By Dan Dulik, Director of Product Marketing, CDK Global/Elead
There’s a shift underway from selling stock to selling pipeline and special orders – and this may be the new normal. Experts predict vehicle shortages will last through 2022. Even when inventory rebounds, this new way of buying may be here to stay.
Customers are getting used to the idea of ordering a vehicle and waiting for it to arrive. For example, Ford says it took 74,000 new vehicle retail orders in November 2021 – an increase of 64,000 over the previous November.
Customers are also getting used to the idea of buying vehicles in transit. I recently spoke with a dealer in Missouri who sold half of his inventory before it ever hit his lot.
If customers are open to this new sales paradigm, and dealers can save on floor expenses, why shouldn’t this be the new normal?
Then the question becomes: How do we continue to provide a good customer experience when customers can shop, build, and take delivery all without stepping foot on your floor (assuming vehicle delivery to the home or office)? I recommend focusing on the following areas:
Too many dealer websites are delivering a poor customer experience because they were not designed for virtual inventory or vehicle ordering. Auto expert, Brian Pasch wrote a great article about this topic recently where he pointed out that if a vehicle is not in stock, most website companies remove the model from website search tools. This hurts the shopping experience and SEO.
Continue merchandising vehicles that are not in stock by updating search results pages with a message about “in-demand” vehicles. This can be as simple as a banner that directs customers to call you if they are searching for a high-demand vehicle. Other dealer website providers choose to include an easy-to-read Build/Locate tag next to models that are not in stock.
Paragon Honda in New York includes all models on its website with a clear message about the ability to reserve and build vehicles. They also create detailed research pages for every model whether in stock or not, so every model and trim is represented on the site. This is good for SEO and even better for customers shopping for high-demand vehicles.
In addition to your website, make sure to include virtual new inventory on third-party lead sites. This will help drive leads into your CRM.
The shift from selling stock to pipeline is monumental for most sales teams. The mentality seems to be: How can I sell what I don’t have? Without a sales plan in place, salespeople flounder and either don’t respond to leads or revert back to old-school selling and pressure the customer to come in to see what else is available.
Just because you don’t have a vehicle don’t assume there’s nothing you can do for a customer. Truth be told, dealers have always been able to order or trade vehicles.
Now is the time to elevate lead responses based on radical transparency. Be clear about what inventory is virtual and what’s on the ground. Be clear about the time frame, whether that’s a few weeks or months. Be clear about what else differentiates your dealership, such as completing all paperwork electronically and home delivery (where a wet signature can be captured, if needed).
Create new email and text templates for sales that clearly describe how your dealership is ready to help customers order or build the vehicles they want.
Don’t take your foot off the customer experience pedal. This is your chance to shine against your competitors and keep CSI high.
Every dealer with a CRM has a simplified way to find customers that are likely to purchase or order.
Create an equity mining strategy that pinpoints customers who bought at least three years ago and craft messaging around the benefits of proactively securing that next vehicle now.
Every salesperson should make time for five or six high-priority follow-ups every day. Prioritize the proactive activities that fill the pipeline to maximize long-term results.
The service drive is also an excellent place to tout your pipeline and ordering capabilities. Assign one salesperson each day to review service appointments for qualified prospects and then create a personal proposal for each customer. Include details about how easy it is to build and order online, and of course, what the customer can expect for the trade-in.
Selling pipeline and special orders is a logical shift with vehicles on the ground still in short supply. Especially as customer buying behavior indicates a willingness to wait for that perfect vehicle. Leverage this shift with merchandising, communication and equity mining strategies that deliver a great customer experience for consumers shopping for high-demand vehicles.
About the Author
Dan Dulik is director of product marketing for CDK Global/Elead.