Best Practices

What Ellen Degeneres Can Teach You About Off-Make Walkarounds

Depending on the study you read, the average consumer spends between 11 and 14 hours researching their next car purchase, making them extremely well educated on the facts, features and figures. They treat the research phase of the buying cycle as if it were their job.

Seems like a good thing, right?

Conventional wisdom would lead you to believe that an educated shopper would be much closer to a purchase decision when they arrive on the lot, but conventional wisdom doesn’t account for the friction that often occurs when that shopper knows more about their intended purchase than the salesperson responsible for educating them and selling them the vehicle.

Ellen Degeneres recently tapped into the “comedy” this can create on her show by sending one of her writers undercover with a hidden camera to pose as a salesman at a Chevrolet dealership. He performed the kind of walkaround that nightmares are made of.

Warning: although this video may induce a chuckle, it may also induce nausea.

Your sales team likely knows everything there is to know about the make and models you sell, but what happens when a consumer comes in on that oddball low-mileage Saab you took in on trade?

There is a lot to discuss and I don’t have all the answers, but I do think we should start addressing the key issues.

First of all, how are you helping your salespeople gain the product knowledge they need on the off-make vehicles sitting on your lot?

What do you expect from them when they do a walkaround of these cars and trucks – do you think they should be able to perform more than a “standard walkaround” from the video above?

If so, what tools do you give them to be successful?

And what process have you defined for your team to really be able to educate themselves on your available used inventory?

How can you differentiate your dealership from others that are getting those same calls?

Here are a few ideas to consider:

Encourage your sales team to walk the lot both physically AND digitally!
As much time should be spent reviewing VDPs on your website as popping hoods and tying balloons on your lot. Your customers will likely see your VDP before they see your balloons. Your sales team should be familiar with the presentation of the vehicle online and offline.

Create a small spiff for your sales team to review VDPs with the intent of finding errors.
Is it worth $20 a week to crowdsource your team to find areas of improvement on your VDPs? Perhaps you could encourage them to submit both errors and omissions? Just think how much better prepared they would be to speak intelligently about that vehicle if they were studying VDPs this hard.

Encourage your team to write better custom comments.
A well-equipped model on your lot with rare and coveted options should be shouted from the rooftops and writing custom comments is often your best online sales tool to differentiate your inventory. Your team can certainly benefit from doing the research required to improve those comments.

Encourage your team to review VIN and market specific data.
There are a few tools out there that aggregate market-based data. Ask your team to read those reports and have them at their fingertips during the walkaround.

“Yes, Mr. Customer, we are asking a little more for this than ABC Motors. Remember that white is the most desired color and ours does have 57% fewer miles than the market average here in Austin. ABC Motor’s fluorescent teal one is at the top of the mileage average for this year.”

Market data can overcome an objection even before the objection surfaces.

Full disclosure: CarStory provides exactly this kind of data, and, yes, this could be considered a sales pitch except that we don’t charge anything for the reports. You can even add them to your website at no cost if you’d like to use them to educate your sales team and better inform your consumers. For more information on the free market reports, jump over to

I think we can all agree that consumers expect a lot more than “door handles and tires come standard” when they make the effort to visit your lot. It’s time to maximize all the tools you have to provide a professional, feature-rich and market specific walkaround of every vehicle on your lot, not just the ones with which your team is most familiar.

What tools and/or process do you use educate your salespeople on the product knowledge they need in order to sell off-make used vehicles?

Join this discussion in the dealer forums.

Ryan Leslie VP of Sales CarStory LinkedIn “The way to a good reputation is to endeavor to be what you desire to appear.” ― Socrates