People generally don’t just wake up in the morning and say, “I think I am going to buy a car today.” Sure most of us would love a new car right now, but without a need or compelling event we continue to drive the car we have. Something has to happen to trigger that buying emotion. For some people that buying emotion comes and goes as quickly as a 30 second advertisement; for others it could be a year of planning and research.
When that urge does arrive, people can choose to interact with us in one of four ways, by e-mail, chat, a phone call or in person at the dealership. Thus I like to call these four contact points “the stages of a customer’s evolution.”
The lowest form of customer evolution is the Internet, we’re just a bunch words on a computer screen to one another, and unfortunately our industry does not employ a whole lot of wordsmith’s out there. Those of you just giving out prices are not even selling the value of your product or dealership! And we wonder why our industry has become so commoditized. Experts will tell you an Internet lead can often take several months to close. The problem, most of the people in our business are looking for instant gratification. Why should a salesperson follow-up with somebody for months when they can probably just look out the window and find a buyer sooner than later? Now I don’t like this anymore than you do, but this is reality. Without a rock solid follow-up process and people willing to execute, your dealership is missing opportunities.
A chat session takes us to the next step of our evolution process. Unlike an e-mail which can consume days of back and forth conversation, a chat session allows us to accomplish a lot more in a shorter time frame. According to Todd Smith, President of Active Engage, the average chat session generally last about 9 minutes. If done properly it can lead to a phone conversation where it becomes much easier to schedule the appointment.
The phone call, our next to last step in the evolution process allows us to use words and voice inflections, making it easier to secure a visit to the dealership in the form of an appointment. I can tell you from years of personal experience, it’s lot easier to paint a mental picture and build a relationship on the phone than it is to do so in an e-mail or chat session. The phone is the bridge that will help you appoint more Internet and chat customers to your dealership.
As you probably guessed, the final stage of evolution is when the customer makes the decision to visit your dealership. Now we have the ability to use all of our behavioral cues; words, tones, gesture, posture and facial expressions. This is a much more personal experience for you and the customer, and will provide you with best opportunity to earn your customer’s business.
I decided to write this article after recently observing a well recognized trainer providing his phone-up theories during an online training session hosted by a nationally recognized lead provider. This trainer, who will remain nameless, suggested that instead of giving out information on the phone, the salesperson should get the customer’s e-mail, and then e-mail that information to the customer. I couldn’t disagree with this more! You’re going backwards when you choose to employ this methodology. What if the customer does not agree with the information provided in the e-mail? On the phone we can at least try and validate our information, or overcome any objections we might face. No to mention we’re still required to phone that customer after sending the e-mail in an effort to try and secure an appointment. Getting a customer on the phone a second time can be a very difficult process. In my professional opinion, we need to make the most of that initial phone call and provide the customer with the requested information in order to try and secure the appointment. I emphasize “requested” since many salespeople go above and beyond the call of duty and provide way too much information, thus they de-motivate the customer from visiting their dealership.
In the first three phases of evolution we’re trying to sell an appointment, not a vehicle! Sell the vehicle in your showroom and you’ll close more deals.
With fewer and fewer customers visiting showrooms these days, you had better learn how to master the first three stages of evolution, that’s if you want your fair share of customers visiting your showroom.
I plan to write a follow-up to this article in the next few weeks, but first, I would like to hear your thoughts on this matter?