We live in the age of the educated consumer. Instead of comparing and contrasting makes and models from different dealerships, most car shoppers only visit one dealership before making a purchase because they’ve performed their research online. Dealership personnel in all departments are being trained to accept this and to be on hand, ready to answer questions and finalize the deal.
While this is actually a good thing in many cases — it’s often easier to sell to an educated consumer than an uninformed one — we often don’t take into account one of the side effects this shift in research brings: It can be very stressful for the consumer.
There’s an old saying that, “When faced with unlimited decisions, the natural tendency for most is to make none.” An overwhelmed consumer is one who might not know the right question to ask and might miss the best option for their unique situation because it wasn’t readily apparent. The empowerment that consumers are expected to enjoy often becomes a burden. Decisions take longer, and the fear of “What if I made the wrong choice?” can eat away at the satisfaction of making a purchase.
Sometimes, consumers just want someone to present them with some clear-cut choices that will best suit their needs. They want a prescriptive approach to the sales process.
With a prescriptive approach, it’s still vital to listen to the customer and gauge their needs, desires and situation. You are then in a position to present them with options — or prescriptions — of the best products or services that will meet their criteria for success.
In its article “The New Sales Imperative,” research done by the Harvard Business Review found the following: “We evaluated the impact of dozens of selling tactics on the purchase process and saw a clear pattern: Whereas the responsive approach typically depressed purchase ease, a proactive, prescriptive approach increased purchase ease by 86 percent.”
Your Image and Customer Satisfaction
This type of sales technique not only makes buyers feel better about the purchase, but raises their opinion of you in the process. A recent Gallup poll found that doctors and nurses are among the most trusted professionals in the eyes of the public while car salespeople rank only slightly above members of Congress. One of the reasons for this is, in their eyes and the eyes of popular culture, dealerships are seen as making money at the expense of their customers. By providing clear choices based on the needs and desires of consumers, this transparency can defeat decades of bad public relations.
F&I is one such area of the dealership where the options seem daunting to consumers. It usually comes at the end of the vehicle-buying process, where energy is low and the customer just wants to be done. The idea of facing decision after decision at this point can lead many to just decline services or feel pressured into making decisions they’re not comfortable making.
Having a clear-cut, easy-to-follow path based on your customer’s unique needs and situation can make this into an experience that will leave the customer feeling great about you, your dealership and their decision. Big Data and predictive analytic technology now exists that will allow you to ask a few questions, narrow the scope of all the options available to them, and prescribe the best course of action.
By taking a prescriptive approach, you remove pain from the process. You provide them a path for the sales journey which allows you to set expectations and them to relax a bit, knowing that their needs are being taken into account. You’ll identify problems or barriers that might arise early in the process, rather than finding out information that comes as a nasty surprise to either you or your customer. And then, when the time comes for the customer to make a decision they’ll have the correct information they need to make an informed decision.
Unlimited choices can be overwhelming to a customer — especially during a purchase that they don’t make very often. By listening to them, using the right technology to find the right product for their specific needs and then prescribing the best course of action for them to take, you set yourself up as a trusted expert and ally, and allow your customer to feel good about the decisions they’ve made.