Are you experiencing record sales volume? How about record gross profits? Do you have solutions in place to sell more when the cars come back? If you answered no to any of these questions, you could be doing more to increase your sales today, and there’s no excuse for failing to plan for tomorrow.
Get More Cars
Buying cars: It’s a hot button issue for everyone right now. Some dealers are paying all of their money at auctions for vehicles, while others are relying purely on trade-ins. One important way to get an edge right now is to buy cars off the street to increase inventory selection and to avoid paying as much. Your marketing message is part of this, but the other part is how this translates to customer experience and staff priorities. If potential customers don’t feel like you want their cars because they’re not buying replacements, they will go somewhere else. Many automotive customers also don’t know what options are available to them or that their vehicles are worth more and why.
As of mid-2021, most dealers have added “We’ll Buy Your Car” messaging to their websites and/or their marketing campaigns, but very few have put together a top-to-bottom message and a unified dealership position. Here’s what dealerships need do to:
1. Motivate. Make sure your sales staff and business development center (BDC) are incentivized to encourage purchases, even if there’s no sale to follow. They need to be excited to buy that customer’s car, and it’s cheaper to give them a monetary incentive to buy from customers than to go buy cars from an auction.
2. Process. Don’t just rely on your marketing message to buy cars. Implement a process for your sales team to reach out to former customers. Many former customers are unaware that they can get good values for their vehicles right now and just need a call from a salesperson, BD agent or used car manager. Don’t just think locally either! Former customers who are out of your market may be willing to drive or ship a vehicle if they’re surprised by a seemingly high trade/sell value.
3. Message. Come up with a message related to buying cars (e.g. Up to $3,000 over book for your car, even if you don’t buy ours!). Communicate the message to your team, so all members are aware of what customers are seeing, then advertise the message with banners on your site, paid advertising and street-side signage. Awareness is going to be the key to your success.
Be sure to put together one page on your website that all of this messaging and advertising leads to; the page should start by explaining why market conditions are unusual. Consumers are commonly leery of dealer intentions, and we need to assure them that there are real market forces at work and you are here to help. Include on the page some basic information about all the available options: Sell Your Car, Return Your Lease (any brand), Extend Your Lease (if you or your OEM can support this with an accompanying purchase reservation) and/or Reserve a Vehicle (sell tomorrow’s inventory).
4. Consistency. Your whole team should be on the same page. We have seen communications between salespeople and customers where a salesperson has said, “I’ll likely be out of a job any day now,” or indicated, “We aren’t getting more new cars,” without addressing the market at large. Every dealer says, “My sales team wouldn’t say nonsense like that,” but don’t be so sure if you haven’t addressed this with your team members.
Assure your people that the sky isn’t falling, and develop a unified message about the situation, such as, “We are facing the same challenges as other dealers and brands, and we are doing everything we can to ensure you have the best experience…”
Sell More Cars Tomorrow
There’s no substitute for having the inventory your customers want, and some consumers are simply choosing to wait until the vehicles they want are in stock. Are you setting yourself up to make the sale when the inventory comes back? How are you going to be the first store a consumer shops at when they decide to start looking again? Trust me when I say that “we’re the number-one dealer in our market” doesn’t matter one bit to the customer.
5. Advertise. Make sure you’re advertising the ability for shoppers to reserve vehicles and their positions in line, but don’t rely on that alone to sell tomorrow’s cars. If you’re not already doing advanced local and product-focused search engine optimization (SEO) on your website, you can’t afford to wait any longer. Start in-house if you know how or engage a premium SEO vendor with verifiable content deliverables of 1,000 words per page or more. Organic search is the highest converting traffic for any dealer, and if you’re not ranking, your competitor is. When self-eliminated buyers return to the market, you need to be visible and capturing those leads if you hope to be the dealer that sells them that new vehicles they’ve been waiting so long for.
Set yourself up for success. During the COVID shutdown, it was the dealers who kept high-end SEO solutions in place who reaped the greatest rewards when pent-up demand came back to the market.