Having worked for one of the leading automotive groups in the UK for 5 years, I realise I've got a greater natural focus on the commercial aspects of car dealerships than the general public. What's prompted me to write this post is pure frustration - from those around me and my own experiences recently.
Firstly, a lot of what I'm going to focus on now will go against the grain of 'modern thinking' in the automotive sector as I understand where the major retail brands have been focusing their efforts over the past twenty years and why. I know the emphasis is placed on improving credibility to generate profits but for me, the latter part isn't feeding through enough - and it's not helping the customer experience regardless of the bottom-line.
Here is where I feel it's gone wrong and what could be done to actually improve the experience for potential customers without crossing the line: 1. It's Good To Care
I think it's fair to say that most people entering a dealership these days are slightly nervous about the prospect of driving out in completely the opposite car to the one they wanted. The 'hard-sell' of years gone by has been a notorious feature of the forecourt but from what I've experienced recently, those days are gone. In fact they are so far gone that the modern day equivalent is you having to work quite hard just to get anyone in the dealership to give you some attention. I've had numerous friends moaning recently on this very topic - and it seems worse the higher in prestige you go, although not exclusive to any particular make or location. It's an epidemic and certainly in my experience it would have been jumped on quickly.
Given the cost to get people on to the forecourt, why is this the case? If people arrive they are there for a reason - the internet has pre-qualified most of them so anyone who's there is very close to being ready to make a decision - and it's not whether or not they buy a car, it's simply which one.
The fact is, you can definitely feel out of place when you walk in - and if I feel like that, it's fair to say that most people are going to feel even worse than me because I've grown up in them over 5 years. It's simply unacceptable to feel like you're interrupting someone's day rather than being there to bring some joy to it by parting with quite a lot of money. Staff are so often busy on their computer screens (doing what I don't know - probably planning campaigns to get more sales in vs opening their eyes to the wallets walking through the door). The feeling it gives though is one of neglect, not support - and that's not good for getting the buying vibe moving in the right direction.
So lesson one is to simply be awake and courteous
. Welcome new 'guests' to your workplace and warm them up towards becoming great customers.
2. The Service Department is Next To The Sales Department for a Reason!
My car was recently recalled for an airbag issue which was fairly routine as a process. I actually thought it was a blatant opportunity to get me back in and get me interested in an upgrade and I was keen to see how this was going to play out. I was actually gutted when I was left to sit on a pretty uncomfortable chair, drinking pretty average coffee and watching apparent 'sales execs' sit at their desks. On the point above, I know nobody wants to feel intimidated but equally I've committed to sitting in the dealership for 1-2 hours so it's not going to offend me to be invited to test drive one of latest models? How long would that take and what would be the impact? The downside is that they might have to spend a bit more time writing up the paperwork on the new car I buy! What's the first rule of sales we're all taught at business 101 school? "Ask for the sale". I'm not getting any questions here and as above, it seems no one else is either.
Lesson two - turn the sales journey in to an experience
to get more people on it. 3. The TV is Talking But What's It Saying?
Having TV's in reception areas is very common but watching trashy daytime TV is quite frankly neglectful in my view. Given the amount of video
content from manufacturers for every new model release, surely they could entertain me for my few hour stay with various reviews and feature videos on the latest models. If at first I don't want a test drive (re above point) the TV can keep trying to inspire me and getting my interest levels up. What are the key reasons I'd turn down a test drive? "I can't afford a new car", "I don't have time", "I'm not inspired"...how could a TV help - show me how affordable it would be to upgrade, let me know how quick it is to have a test drive and show me all the amazing new features to get me to want to at least sit in one!
In a waiting area, I'm the sort of person who sits on his laptop getting on with things but I would still notice and want to say a screen telling me about the new features available. My mind would wander around the room as I look at the latest models and I don't think it would take much for me to get in one and then we're on the way on our sales journey aren't we.... I know some people would rather watch the usual rubbish on TV but there's often enough room to have two tv screens - the silent salesperson for your company on one of them and one for entertaining the rest on the other.
Lesson three - use new media to add inspiration
4. Plants Don't Sell
Sat in front of me is a pot plant on a coffee table and in the name of research I've been watching it for 7 minutes and it's done literally nothing to sell me the latest model yet. In fact as I look around this waiting area there's not a single brochure in sight. Luckily I have my laptop but currently the choice is to stare lovingly in the eyes of the old boy opposite me, read a pretty well worn Daily Mail (never going to appeal even if it were crisp) or watch the horrendous daytime TV. Even if I was intrigued about the latest models sat 15 years in front of me, I can't even access any information without disturbing someone. Being polite, I don't like doing that so I'll sit here and carry on working and before someone makes a point about not printing brochures for environmental factors, there must be modern ways of displaying tablets to get me engaged (but securely so I don't wander off with it).
Lesson four - plant your marketing materials
, don't literally rely on a plant. 5. Ask
My overall summary is that dealerships aren't asking enough questions. This is very much 'the world according to Chris Lunn' based on my recent experiences and conversations but I can't see how what I've experienced is so different to the rest of the country...I know it's not.
Lesson five - ask
direct questions politely
that can improve the visit to your dealership and drive the sale forward. It's always a numbers game and focused activity is king. Stop stalling, start selling.
I'm not saying that this is going to revolutionise dealership sales overnight but over time it's going to help fill pipelines. The other key is that you're going to control and accelerate the time to next purchase if you get it right and cut your competitors out of the mix before they've even had a chance to engage.
We'd Like To Help Improve Your Sales
Taking some of the above points in to account myself, I'd like to offer our Marketing Consultancy service to your dealership (or any showroom centred business) to help you grow sales. From what I've seen there are missed opportunities due to pre-conceived ideas or misguided directives.
Get in touch today, ask for me direct: Chris Lunn, t: 01189 100 012 e: firstname.lastname@example.org