By Susan Gaytan, Director of Dealer Engagement and Training, Alan Ram’s Proactive Training Solutions

As the retail industry continues to see changes in production supply, wholesale prices, and the used car market, chances are you may be one of the thousands of sales professionals across the country reading this right now thinking, “How the heck am I going to navigate the next few months? How do I control what is happening, and how do I continue to make a good living with all of these changes happening?”

You had a really good streak going and made some great money and now all you’re hearing every single day is… “we’re not ready, we’re still shopping around, can you go any lower on price, the other dealership has four of them, can you beat their price?” and so on and so forth.

When ocean tides change a captain must change the direction of his sails to keep his ship moving, and he leverages the force and direction of the wind to gain momentum and speed. This industry is no different. You might not be able to control the price of a vehicle, but when it comes to working your sales prospects and leads, there are plenty of other factors as a sales professional that you can control.

As a salesperson that relies on car deals to make money, you will need to adjust your everyday tactics and start focusing on those factors that you can control. Then, be the best in that area. Control the controllable. Here are two factors you can control as a sales professional that have a tremendous impact with prospects:

The Trade
By far the shopper’s trade continues to be the most underrated factor when it comes to working sales leads and prospects. Nobody can refute that a shopper’s trade is just as important to the deal as the new vehicle itself. When a shopper does have a trade, which the vast majority do, that trade’s value is just as important to the bottom-line price as the car itself.

If your ad price on a vehicle is $32,500, and your shopper is telling you that he can get that exact same model, year, and package for $31,500 down the street, what’s the better deal? There is no way of knowing unless you include that trade, right? And nobody is going to give you their best offer over the phone, sight unseen. If you have KBB Instant Cash Offer or any appraisal tool, fantastic! But your best offer is always going to be given in person and this should always be explained to the shopper in this way. Even warning your shoppers of other lowball or aggressive offers. Informing and advising your shoppers in this area of the trade is a great way to create trust and leave them with an additional reason to want to come in and see you in person.

If you’re a manager or dealership owner, it’s time to take a hard look at your used car supply and where you are sourcing your inventory. Consumer trades, street purchases, and service drive acquisitions are the richest sources for acquiring wholesale merchandise, yet many dealerships overlook this area of opportunity or implement weak undermanaged processes that yield mediocre results. If you’re a salesperson I recommend getting trained in these areas where dealers oftentimes offer extra spiffs and commission.

The number one reason most shoppers dread buying a vehicle? The time it takes to buy one. According to Cox Automotive’s 2022 Car Buyer Journey Study, the time spent in the vehicle buying process jumped significantly in 2022, with the typical vehicle buyer reporting the process took 14 hours and 39 minutes, up from 12 hours and 27 minutes in 2021, an increase of 18%.

Shoppers hate the typical waiting game at the dealership and today, they won’t wait. Time is the currency of the future, and this is an area that you can help control as a sales professional.

Take the time to review each area of your daily processes. Do you have a plan when you answer a sales call? Are you making the most of those 5-10 minutes or are you just winging it hoping they’ll be a lay down? Don’t get so wrapped up in price or objections that you lose sight of the shopper’s experience. People crave a shopping experience that is unique, customer-centric, and just makes them feel good. The key to creating that experience is being professional, taking control, and moving the customers through your sales process. The same old thing to you but when done right, you offer a great and efficient experience for your customer. Many shoppers are happy to pay more for that professional experience.

Don’t expect to break any records if it’s still taking you 2 hours to pin down your used manager for an appraisal quote. Shoppers will not wait today. Meet shoppers where they want to be met. Let them know that you value their time. Additionally, get trained in these areas of opportunity. Don’t wait for someone or something to change, seek out the knowledge and training you need to empower yourself and then make the change yourself. One of the best things about working in a dealership is that nobody is going to stop you from making more money.

The one constant in this industry continues to be change. To be successful you have to learn to embrace it. Control what you can and excel in those areas. Be better than everyone else. Stay ahead of the curve and be proactive instead of reactive. These are the things that will keep you profitable and thriving in 2023.

About the Author

Susan Gaytan, Director of Dealer Engagement and Training at Alan Ram’s Proactive Training Solutions, brings over twenty years of automotive experience and dealership management expertise to her role. She is responsible for integrating training solutions and helping dealerships maximize the effectiveness of training. 

Author: Christine Corkran

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