By Dan Dulik, Director, Product Marketing, CDK Global/Elead
As a dealership Sales Manager, your role is to build, cultivate, and manage your team. But how do your responsibilities change when there’s virtually no new inventory on the ground and your sales team may feel demoralized or even bored at work? The silent enemy here is inaction. You have to pivot towards this new reality and bring your team along with you to continue engaging customers, building relationships, and setting your team up for success when inventory rebounds…because it will. Here are 5 new practices to adopt today.
1. Double down on product knowledge. The Internet allows people to shop until they drop online so customers are better informed about the product than ever before. When they reach out, it is with specific questions that they expect your sales team to answer immediately and thoroughly. Can your team discuss each model down to the trim level? Are they walking the used car lot every day so they know exactly what you have available and the condition? We know people often end up buying a vehicle other than what they originally intended, especially if they need a vehicle now and pre-owned is the only option. Encourage your team to use downtime to study up on your product so they can be effective consultants for every buyer.
2. Train on the basics. New vehicles are virtually selling themselves today with demand far outstripping supply. As a result, your team may need a brush-up on basic selling skills including desking, price negotiations, and F&I presentations. The “basics” now include how to follow up on digital retailing leads. I’m still surprised how many sales professionals ignore what a customer has done online and ask for information that has already been provided. That gives a terrible customer experience and is a waste of everyone’s time. Train your team to follow the customer’s lead and pick up in-store where they left off online.
3. Create new phone/email/text templates. When you’re used to selling a hundred or so new vehicles a month and now have only 30 in stock, it can be hard to know what to say to new leads. I’ve heard of salespeople ignoring leads (and not entering them into the CRM) because they don’t have vehicles to sell. You have to put an immediate stop to that. An effective solution is providing new phone, email, and text scripts that salespeople can use to engage with customers, explain the current shortages, and what your store is doing to help (ordering directly from the OEM, adding customers to a waitlist, highlighting appropriate used vehicles). Inventory will rebound, and when it does you want a full lead pipeline. Cultivating relationships with leads through honest conversations and helpful suggestions primes the pump for when you have more cars on the ground.
4. Invite every new car buyer into the showroom. This may sound counter-intuitive when you don’t have vehicles to sell, but as I mentioned before, people buy vehicles other than what they originally intended all the time. Taking the time to listen to the customer, walking the lot with them, and demonstrating that you’re willing to do whatever it takes to get them into a new (or new to them) vehicle goes a long way towards creating a relationship that may pay off for years. Customers will see the same lack of inventory wherever they go. Instead of shying away from the issue, talk about the problem, showcase appropriate used vehicles that can get them through in a pinch, or help them order a new vehicle directly from the OEM. Whether the customer decides to put off purchase, drives away in a used vehicle, or puts down a deposit and waits 3 months for delivery, it’s all a win-win for your dealership because you now have a new relationship.
5. Proactively engage your database. Salespeople with time on their hands should be proactive with the customers sitting in your CRM. It’s important to personally connect with more current and past customers, beyond sending generic email and direct mail campaigns. My “car guy” calls me every few months to check-in, ask how the car’s running, and inquire if I know anyone else in the market for a vehicle. Even though I don’t plan to trade-in for a while, I appreciate his follow-up, and will more than likely call him first when I’m ready to get back in the market. Other ways to engage include sharing short informational videos about vehicle features or new models (text is best if customers have opted-in), or sending a quick note about upcoming service specials. Make communications personal and relevant and you’ll stay top-of-mind with customers.
It bears repeating: the silent enemy here is inaction. Sales managers must act now and put new practices in place to encourage salespeople to interact and engage with customers – even with few cars on the ground. The payoff will be stronger customer relationships and a full pipeline when inventory rebounds.
About the Author
Dan Dulik leads Product Marketing for the Variable Operations portfolio at CDK Global, which includes Elead CRM, F&I and Dealer to Dealer solutions.