Car buyers have never been more educated about the vehicles and processes found at dealerships across the nation as digital-retailing sweeps over the industry.
I have known and admired Ken Kingstad for many years. He’s an automotive sales training expert and motivational speaker on leadership, sales, and business development. I want to share a recent conversation with Ken in which he said that, now more than ever, providing a transparent journey that builds trust between a dealer and a buyer is the key to digital success.
As more customers choose to shop and purchase a car in an all-online, Amazon-like transaction, dealerships must come up with a strategy to re-engage those customers who reviewed a dealership’s inventory online, started the buying process, but did not complete the deal. What do “save-the-deal” processes look like in the digital world?
Kingstad said that today’s customers are “super intelligent” and have already visited an average of 19 different websites and spent weeks or even months researching for the right vehicle. They know prices, features and financial options inside and out, sometimes as much or even more than some sales representatives.
Dealerships have to differentiate themselves from the competition, he said. If the same vehicle is available in multiple places, only the dealers who provide a transparent, easy-to-navigate, no-pressure process will stand out from the crowd. Many digital-retailing solutions offer the seamless buying experience that builds trust with shoppers.
Kingstad said that with proper training, the sales team at dealerships can have success re-engaging those shoppers who fell out of the sales funnel. With carefully crafted emails, texts, calls or 30-second videos, dealerships are having success in linking back up to those leads.
“Training is crucial,” Kingstad said. “We work with sales managers and their teams to use technology as a ‘lead maximizer,’ not a ‘lead generator.’”
Digital retailing is a powerful sales generator. For example, he said research shows 25% of car shoppers who click on a digital-retailing solution’s links and enter the sales funnel will buy a vehicle. If they’ve moved through to the financing or trade-in steps, 15% will continue through to a sale.
It is important to re-engage, not harass or pester, those customers who leave the application. When sales managers receive a text that a shopper has stalled out, they will reach out right away. Was there a technical problem the buyer encountered? Was the trade-in value just a bit too low? Did they get interrupted and simply haven’t had the time to get back online?
“Sometimes life just gets in the way — they may be on a vacation or busy at work,” Kingstad said. “We don’t want to be a pest, but we do want to be proactive.” A quick conversation could answer questions about the process, sweeten a trade-in offer or remove other obstacles.
He said some dealerships believe in a two-week effort to reconnect. He recommends a 90-day campaign utilizing all four components in a save-the-deal toolkit — email, text, call and short video. The leads from digital-retailing apps are better leads, and often the customers appreciate the show of goodwill and offers to help them through the process.
“We want to show customers respect and earn their trust — show them we’re the Ritz-Carlton of dealerships,” he said. “People aren’t buying cars, they are buying people. Once you earn their trust, the purchase takes care of itself.”
Kingstad, who was a partner and COO of 15 new car franchises, including three-used car superstores, said dealers must remember that these online shoppers have already visited those 19 websites and have done their research. They know what they want, what it costs and what features they prefer.
Those customers will be comparing experiences with the dealerships they visit online. Are the dealerships old school, tension-inducing places? Or are they comfortable, straightforward and helpful?
He said digital-retailing apps “remove the pain points that buyers experienced in the past.” These apps offer a seamless process with no stress — “an enjoyable journey.”
“I always tell sales managers that when you do re-engage, you should see up to 80% of customers move further down the sales funnel if the sales team is educated and has the tools and processes in place.”
“Success leaves clues for modeling great processes that will bring even more success,” Kingstad said.
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