“When It’s Time to Change…”

January 30, 2015

Over the last 10 years I’ve been on the technology side of the Automotive Industry, I’ve witnessed and have assisted dealers with changing their process using technology.  A little over 10 years ago, we changed how we appraised cars from using a hard book to using online books and VHR Reports.  Because retail customers would push their trades down the street for an extra $500 bucks, we needed a way to ensure we were putting the right number on a car.

Eight years ago we changed how we price cars by using pricing tools that gave us insight on how each dealer in a set radius was pricing their cars.  No longer did we have to look through the newspapers or conduct time-consuming research online.  We changed the blanket “cost +” process to intelligent pricing strategies for EACH pre-owned vehicle.  (Unfortunately for gross profits, some took this a little too far and thought turning all used cars into a commodity was a good idea?)

Four years ago we changed how we market our cars online.  It was critical that we get a relevant description that included specific information on a car so we didn’t have to manually type the descriptions anymore. On one particular UCM webinar training, I misspelled “power stearing”, that was quite embarrassing!  More importantly, this is what the retail customer demanded and we had to change from a standard VIN explosion to answering specific questions a customer had about the vehicle.

Two years ago, we woke up to the fact that once a vehicle became “pre-owned”, we didn’t use any factory terminology to sell the value.  OEM’s spend millions on focus groups just to decide that colors like, “Winter Crystal Pearl White” or “Montana Sky Blue” sell cars!  Why did it go from an “All Star Package with 8-way power seat, remote start MSRP $1,525” to “pwr seat” just because it’s now a used car?  We changed that by using Factory Packages in our ad descriptions to increase the value in our pre-owned vehicles.  Let’s call it what the factory did like when it was a New Car!!!!

In 2015, as an industry, we need to focus on our Sales Process.  Not just the BDC or how we get customers to sign paperwork, but how do we as an industry change the way we interact with today’s retail consumer.  Personally, I like the traditional Road to the Sale, because we USED to do proper Walk Arounds and even had contests on who did the best one!!  Now in the “Age of the Consumer”, the retail customer shows up knowing so much more than our salespeople do.  We’re now seeing a phenomenon called “Double Discounting”.  This happens when the store lists an Internet Price online only to have the retail customer negotiate it lower when they arrive at the store.

The 2015 consumer wants the “experience”, just like an Apple or Windows store.  Even Best Buy has re-trained their team.  They may not be an expert on one particular TV, but they do know where to find the information customers need.  The Salesperson is still very relevant in this process, but the difference is that they MUST know about the product they sell or where to get the information quickly.  Now I’m helping dealers change their process by using better web tools, mobile technology, relevant e-mail response content and over the phone/on the lot customer experience.  This builds Trust and Value, lessening the double discount, leading to better gross profits and higher closing rates.

So I challenge the Automotive Industry to change their sales process this year, the question is, “how will you help your sales team know as much or more than the customer knows?”