Selling Cars Online or Offline: It’s All About A Great Experience!


(This is the first article in a multi-post series.)

Throughout this series we’re going to explore how top dealers are successfully selling cars today: the way their customers want to buy. In the process, they’re creating great buying experiences that lead to higher grosses and real market share growth. Moreover, they’re leveraging these great experiences to improve CSI and increase both customer and employee retention.

In this series we’ll look at everything from today’s Traditional Up (the buyer who still completes their purchase 100% in-store) to the Online Buyer (those who never set foot in your dealership) and everything in between (we’ll call these the Offline-Online Hybrid Buyers).

There is No One-Size-Fits-All

Most of the startups that claim they will “revolutionize” the way America buys cars have one critical flaw in their business plan: They think the bulk of people want to buy just one way: 100% Online. Of course, unless they change their thinking, this is where the Carvana’s of the world will fail. There simply is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to selling cars and, because of this, franchised dealers have the advantage.

Indeed, given that the landscape is evolving every day, franchised dealers – specifically those who are open to evolving with the market – can and will win over the long term. Traditional franchised dealers will ultimately beat the single direction startups, because they have robust and profitable fixed operations departments, their variable salary structures make them better able to manage in slow times, and they generally own their facilities. (Compare this with a high-cost startup that must service a tremendous amount of debt without the benefit of fixed operations covering the losses in variable operations.)

Traditional dealers who continue to leverage their strengths as they also work to improve the car buying experience for consumers have little to fear from the startups.

Today’s Car Buyers

Today’s buyers – all of whom are connected consumers – know what they want before they arrive on your lot. In fact, according to Autotrader, in 2015, 71% of used car buyers purchased the vehicle they intended; while 77% of new car buyers purchased the vehicle they intended. These stats are eye opening for many dealers as the sheer volume of those who’ve made up their mind at home is unlike anything most of us faced when we sold our first car.

Of course, when share these statistics with most traditional, old-school sales managers, they’ll tell you, “You’re crazy. No, we flip everybody.”

No, you don’t. Not anymore. Not today.

If you believe you “flip everybody,” then you’re likely flipping people out of the store and down the block straight to your competition. Today’s buyers know what they want, because Google tells us they’ve looked at more than 24 sources of information and they’ve spent more than 19 hours doing research. Trying to move today’s buyers to something more profitable for you is the reason most dealers are still closing just 20% of their Traditional Ups on the first visit. Today’s consumer showed up to buy and you chased them away.

Consumers Hate Your Processes

Open-minded dealers are beginning to treat every Up like a connected buyer – someone who already knows what they want – and instead of trying to flip them using an old-school road-to-the-sale, they’re working to make the purchase a great experience for all.

The need to improve the buying experience is clear. In fact, according to DrivingSales, 99% of consumers say they expect a hassle when they start the car-shopping process. Couple that data with an Autotrader study that basically found a whopping 1 in 235 buyers liked the current car-buying process.

1 out of 235.

It’s time to change. You know that virtually everyone is online; and now you know that everyone pretty much knows what they want. On top of that, 234 of 235 buyers don’t like your road-to-the-sale. Knowing all of this, we’ve got to change the experience.

Next up in the series: Not Everyone Wants to Buy Their Next Car Online

About TheManager:

Steve Stauning, creator of The Appointment Culture and an expert in The Customer Experience. He is also an extremely popular keynote speaker, writer, and industry consultant. Learn more about Steve at