By Dan Dillingham, Regional Vice President – Central, Elead/CDK Global
If you’re reading this, you’re crying for inventory. We all are. The lack of new vehicles on the ground is like nothing ever seen before.
As CNBC reported, chipmakers shifted their focus to electronics like computers when dealerships and OEMs shut down during the pandemic. The renewed demand from our industry has them struggling to keep up. Ron Montoya, senior consumer advice editor at Edmunds.com, predicts that car pricing and inventory will likely be affected through at least the second half of 2021.
Now, I happen to believe that automotive has the best breed of business people! If anyone can thrive through this post-pandemic craziness, we can. But we need to ensure the bottleneck of customers wanting to buy all stay in the market.
An Effective Follow-Up Process Is Key to Combat Vehicle Inventory Challenges
The best way to stay in front of customers is with a new follow-up process specific to our current challenge. We don’t have any control over the chip crisis. We do have control over how and when we keep in touch with customers. A consistent and clear follow-up process is the only thing that will differentiate you from the dealer down the road.
I know some of you reading this just said, “but I don’t have any inventory. Why am I reaching out to customers if I don’t have anything to sell them?” You’re reaching out to customers who have expressed interest – whether through a call, text, email lead, or showroom visit – in buying a new vehicle. Sure, you most likely don’t have the vehicles they want on the ground right now. But, you DO have a limited number of vehicles coming in each week. Keep in-market customers updated once a week about what’s coming in, and they will reward you by returning to your dealership and buying a car.
How will this follow-up process give you a competitive advantage? Because most dealers who don’t have the car of interest in stock will simply turn away the customer, mark the CRM record as inactive, and forget about it. The customer is left to follow up with the dealership – if he or she wants to. I always preach that a customer is never a dead customer. That person will buy a car – but not from a dealership that acts disinterested in pursuing the sale.
In contrast, imagine a scenario where every salesperson follows a prescribed process backed up by your CRM. Every customer interaction and vehicle preference gets logged in the system. Then you create a status alert that prompts a salesperson to call or text the customer in a week and give an update. Within your CRM, you can also link a customer to an inventory alert, so when the vehicle they want comes on the lot, you get immediate notification and can jump on the phone to the customer.
Let’s say Mark came in last week looking for a new Corvette, but you don’t have one right now. You do see one for allocation in 60 days. You say to Mark, “I see we’re due to receive one in 60 days. Do you mind if I follow up with you and keep you updated on that status? What’s the best way to contact you?” Then do what you promised and follow up. The customer will remember you and appreciate you because no one is doing this.
We all know salespeople don’t like to do this kind of follow-up, but you have to keep tabs on your customers to earn their business now and in the future. If you can’t get your team engaged, or if you’re running lean like so many are right now because you can’t get people to go to work, think about getting a BDC on board.
A virtual BDC can do what many can’t right now – consistent customer follow-up with the power to get it done. You’re always in charge of the message. You can work with a BDC to create scripts specific to the chip crisis and know calls are getting made.
All this post-pandemic craziness will subside, but where will your dealership be when it does? Your buyers are out there wanting to do business with you. Prioritize proactive, personal, and prompt follow-up, and they will buy that next vehicle from you.
About the Author
Dan Dillingham oversees Elead sales in the central U.S., including seven regional directors and their sales teams from Texas to Wisconsin. Prior to joining Elead, Dan was a General Manager with a dealership. He has been in the automotive retail industry for nearly 30 years.