While there may have been regional variances impacting the level of lockdown for dealerships across much of the U.S., the impact of COVID-19 has forced the digital revolution of the car buying process. How should dealerships manage changing buyer habits? And, how should your sales personnel identify and prioritize new leads in the new digital environment? We reached out to the industry’s top experts to get insights and strategies.
The Fast-track to Digital
Customer expectations and behavior will ultimately drive the way dealerships operate, one expert explains. “Essentially (COVID-19) took us from where we thought we’d be in five years and put us there now.” Sr. Director of Product at Vin Solutions, Mo Zahabi, states that even though restrictions on social distancing may lift over the summer, dealers shouldn’t expect things to go back to normal. First, car buyers already want to do more online, ushering in a greater need for the digital experience. And, second, some customers will likely be slower to return to the dealership even as the general public emerges from shelter-at-home directives. “At one point,” Zahabi states, “ninety-four percent of Americans were unable to go to work.” Tech-savvy or not, the entire country has had to adapt to life in a virtual environment.
Review the Work Your Customers Do Online
According to Mark Vickey, Sr. Director of Performance Management and Operations for Vin Solutions, “Our road to the sale is no longer going to be linear.” The traditional process of meet-and-greet, to vehicle walkaround, to needs discovery, trade, appraisal, close, etc., is gone. “The ‘meet-and-greet’ might have happened when the customer landed on your website,” Vickery explains. There is still a road to the sale, however, your customer is likely taking that journey well before they enter your dealership (if they do at all).
Prioritize the Most Impactful Opportunities
Potential buyers who visit your website often share valuable data your sales team can leverage. Utilize your CRM to pull reports on customer sentiment, find active leads without follow up, or lease prospect opportunities to start. Leverage artificial intelligence-generated buying signals to determine which leads should be at the top of your sales list. And then? Be flexible with your processes. “That’s a big change, even for me.” Vickery explains that customers will fall into three categories: either they’ll visit want a fully virtual experience, an in-person sale, or they fall somewhere in between. Your job, as a salesperson, is to reassure the buyer that any version of the buying process is OK. “I want to assume that they’re going to buy the car online until they tell me otherwise,” Vickery states. “They need to know that I’m OK with selling the car that way.” Any implication that an online sale diminishes the process, or intrudes upon the traditional road to the sale, can hinder the experience for a prospective buyer.
Navigating the new road to the sale may not be linear, but it will be interesting. With change comes opportunity, and our experts are actively watching the industry shift as the world rapidly adjusts to the new business environment. To learn more, download your copy of our free guide here.