According to a recent study, 81 percent of recent car buyers polled did not enjoy the car buying experience, with 29 percent indicating they do not trust salespeople.
The car sales process can’t simply be about pushing cars off the lot if you want to remain competitive. Instead, you need to understand your buyer, address their needs and establish a personal connection with each customer.
Brick-and-mortar dealerships have an advantage over Amazon, Carvana and other online retailers fighting to establish their place in the automotive industry, as traditional dealers have the built-in ability to personally connect with customers. However, your dealership is only as good as the people you have working in each department – and their capacity to make meaningful connections with your customers.
Below are a few ways to optimize your human capital, ensure your employees are positively representing your brand and maintain your competitive edge over online retailers and other disruptive business models.
Shift Your Sales Positions to Product Specialist Roles
An increasing number of automotive dealerships are implementing product specialists to fill roles that were previously sales-focused. While traditional sales roles likely won’t go away anytime soon, product specialists act as brand ambassadors and experts, instead of salespeople who, in the traditional sense, spend much of their energy getting buyers to sign on the dotted line.
With the transition to product specialists, dealerships are seeing numerous benefits – from improved customer experience and higher sales margins to lower employee turnover.
In 2014, Florida-based dealership JM Lexus saw a 27 percent sales increase over the two previous years after replacing sales associate positions with product experts. Other dealerships have followed suit and adopted the product specialist model to help provide their customers with a smooth and transparent sales experience.
In addition to building customer trust, the shift from sales to product specialist roles can also help you attract more quality employees. Today’s job seekers have become wary of the commission-based salaries traditionally associated with many dealership sales roles. So, many dealerships have switched from commission-based pay plans to base pay plus bonus plans – for sales and product specialist roles. Not only will this evolved pay plan help your dealership attract top talent who might not have considered a commission-based plan, but it will also take the commission pressure off your existing employees – allowing them to focus more on your customers’ needs.
Expedite Car Buying
The majority of today’s car buyers spend a significant amount of time researching their potential purchase online – 14 hours, on average. Most consumers research online because it’s faster and more convenient than spending a whole Saturday in the dealership, as customers did in the past. When customers do visit a dealership, they expect to drive off the lot quickly, rather than spending their entire day shopping for a car.
Product specialists are better suited for this “new normal.” They can answer any additional questions the well-informed customer may have, test drive the car with them and help the customer drive home in their new car as quickly as possible.
Some dealerships have also opted to combine their sales and F&I functions of the business, to help expedite the buying process and get customers out the door faster. Although a combined job position calls for a more talented job candidate, there are many benefits to adding this dual role to your dealership.
Not only will a combined sales and F&I role drastically reduce the amount of time buyers spend completing their purchase, it also increases brand trust. By designating one person to fulfill both roles, that employee can more easily build a relationship with customers. Customers will not be handed off from sales to F&I – instead, they will be working with one employee throughout the entire process.
Build Customer Loyalty by Integrating Technology
To help grow customer relationships, dealers are finding ways to leverage technology to make car buying and post-purchase services more convenient. Some sales and service managers have been using mobile technologies to send their customers notifications when their vehicle needs an oil change or other routine maintenance. Dealers can also use this platform to advertise discounts and promotions, driving loyalty, engagement and retention.
Hire the Right People
Along with modifying your job positions, speeding up car buying and integrating technology into your sales process, make sure you are constantly hiring quality candidates to maximize your dealership’s potential. Your talent represents your brand on a daily basis. To find the best candidates in any economic climate, download our eBook, “Planning for People in Retail Automotive.”