In the last six months or so, Google, Yahoo, Cox Automotive and others have been providing some insightful data on the reality of today’s new consumer. With 60 percent of car buyers spending almost 15 hours researching and window shopping online, our approach to face-time is evolving. It’s safe to say, that today’s car buying experience is drastically different than it was say 5 years ago.
Autotrader reports 30 percent of buyers who walk onto the lot know exactly what they want to buy – new or used. They further report, 38 percent of car buyers only visit one dealership, and 52 percent only test drive one vehicle. These individuals are laser focused and may be more knowledgeable about your inventory and pricing then you are.
However, not everyone is completely prepared or has a real understanding of what they can afford, which model would best suit their needs or which route should they go – new or used. How you approach these buyers should not be taken for granted. You should still consider them savvy buyers who want a personalized experience. To create a more embracing interaction consider approaching the customer and sale as a consultant. Leverage the information that you have available to create a positive engagement that will lead to a satisfied sales experience.
Leverage Soft Pull Information to your Advantage
As you know, a soft pull can provide a glimpse into the type of customer you may be conversing with – excellent credit, subprime candidate, or possibly a first time buyer with OEM incentive options. Running a soft pull credit report at the start of your conversation will quickly provide you the necessary insights as to how you can approach this opportunity. Leverage this information to your advantage and use it as the foundation for developing a customer profile. A customer profile will act as a guide in how you navigate your conversation, provide recommendations, and hopefully end with happy customers driving away in a new purchase.
Develop Customer Profiles to Guide the Conversation
Understanding your customer’s ability to purchase can take some of the pressure off both you and them. By running a quick credit check and taking the time to talk to your customers about what brought to the dealership will enable you to create a customer profile that you can use as a roadmap to steer the conversation, enable you to make recommendations and finance the purchase.
Customer profiling is comprised of both financial insights and developing a needs assessment. Asking the right questions in a manner that is positive, open-ended will provide opportunity for you understand how you can best service this buyer. Open-ended questions begin with words like Who, What, Where, How, Why and When. They require explanation, such as:
- How do you typically finance your car purchase – buy or lease?
- What lifestyle change has put you in the market for a new car?
- What type of vehicle are you interested in? Now this might seem like a no brainer, however you may be able to provide suggestions based on your data assessment and current inventory.
- What features matter most? Features over model might be what they are shopping for – this too can help with your inventory recommendations.
- Would they be open to your entire inventory that will meet their needs and desires – or are they interested in something specific?
Avoid questions that lead to yes or no answers, such as Do, Are, You and Can, which will limit your ability to create a strong profile.
Be a Good Listener
The most important discipline you can master is listening. Ensure you are carefully listening to your customers, thus paying attention to them. An avid listener will quickly pick up nuggets of information that will be vital for your customer engagement.
Guide Not Dictate
As you listen and capture your data points, engage in conversation that is relatable to their interests that you captured from your initial needs assessment. Relating to them on a more personal level creates a more easy-going atmosphere and removes some of the dread they may feel when they decide to walk onto the lot. A more pleasant experience is going to play in your favor.
To Be or Not to Be
Qualifying your lead is always part of the sales process. Qualified leads have goals, challenges, timelines, and budgets; and not always come with a plan. Just because a customer may not be ready to pull the trigger, don’t dismiss it. I know it’s hard to let the customer walk away so they can “think about it”, but being patient, helpful and friendly are sales traits that create a more memorable customer experience either by winning the customers loyalty or getting referred. Have confidence in the process and your consultative style.
Making it a Reality
With the amount of research and time invested by today’s car buyers, consumers are not in the market to be sold. No matter how prepared your customer may be, taking the time to create a customer profile with the financial attributes and needs analysis will enable you to have a more relaxed approach, engage with a consultative manner and empower you to ask for the sales with confidence. Being better informed, doing your diligence and being a good listener will provide a better customer experience that will instill more assurance in the car buying process and develop stronger customer loyalty.