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Humanize Your CRM: Winning and Keeping Clients

Every dealership has a script: a preconfigured, tried-and-true reel of company footage and the same tagline plastered onto each commercial. “President’s Day Sale”, “End of Year Clearance Event”, ad nauseam until the script can be recited by anyone within earshot. And then you forget about that dealership until the next holiday.

Welcome to 21st-century advertising in the automotive industry. It’s been Groundhog Day for what feels like decades. Floor and phone sales still dominate much of the market, and the interaction between dealers and customers after purchase is nonexistent. When 92-99 percent of your audience would rather engage with the online market than talk to sales professionals, you’ll find a distinct void sucking up sales within the industry. Impersonal commercials and greeting cards won’t bring kindle to that fire.

This has partially to do with a complete absence of strategy. Inconsistent communication and a general lack of aggression in driving sales put otherwise prominent dealerships behind the Eight-Ball. Our own LA Williams, known for igniting latent talent in sales professionals, once ran a “Power Hour” exercise to see just how motivated he could get his clients to be. Tactfully, however, he wasn’t measuring the top performers; instead, he chose to focus on the lowest scorers. They resulted in an average of 37 calls in an hour’s time. That’s 37 ways a dealership could capitalize on Internet phone sales but weren’t. That foundation needs to be cemented into the minds of each and every sales professional.

“But not everyone is going to answer their phones”, you might argue. And that’s a valid point. Have you asked your sales professionals how else they’ve contacted potential leads? If they’re flexing all of their talents behind phone calls, they’ve already lost. Emails, however, begin the building process for developing leads into customers. But email alone is one aspect to taking charge of your leads. A coalition of sales professionals and managers should take charge of these leads. You should know the strengths of your team better than anyone. If you’re the best phone sales professional in the office, get your coordinators involved in the email process. What seems like a wasted resource is actually an interpersonal attempt at engaging with buyers, inquiring with different perspectives.

Then go beyond that. Don’t just call a customer or a lead: video chat them. Get them into your lot without visiting it. Let them see the face behind the phone call or the email. Reassure your audience. Offer them live advice that gets them to stay engaged. We live in a society of instant gratification, and by providing the knowledge at their convenience wins over potential buyers that would otherwise block a cold call.

Just getting leads to your dealership isn’t enough. You need to keep winning them over. Customers deserve to feel like you’ve earned their trust. Something as simple as a video message wishing them a happy birthday or a festive video wishing them well during the holidays keeps the dealership in the back of their minds as a friendly and trusted source. There may be hiccups along the way, and potential clientele might take to the Internet to vent their frustrations or offer criticism. That’s why it’s vital to address these concerns. Don’t just apologize for the poor experience; learn from it, make it a priority to root out the issue and address how best to rectify it. Contact these people and understand where you lost their trust. Try to earn it back, and don’t burn the bridge. Every lead was worth the effort, and it’s vital to retain a positive standing with your clients. Be transparent in your approach to making their experience better than the last dealer.  Do everything in your power to “suck less than the other dealers”.

There’s a sense of “set it and forget it” that has plagued the way dealerships market themselves. It’s easy to insert the strategies that have worked decades ago to chase leads. That doesn’t help the ship without a captain. Steering a ship without a course makes your strategies lost at sea. Guiding your customers beyond the initial journey offers gives them a reason to sail with you over and over. It’s vital to make your CRM an ongoing experience to make leads and clients remember you. Otherwise, you’ll end up another regurgitated commercial during holiday weekends.

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Be the Disruptor of Your Industry

Bring up Blockbuster or Toys R’ Us in conversation, and you can immediately evoke a sense of nostalgia. These companies were iconic, almost unbreakable brands that were ingrained into our culture. That was twenty years ago, when innovation in the industry was what exclusives you offered in a brick-and-mortar storefront. They couldn’t have possibly predicted the meteoric rise of Amazon and Netflix. These “disruptors” foresaw the changes in the market and rode the tide to their unprecedented successes. That’s because they learned that following new trends in the market was vital in the decade where we went from computers to computers embedded in our cell phones.

This level of innovation has cast a shadow over the automotive industry, still relying on age-old practices that predate the Blockbusters of the world. Dealerships have failed to seize opportunities that could lead them to the forefront of the industry. Does the future lack a sense of direction for dealers, or is the future of marketing already laid out before us?

If the automotive industry is going to survive the rise of platforms like CarVana’s and Cars.com, they need to find the same successes that brought Amazon and Netflix into our homes. That starts with “disrupting” the competition. Dealerships need to be proactive responders to market trends, finding success in social media campaigns and innovating new ways to engage customers.

That can be as simple as video calls to consumers, engaging with them as if they were already at the dealership. This personal level of intercommunication means that salespeople can walk the lot with customers at their convenience, and see their vehicles in perspective. Videos also bring immediate benefits to advertising and marketing teams. Changing strategies by personal engagement with customers, potential and current, means that dealers can keep in constant contact with leads. Even something as simple as a “Happy Birthday” video from the dealership continues conversations with customers.

Creating content on a daily basis is another way to innovate the industry. This could come in the form of videos showcasing new cars or vlogs offering a transparent look into the dealership. This shares with the customer that you are actively seeking ways to engage with your audience. Rather than put an ad on television, email your customers with enticing offers. Instead of cold calls, share a video on social media showcasing your dealership or your salespeople. Customers are attracted to faces and personalities, and keeping constant updates on your organizations lets your potential clients know that you’re confident about your organization.

Speaking on behalf of salespeople, branding your employees through social media offers an individual way to tap into your organization without intimidating customers. Let your salespeople have their own FaceBook or Instagram accounts, keeping contact with customers to reassure them that they have an ally within your organization.

Being an active participant on social media goes beyond these platforms. Job recruitment sites and Google reviews keep you engaged with your audience. Directors and managers should take charge, but allow other leaders within your organization to tackle these responsibilities. Show your audience that you are quick to respond to their needs, and that customer service goes beyond the dealership. This allows organizations to see where they stand with customer relations and have an active way to improve their standing with customers.

New companies offer instant gratification with their purchases, including new players within the automotive industry. A dealership doesn’t need to lose ground because these companies can thrive online: it simply means that dealerships can take an active role in an ever-changing market. There may come a time where brick-and-mortar dealers lose to the convenience of CarVana or Cars.com, but if organizations ensure that they are keeping up with these trends, they have a real shot at maintaining a competitive edge that extends well into the next technological wave. Personality, active engagement and constant contact can make dealerships feel a part of the 21st century.

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Dealership Consulting

To stand above competitors,  to perform position above industry benchmarks &  to make people use services of the dealership, every owner has to think about variety of stuff: inventory management, sales processes, finance area, personnel management etc. And here is when every dealership faces the question: manage all the aspects by themselves or hire consultants for help? There are a lot of discussions on this matter. But it's always better to trust the deal to professionals.

Consultants can help dealerships to increase productivity, provide optimized solutions & add value to the company. There exist a lot of areas where dealerships can benefit from hiring consultants. Take a look at the examples:

- Automotive market analysis & statistics. Knowing your market, analysing data & statistics play is a key role in adjusting with ever changing market and advertising strategies. Consultants can advise you on how to better utilize new trends, review marketing budget & define dealership strategy and structure according to market direction.

- Sales Management. Sales area is the pulse of any dealership. To increase closing ratio consultants can help with developing lasting relationships with your customers, increase not only the quality, but the quantity of generated leads.

- Personnel Management. People are one of the most valuable assets in every company. Consultants can provide effective training programs for employees as well as innovative tools to increase not only customer satisfaction index, but employee satisfaction index too.

- Marketing. By knowing your target audience & advertising on all suitable marketplaces, dealership ensures that they don't just spend money on ads without results. Consultants can help you with getting maximum from your advertising dollars.

- Inventory Management. If dealership doesn't have well-established procedures, it could cost thousands of dollars per month. Consultants will examine current inventory situation & resolve every issue without dumping a huge loss.

- And much more.

If you have decided to try & contact dealership consulting firm, here are some of usual consultant's work steps to help you understand the process:

1) Establish goals of the company. Consultants meet with the dealership representative & find out assuming areas for necessary change & improvements required from the client's point of view.

2) Evaluation. Consultants look on general company processes, day-to-day operations of the dealership, observe management team, sales team or any other required team at work, staff performance, make financial & data analysis across multiple departments within your dealership etc.

3) Develop action plan. After reviewing all dealership's aspects consultants create a plan to fix what is not working, using the best practices & find opportunities that were not detected by owners.

4) Review. Consultants meet the dealership representative & provide them with written report. Together they develop implementation plan & realise it.

5) Follow up. Consultants are available for follow up contacts and visits if required.

 

Of course, these steps can be changed a bit in each case, there can be less or more procedures but in general all consultants work in a similar way. It's better to make a profound research before you make a decision to work with a particular dealership consulting company. Some consultants have never worked in an automotive dealership & they may not align with the specific needs of dealer’s operations. Find a firm that will focus on your unique challenges in automotive industry. 

It's up to every dealership  to decide whether to face market fluctuation by their own or to find consultants who will engage dealership in developing solutions, that probably won't even on dealership's radar before. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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