Selling Cars Online or Offline: How Do We Get From Here to There?


If you’re indeed ready to create a great buying experience in your dealership, you’re probably wondering what steps you need to take to make this happen. That’s understandable, because although you agree change is necessary, we all know that change (especially in automotive retail) can be disruptive.

Therefore, your goal should be to figure out how to make buying from you a great experience without driving away any truly productive employees or managers. Also, you and your team should agree on one unmistakable truth: You cannot create and maintain a great buying experience without simple, repeatable sales processes.

It All Starts with Process

Over the medium-term (i.e., one month to a year) and the long-term (i.e., more than a year), processes – even bad processes – outsell and out-gross and out-everything the opposite. This is true, because the opposite of process is no process. In other words, everything is seat-of-the-pants and on-the-fly and ad-libbed. And, while your managers and salespeople might argue that they always say and do the right things to close every deal and make the most money, the truth is that without simple, repeatable processes that are strictly followed, you’re losing deals and leaving gross on the table.

Have you ever noticed that no one ever talks about the deals their fly-by-night style lost for the dealership?

This lack of process likely explains why the average dealer still closes just about 20% of their Traditional Ups, yet the average car buyer visits fewer than two stores before they buy.

Simply put, the lousy buying experiences (devoid of process) actually cause some consumers to take themselves out of the market. Moreover, a lack of sales process is why you have 8-car sellers and 16-car sellers on the same team; all receiving the same number of opportunities after being provided the exact same training. (It’s also why average F&I managers gross so much less than what F&I superstars deliver.)

Even if your processes are bad, at least they can be improved (provided they are strictly enforced). When everyone sort of does their own thing, there is no path to improvement, because the holes and the weaknesses (other than a lack of process) cannot be identified (as they can with even a bad process).

Software Helps Manage Process

Frankly, you really shouldn’t need fancy or even simple software (including your CRM) to help you manage sales processes that you believe in. You and your management team should be so convinced that adherence to your processes makes for a great buying experience – one that delivers more sold units at higher grosses – that managing your processes is so second nature that it doesn’t seem like work.

Of course, that’s a perfect world and you live in the real world. Leveraging the tools that are available (especially your CRM) does indeed make it easier for you to create, manage and improve your sales processes. Given this, let’s look at the basic first steps for creating, managing and improving a sales process:

  1. Write a shortened sales process that covers all the steps you absolutely need, and make sure the steps are in the order that makes sense to a connected customer.
  2. Now, make it shorter (or seem shorter by involving the prospect as much as possible in the steps).
  3. Review the process with your sales team and ask them to (A) Poke holes in it, (B) Tell you why they cannot follow it 100% of the time, and (C) Whether this will be more enjoyable to the average buyer than the current road-to-the-sale.
  4. Make changes based on their feedback.
  5. Commit the process to written form and have all managers and employees sign off on it.
  6. Get with your CRM provider to ensure these sales process steps are built into the CRM as required checkpoints. (This means your team must check-off “A” before moving to “B” and so on.)
  7. Announce a date when this process will be strictly enforced and stick to that date. (In the meantime, your leadership team should begin managing all sales through this process and providing constructive feedback to those who struggle to adhere to the steps during this grace period.)
  8. Make improvements to your process over time, but only if they make sense and help you sell more vehicles at higher grosses.

It’s important to note, of course, that tools like your CRM have limitations. They are only as good as the data your team inputs, and only as effective as the level of enforcement you choose to employ. For example, if your process requires someone to scan a license before they can get the keys for a test drive, then you can never allow anyone to get keys for a test drive without first scanning a license.

This seems simple enough, but this is precisely the kind of step that breaks down when your sales managers are “busy.” If you allow even a single exception to your written process, you no longer have a process.

Beyond just using a CRM, there are successful dealers using tablets and/or kiosks today to help their teams stay on track with great processes. With the right process baked into a tablet, your salespeople are “forced” to follow your steps in a way that makes sense to the prospect. Moreover, with a tablet or kiosk, your prospect can more easily participate in the process – making it seem efficient and transparent.

Next up: What Should Our Tablet Process Look Like?

(If you’re catching this series for the first time, you may want to begin with the first post in the series: It’s About a Great Experience)

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