How do you befriend a skittish puppy?
You crouch down to the pup’s level, hold your hand out — but not too far — palm face up, and wait patiently until he approaches, haltingly at first, sniffs your fingers and then finally licks your palm. Then you can reach behind his ears with your fingertips and pet him.
That’s the principle you have to use when handling new contacts through your BDC. Today’s potential car buyers are beyond skittish, though. They’re mega-skittish. They’ve met one too many pushy salesperson jacked up on triple lattes trying to bump them up from an Explorer to an Expedition when all they wanted was a little information on the traction control system of Ford’s new SUVs.
You know the stats — 99 out of 100 new car buyers expect their next car buying adventure to be a “hassle” based on their prior experience, 72 percent would visit dealerships more often if the buying process was improved and 56 percent of the public would buy cars more often if the process was easier.
However, 54 percent of car buyers would buy from a dealership that offered them a pleasant experience, even if it didn’t have the lowest prices. You better have that extended palm safely face up — not tilted, ready to slap — when those potential buyers first approach you.
In today’s Internet-driven market, they’re going to approach you through your BDC channels. That’s where you’re going to have to build up enough rapport with them, patiently, to the point that they trust you enough to come in through the front door of your dealership and sniff your hand, maybe even lick it, maybe even let you scratch them behind the ears.
Maybe even let you help them buy a car.
Today’s buyers don’t want to be sold a car. They just want you to help them buy one.
They want to have rapport with you, trust you, be loyal to you. They’ve probably always felt this way, but our car buying public grew skittish in those Dark Ages of automobile sales when they saw too many sharp-fanged salespeople slithering around the corners of the showroom waiting to strike.
The rise of the Internet has now offered your car buying public a protective buffer zone from that kind of treatment. They can safely sniff the palms of a dealership online without the risk of getting slapped.
Your BDC — fully functioning across email, text, social media and telephone channels — is the perfect field for you to establish rapport and make it safe for them to approach you in person. If you can convince them you’re there to help them buy a car — not bludgeon them into buying one — you’ll have the rapport needed for them to trust you and take their next step: walking through your showroom door.
Here’s one more especially important statistic: 42 percent of those people who do walk through your front door after having had some contact with you through a BDC channel, but who have not been forced to make an appointment — we call them “unappointment shows” — actually buy a car. Forty-two percent.
Think about it. They have been treated nicely, smoothly, kindly and patiently enough through your BDC — they weren’t even asked to make an appointment — that they showed up of their own free will and bought a car.
In other words, through their BDC experience, they liked you. They trusted you. They had rapport with you. They bought your cars.
Approximately 30 percent of today’s dealerships have BDCs, but too often they’ve become mere crutches for sales professionals and managers who are not moving enough cars. Unfortunately, if a BDC exhibits the same rapport-reducing tactics that old-school salespeople display on the showroom floor, they’re not going to be successful. At a cost of $300,000 to $600,000 for a BDC, that’s an awful lot of wasted income — and wasted effort.
We’re no longer in the business of selling products or services. We’re in the business of establishing rapport, building relationships and helping people to buy a car — not “selling” them one. Today’s customers want a relationship with us — a good relationship — before they give us their money.
We need to stop calling them “Business Development Centers” and start calling them “Relationship Building Centers.” No sale will happen until we earn a customer’s loyalty. To earn their loyalty, we first need to build rapport. Relationship Building Centers are our first opportunity to do that.
They’re our first chance to crouch down and extend that open palm.
For your free copy of relationship building practice script, email me with “Relationship” in the subject.