Selling Cars Online or Offline: The Common Denominators of a Great Experience


The good news about trying to create a great car buying experience is that there are similarities among all great dealership experiences that can be studied and adopted. Understanding what these are and why they make for a great buying experience allows you to easily include them in all of your store’s sales processes.

Take Control

Although this may sound counterintuitive, all great car buying experiences are controlled. Primarily, this is due to the complexity of the vehicle purchase and the fact that the average consumer has no idea how the process works today – all they know is that really didn’t like the process the last time they bought.

By taking control of the process and guiding the customer through your steps in order, you can keep the purchase on track and you’ll close at a much higher rate. Conversely, when you cede control to the prospect, you allow confusion and doubt to overtake their desire to purchase today, and your closing rates decline.

Another way to look at this control is to ensure you stay in charge throughout the buying process, but in a way that makes sense to the prospect.

Make Sense

When you take steps that don’t appear to get the prospect any closer to the actual purchase, you begin to build unnecessary friction and anxiety. All great buying experiences make sense to the customer. More specifically, the steps you guide them through follow in a logical order in the prospect’s mind.

One way to ensure the process makes sense to the customer is to let them know what you’re doing and why you’re doing it during each step. This way you’ll ensure they understand the need for a particular step; and you’ll head off any confusion or anxiety before it occurs.

Engage Them

All great buying experiences seem shorter or more efficient than they really are, because the customer is involved throughout. Contrast the typical road-to-the-sale where the customer is often left alone while the salesperson goes back and forth to the sales desk.

Does their time spent waiting feel efficient to them? Does the whole process feel shorter or longer than it is? Try staring at a clock for five minutes and contrast that with watching television for five minutes. Which five-minute activity seems shorter?

That’s correct. The one where you were engaged; the one where you were watching television. Keep the customer engaged in the entire process, so that no matter how long the process takes, it will feel much shorter than it really is.

Buying, Not Selling

All great customer experiences employ a buying process. This means the customer feels like they’re buying and not being sold. With a proper buying process in place, the customer will feel like our equal. We are still in control, but the steps seem logical and they are headed towards the purchase.

When the customer is buying, we never need to overcome objections, because we simply move them through a process that makes sense. After all, they came to buy today, didn’t they? (We introduced a buying process that can replace your old-school road-to-the-sale in the previous post in this series.)

It’s Not Complicated

That’s really all that’s required to create a great car buying experience: We’re in control; the process makes sense; we keep them engaged (often with a tablet or kiosk); and we allow them to feel like they’re buying instead of being sold.

Finally, we can improve our chances of closing customers that we take through our great buying experience when we also assume the sale throughout. This means from the moment their vehicle pulls onto our lot, we should assume they’re here to buy and that they’re here to buy today. Doing so will help you avoid treating your prospects like suspects, and will ensure you take them through each step of your shortened road-to-the-sale.

Next up: The Building Blocks for Great Sales Processes.

(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