The Great Car-Buying Experience: Telling is Only Half the Equation

great car buying experience - used car salesman

The Great Car-Buying Experience: Telling is Only Half the Equation

Even before the pandemic, many dealerships were beginning to focus their marketing and messaging away from low prices toward providing a better customer experience. Certainly, the lockdowns and resulting (now fading) rush to at-home test drives and (still in its infancy) online buying sped up this transition. Add in the chip shortage’s impact on discounting, and today we find most franchised dealerships telling potential customers about their great car-buying experiences:

“The fast, easy, transparent way to buy online”

“Buy your car from home in three easy steps”

“The easy way to sell your car: in-store or online”

“Contact us now to schedule your VIP experience”

This type of marketing – one that doesn’t focus on low prices or how much more they pay for trades – has served the online car sellers and the likes of CarMax well; long before and even during the inventory crunch.

Time, Turmoil, Trust

With transaction prices easily discoverable online, to resonate with today’s consumers a dealer’s messaging should address the other three biggest concerns car buyers have about buying from a dealership:

TIME – It takes too long to buy a car from a dealership.

TURMOIL – There’s too much friction when buying a car from a dealership.

TRUST – Today’s automotive sales professionals are unjustly painted by the brush of yesterday. (Don’t believe me? Check out the annual Gallup poll detailing consumers’ trust in various professions.)

Discovering how much to pay or how much a trade is worth is easy for today’s consumers. Knowing they will have a great buying experience will be the difference maker as inventories grow.

The Other Half of the Equation

Fantastic… you have great messaging. Your ads, your website, and your emails all tell car buyers about how great it is to buy from you. Now what?

Your team will have to live it… every day on every deal. Anything less, and you’ll break trust. Deliver a bad buying experience – one that runs counter to all your pre-buying claims – and you’ll be “rewarded” with one-star reviews.

Living this great buying experience begins with your first connection with a prospect. Whether this is via email, text, phone, or on your lot. The first words your team uses and the direction they try to take a prospect will set the tone for the rest of the experience in the consumer’s mind.

The Demo Drive

A great car-buying experience often hinges on how efficiently and seamlessly you move the prospect to the demo drive. Why so much importance on demo drive? Because study after study tells us that 9 of 10 buyers say the test drive was the most influential resource in their decision. Additionally, as any old car dog can attest to, “the feel of the wheel seals the deal.” This is not just a decades-old saying, it’s the reality of car buying… yesterday and today.

This is why I teach everyone from BDC agents to floor salespeople to sales managers to focus first on the demo drive. If the customer has questions, they’ll ask them. If they have legitimate objections, they’ll raise them.

Appointment-First Approach

What does asking for the demo drive over the phone sound like? Once we reach a prospect who submitted a lead, we simply use the Appointment-First Approach:

“Hi Barbara, this is Steve from Steve’s Ford, and I’m just calling to schedule your priority test drive on the 2021 Escape. Now, we have two priority test drives open on that Escape this afternoon, we have a 2:15 and 2:45. Which one of these would work better for you?”

Some may think this is too pushy; they’d be wrong. Think about today’s buyer. They’ve searched online for weeks, spending hours looking at different vehicles. By the time they submit a sales lead, what do you think their next logical step would be?

Yep. They want to see, touch, feel, smell, and drive the vehicle they selected… well, only 9 out of 10 of them, of course.

Assumptive Selling on the Lot

A great car-buying experience on your lot can be delivered seamlessly when your team uses Assumptive Selling. Assuming the sale the moment a buyer exits their vehicle on your lot is the easiest and most profitable way to sell cars today… and tomorrow; and Assumptive Selling begins with the Meet & Greet:

“Welcome to Steve’s Ford; my name is Steve. Which vehicle did you come to test drive today?”

Fully 80% of Fresh Ups will tell you the vehicle or vehicles they’d like to see. The other 20%? Apparently, they want an old-school, four-hour grindfest. Okay, I can do that too.

Once the 80% blurts out the vehicle they really want to buy today, it’s a simple pivot to get them into the CRM and move them toward their demo drive:

“Great, let me get your driver’s license, we’ll get it scanned, and I’ll get you the keys to your Ford Escape.”

Is this the beginning of a great car-buying experience in the consumer’s mind? You bet it is… so far.

Given they expected so much turmoil from you and your team, and given they believe it takes too long to buy a car from you, moving them efficiently to the demo drive – the step 9 of 10 say is the most important – genuinely creates the beginning of a great car-buying experience.

Contrast this with many of Meet & Greet approaches I see being taught today.

There are some approaches that force salespeople out of their natural comfort zone as they try to vomit out all the great reasons to buy from you. Mere words they memorized after countless Saturday meetings that do nothing to move the prospect through a great experience.

There are other approaches that still attempt to move the buyer into a traditional Needs Analysis; some even forcing customers to sit down for the interview prior to seeing any vehicles. Car buyers look at this as an unnecessary interrogation; and if you’re honest about this experience, you’ll see it leads to low demo drive, write up, and close rates.

Don’t Confuse Marketing with Doing

Your marketing should be all about telling everyone how easy it is to buy a car from you; how they can expect a VIP Experience; how you provide hassle-free buying; etc. That’s marketing, and it’s important that it resonate with prospective buyers.

The trick – the hard part, if you will – is living this on the phone and on the lot. That’s the second half of the equation; one that’s not critical today (after all, you’re selling every vehicle you can source), but will be the difference maker sometime in the very near future.

Good Selling!

There’s much more to Assumptive Selling than the demo drive, of course. If you’re ready to create a great car-buying experience at every turn, and you’ve got the stomach for a 400+ page book, might I humbly recommend this $50 gem: Assumptive Selling: The Complete Guide to Selling More Vehicles for More Money to Today’s Connected Customers

Automotive Sales Books by Steve Stauning:

Buy Ridiculously Simple Sales Management Now

Buy Assumptive Selling Now