
The Same Team
The difference between an adversarial relationship and a mutually beneficial one starts at the very top of the sales funnel—the initial marketing phase. In order to be seen as different from the stereotype, a dealership must reach the consumer with targeted, relevant information. The good news is that there’s a staggering amount of data consumers generate through their day-to-day online and offline shopping activities to help a dealership accomplish this goal. To make the most of the data available that matters to consumers, however, tools such as artificial intelligence and predictive analytics must be brought into play.
There’s a fine line between using the data and getting lost in it. You’ve got to make sure what you’re doing is relevant to each consumer. Utilizing AI is imperative because dealerships don’t have time to do this on their own. Tools such as the email blast have become things of the past. You want to make sure that your dealership is there for the customer and sends an individualized message at the right stage of their sales and maintenance lifecycle.
Getting Off to the Right Start
While a dealership needs to get the consumer’s attention, it’s important that you not overwhelm them by showing just how much information you have on each consumer through the use of AI. Instead, bringing up timely, appropriate messages is key to becoming top of mind and forging a relationship.
Using a “soft-sell” approach lets the consumer guide when they’re ready to buy without pushing the dealership’s agenda onto them. Timely communication — even just checking in to see where they are in their lifecycle — can help you capture a consumer’s attention.
The Modern Marketing Mindset
Successful dealerships have found that individualized communication gets consumers onto the lot in ways that “pray and spray” marketing can’t, and simply opening the doors and expecting business is no longer an option. You have to build relationships and the key is to start digitally.
To stand apart from the competition, dealerships must demonstrate they understand what the consumer wants and where they are on the path to sale or service. Tools such as marketing automation driven by AI allow dealerships to do just that and, as a result, can help them be seen as advocates rather than “pushy” salespeople in the journey to a new vehicle.
The Win-Win Scenario
While moving from the classic advertising tactics to a new, more focused approach might require a period of transition for the dealership in the short run, the effects will be worth it for both the business and the consumer long-term.
Preparing consumers with correct, relevant information about their vehicle of interest, the dealership and the process, allows dealers to build an offer with an educated customer who’s happy to be there, rather than one who comes in with their defenses raised, ready for a fight. Dealers can retain profit on each vehicle more effectively, get better reviews and word-of-mouth references and bring a customer back for servicing and additional vehicle purchases in the future.
Stay tuned for the next article in this series as we dive into the three customer questions dealers must be able to answer, and REGISTER NOW for our upcoming webinar December 13 at 2pm EST “Success Through Innovation: Tips for Your Dealership” with James Kurtenbach, Marketing Director at Schomp Automotive Group, and Jill Howard, Director of Client Services at A2Z Sync.
December 5, 2018
On Thursday December 13 at 2pm EST, Outsell is excited to share the live Auto News webinar “Success Through Innovation: Tips for Your Dealership” with James Kurtenbach, Marketing Director at Schomp Automotive Group, and Jill Howard, Director of Client Services at A2Z Sync.
In the spirit of accessible dealer tips as we close out 2018, we’ve prepared a 5-part blog series starting tomorrow and leading into the webinar that will culminate with the live broadcast as well as a case study featuring Schomp Automotive Group.
- How Targeted Marketing Can Put Dealerships and Consumers on the Same Side
- The Three Customer Questions Dealers Must Be Able to Answer
- New Technology and Tools Allow Dealerships to Reach and Serve Customers Like Never Before
- Using Automation at the Dealership to Give the Personal Touch
- Using the Staff You Have and Tools You Need to Reach Your Goals
Register for the webinar HERE.