I’ve discussed the various issues that are putting gross margins under pressure. Those factors aside, there’s another barrier that dealers have to contend with—the fact that consumers come to the dealership armed with more knowledge than ever. When the amateur knows more than the professionals on your lot, it’s difficult for salespeople to develop trust and add value.
Wanted: Product Experts
The average customer conducts about five months of research before visiting a dealership. Information available on the Internet and the ubiquity of mobile devices mean consumers can access all the information they need about a car anytime, anyplace—including your showroom.
According to a Nielsen/Cars.com survey, 83 percent of consumers have a smartphone in their pockets when they walk into your dealership. That means even when they’re in your showroom, they’re able to access information not immediately available to the salesperson. That makes it nearly impossible for your salespeople to build trust and add value.
The fact is that today, consumers don’t want salespeople; they want product experts. Salespeople tend to be very knowledgeable about models in general but not necessarily about specific units. But consumers already know about makes and models. You have to talk about why the cars on your lot are preferable to the ones offered at a nearby competitor.
Why Buy This Car?
Used car buyers in particular have done their research online and have already made the decision to visit your store to see a specific vehicle—for instance, a BMW 328i. Unlike new car buyers, they didn’t come to your store because you sell the BMW 3 Series. They came because they found a particular 328i on your website and they want to know why they should buy the one on your lot today. So when your salesperson starts talking about the benefits of the 3 Series in general, the used car buyer is thinking, “I already know this.”
That’s why it’s critical for dealerships to equip their staffs with the insights that consumers already have. Your salespeople have to be instant experts on every car on your lot. They have to be able to demonstrate why the BMW 328i on your lot is better than the one a mile down the road that’s $1,000 cheaper.
The only way to build that value and trust to reach today’s car shopper is to adapt your processes. In my next post, I’ll elaborate further on why this is necessary.