By Sean Reyes, Chief Marketing Officer, Recall Masters
For decades, dealerships have followed a specific formula when dealing with car shoppers. Why? Because, for the most part, it worked and led to not only a sale but a transaction that would ultimately result in higher profit. It didn’t matter what the customer “wanted” as long the result favored the dealership. The salespeople were trained to interact with customers in a specific way – and in some cases, if their manager found that a step was missed (such as a test drive, for instance), they would call in another salesperson to take over the interaction with the customer. And when this happened, they took away half of any commission the original salesperson would have made.
With the rise of digital retailing and market changes due to COVID, dealerships can no longer force a customer into a rigid set of steps. Dealerships will often tailor these steps in various ways in the name of convenience to the customer, like delivering the car to the consumer for a test drive. “Just get them in!” no longer works.
An article in Automotive News illustrates this phenomenon perfectly, sharing what one dealership has done to change the old rules… by treating customers as humans. Sounds logical, right? Because who DOESN’T want to be treated like a human? Germain Toyota stopped using a rigid process and allowed salespeople to talk to customers in an organic and unscripted way. While some store traditionalists may have been skeptical, the staff embraced this new conversational service-focused style – and it has paid off. Both customers and employees are happier, and the company culture is better. And profits have increased to the tune of $600 per car on the front-end. In the F&I department, Germain Toyota promoted two salespeople who embraced this new approach, and they quickly became the dealership’s top F&I employees averaging between $2,400 and $2,800 per vehicle. Seeing this quick success, “old-school” F&I managers soon became interested in learning how to follow suit.
Consumers have become more tech-savvy, used to doing things how they want them done, and are much more comfortable with online transactions. I don’t believe that a dealership will ultimately have the option of going back to “business as usual,” simply because consumers won’t let them. There are too many alternative options that better suit how consumers prefer to buy. The consumers will decide to do business with a dealership that WILL accommodate them in the way they wish to proceed.
Consumers aren’t dollar signs. They are human. Dealerships who recognize this (finally) and don’t restrict their salespeople from following a certain road to the sale, but rather follow the customer’s lead and let the conversation (and transaction) develop organically, may just experience the same results as Germain Toyota. Is it time to ditch the road to the sale and let customers tell you what they want? As the General Manager of Germain Toyota stated, “We just roll with them.” What do you think?
About the Author
Sean Reyes oversees all marketing efforts at Recall Masters as Chief Marketing Officer. Sean’s experience spans more than 25 years of business development and strategic marketing experience, having worked in the automotive, healthcare, finance, and technology industries to serve customers like American Express, Toshiba, Western Digital, Cox Communications, Gateway, Novartis, Microsoft, IBM, Compaq, HP, Confident Financial Solutions, MyCustomerData, Toyota of Orange, and Fletcher Jones Mercedes Benz. While he has an accomplished portfolio of design, production, and coding skills, his strength is in “go-to-market” business modeling and digital marketing strategies.