DrivingSales Presidents Club Key Takeaways: The Next Chapter in Car Buying

Buying CarHello, again — and welcome to the last installment of my 3-part DrivingSales President’s Club blog series; highlighting this year’s “Most Valuable Insight” competition. The last presentation I’ll be going over today is by Kevin Filan, VP of Customer/Industry Marketing & Events at Cox Automotive. In his April 1st presentation, Filan expanded on his theory that the landscape of dealership sales is being altered by ever-changing customer experience preferences.


According to Filan, the current shopping process plays out like so: Research → Test Drive → Deal Structuring → Pricing → Financing → Service. This process has been trained on and engrained in dealerships across the country for years.  Many dealers feel like they’re “doing it right” because this way of selling has been extremely successful in the past.


The struggle is, data is showing that while this may be how the industry wants to continue to sell, the customer is starting to demand a different way. Progressive dealers looking to gain market share would be smart to pay attention to what kind of customer experience creates the best close and retention percentages.


This study commissioned by Cox Automotive lined up almost exactly with what a similar study from DrivingSales made clear.  People will buy more and buy more often when allowed to shop the way they want.


The study analyzed a number of different sources: 13 expert interviews, 9 lead user ethnographies (or consumer types), focus groups with 40 new and used car buyers and quantitative surveys among 4,002 vehicle buyers and intenders. Out of the 4,002 consumers, only 17 were actually satisfied with the car buying process; and 66% were much more likely to buy from a dealership with their preferred experience. Needless to say, the statistics fully supported Filan’s theory. Here are the 3 major conclusions Filan came away with from the study:


Test Drives Aren’t Going Away


Although test-drives are part of the standard car buying process, Filan criticizes that they’re still a crucial factor in decision making. In fact, 88% of consumers would not purchase a vehicle without test-driving it first. What consumers DON’T want is to be pressured immediately after test-driving. 67% of surveyed consumers agreed that car buying is a big decision and consumers want time to mull over the details.


Online Deal Structuring is Ideal


You very rarely find buyers who are completely okay with buying at sticker price – and the data proves it! 56% of the consumers surveyed said they preferred to negotiate – which again, is a usual part of the car buying process. What don’t consumers like? Negotiating half the day in your showroom. After about 90 minutes at the dealership, buyers become inpatient and exasperated; leading to an unhappy customer. Data from the study has actually shown that 58% of consumers would be more likely to buy if they were offered online deal structuring – and 45% of those customers wanted to be anonymous throughout the entire process. In fact, only a miniscule 14% actually want to structure a deal on the lot.


So, Why Should Dealers Care?


It’s simple, really! According to Cox Automotive’s survey, 72% of buyers would be willing to visit dealerships more often if the buying process was improved. 53% of buyers even said they would buy more often if this were the case.


Given the current data, here are some of the improvements your dealership can make now:


  • Don’t pressure customers after they test-drive. That will just push them away.
  • Offer a system that allows consumers to negotiate deals online (perhaps anonymously). People don’t want to spend too much time in the dealership.
  • Be trustworthy! This is a point that wasn’t previously made, but there’s no doubt that you want your guys to be as genuine as humanly possible. Even being offered the lowest price possible, data shows that 70% of people will simply walk away if they feel like they can’t trust the dealership.

DrivingSales President’s Club Key Takeaways: Importance of Initial Quality Response

emailWelcome back! For those who aren’t yet familiar, this is the 2nd post in a 3-part blog series highlighting my key takeaways from the DrivingSales Presidents Club’s “Most Valuable Insight Competition.”


In today’s post, I’ll be discussing takeaways from a presentation by Alan Bird of SCI MarketView, where he provides valuable insights on the importance of dealers responding appropriately via e-mail to consumers who have engaged with their marketing.


Essentially, the main point that Alan is trying to get across is that carefully manicured, quality responses almost always mean higher close rates. To prove his point, over 2,000 online dealer responses were reviewed and scored based on the quality of their response and closely observed their close rates. ß- It says “our” so I’m assuming it’s SCI. Not using names.


In order to attain a high quality score, a dealer’s response would have to meet the following criteria. It’s worth noting that missing even one of these could have a detrimental effect on conversion:


  1. Subject line/Introduction/Greeting – Self-explanatory. Explain who you are and why you’re contacting the consumer.
  2. Vehicle proposition & availability – Explain what’s readily available and what you can offer to the consumer.
  3. Answered/Asked a Quality Question – Either provide information they might be looking for or ask them what they want.
  4. Price range or Incentive range quotes – Provide clear pricing to take the guesswork out.
  5. Dealership value proposition/signature – Offer something of value – whether it’s a tangible offer or not. Explain what makes your dealership successful and then provide your contact information.

Once all the dealer’s responses were graded thoroughly, he came back with 3 key takeaways from the entire process:


1. Better Quality Responses = Better Results.Alan’s original hypothesis was that quality responses often equated to better conversions (or close rates). Well, it turns out he was totally correct!On a scale between -20 and 100 (-20 being the absolutely lowest and 100 being the absolute highest), dealer responses were graded and their corresponding close rates were compared to one another. Out of the 2,000 e-mail responses, 59 had an average score of 90.3% with a 16.95% close rate. On the other end of the spectrum, 310 responses with an average score of -15.0% saw a close rate of 3.23%. This is a HUGE discovery.


2. Train Your Sales People and Look at Response Deterrents.Despite what it seems, poor quality responses don’t mean that your guys are “lazy” or “don’t care.” If anything, it could mean the opposite. They don’t want to be too pushy and they certainly don’t want to bore the customer to tears. Train your salespeople on how to craft a proper response; and more importantly, explain why it’s crucial for increased close rates. Considering 29.5% of the responses observed had a quality score of 0 or less, training is never a bad idea. If anything, it might even reinforce old ideas and make already strong responses, even stronger!


3. Hold Everyone AccountableTo ensure that your sales team are sending out quality responses, everyone there needs to be held accountable. Assign someone to observe customer interactions and do “quality control” simply allows for a better understanding of why certain results are or aren’t being achieved. It’s also important for everyone to learn from one another; so remaining on the same page is crucial for success.


In the end, Bird implores that you “treat your online leads like showroom customers to win!” Just because a customer hasn’t entered a showroom yet doesn’t mean they won’t. Their first impression of you often isn’t in-person, so your initial responses really do matter.


Be sure to come back next week for our final installment of “Most Valuable Insight” takeaways! If you have any questions until then or you want to discuss PERQ services, call (800) 873-3117.

DrivingSales President’s Club Key Takeaways: Successful Appointment Setting 101

Business man talking on phoneIn April, I had the opportunity to attend DrivingSales President’s Club; an annual leadership conference-or as Jared Hamilton put it- “the 20 group of 20 groups,” in New York City.  Like most quality industry events, it was full of connecting with old (and new) friends, swapping ideas and discussing the upcoming trends regarding all things retail automotive.  The big theme this year centered on the Customer Experience and how dealerships are either moving toward or away from the way most consumers want to shop & interact today.  If you don’t follow DrivingSales already, definitely consider their website and annual events.  They lead the pack as far as I’m concerned.


I know many of you are super busy running stores and moving units, so I’ll be sharing some of the most actionable info from the conference.  These all came from other allied companies during the “Most Valuable Insight Competition.”  If you find them helpful, please pass them along to whoever would benefit.
The first presentation I’ll be discussing is by Adam Kottler over at CallSource. In his presentation, Adam discussed CallSource’s tips for successful fixed ops phone skills, based on 2,464 service calls in 2014 across 132 call handlers.


Here are 6 tips Adam provided for fine-tuning your ops phone skills:

1. Determine Caller Time Frame for Service Needs

When it comes to actually closing appointments with prospective buyers, you need to make sure you’re offering well-defined time frame options for them to choose from. In other words, don’t let buyers casually set a time (ex: anytime from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.) or better yet, no time at all (ex: I’ll come in sometime this afternoon). By providing a closed, or I should say “official” appointment time (1 p.m., 2 p.m., 3p.m., etc.) it creates a mild sense of urgency. If you offer a somewhat limited time options, buyers will feel more inclined to commit and make decisions sooner.


2. Inquire about additional questions or concerns

Even if you think you’ve had the most perfect phone call on the face of the planet, it truly isn’t perfect unless you’ve taken the time to ask your buyers if they have any additional questions or concerns after all is said and done. Not only does this show your utmost professionalism and attention to detail, but also it proves to the customer that you actually care if they’re satisfied with their service or not. You’d be surprised how many salespeople (doesn’t matter what industry) don’t take the time to ask their customers what they want, and it sincerely matters. And for what it’s worth, it’s also a wonderful way to identify upsell opportunities. On the calls surveyed, 6% of operators inquired about other concerns.


3. Obtain the caller’s full name


This might seem like a very obvious step but, believe it or not, a lot of the calls received miss this. While customers don’t like to be asked a multitude of questions, it isn’t going to hurt to ask for their first and last name. Not only is it helpful for building rapport with a customer in order to secure the actual appointment, it’s absolutely essential for accurate record keeping and database management.


4. Identify the Vehicles that needs service

Once you have the caller’s full name and number, you need to identify what vehicle is involved. After receiving this information, the call handler should go through the needs analysis with the end goal of setting an appointment. You want buyers to come in and inquire about add-ons and new products/services in the dealership, so they can try them out for themselves.


5. Establish if the caller is a prior customer


Getting new customers into your service department is a great way to increase ROI and revenue, but prior customers are also extremely valuable. That being said, you want to avoid redundancy as much as humanly possible. If the caller is, in fact, a prior customer, take a moment to confirm their information so that you aren’t going through the same spiel all over again. Identifying them as a repeat customer is also helpful as it shows (to the customer) that they were important or valuable enough to be “remembered” – even if remembering means being kept in a database. It still shows professionalism and attention to detail, plus it makes the process of appointment setting go a lot faster.


6. Ask “How May I Help You?”


It seems simple enough, but certain actions really can make or break a deal. Greeting a customer not only initiates friendly banter, but surprise, surprise; you get to figure out what the heck they want. I was surprised to hear this phrase was only used on 64% of the calls in the study.


Now, once you’ve figured out what a consumer is looking for, it’s time to grab the reigns and steer the conversation in the direction of a scheduled appointment. To do so, you’ll want to continue asking questions that’ll identify their needs and any other services that could be of value.


Check back next week for more of my key takeaways from the conference. If you have any questions or you wanna talk about PERQ’s services, call me anytime at (800) 873 3117.

The Question that Keeps Us Up at Night: What Do Successful Cohesive Marketing Campaigns Look Like?

cohesive marketingImage courtesy of agencypost.com 

Hello, again! Welcome to Part II of crafting cohesive marketing campaigns: the execution stage.

If someone asked you what the most important element of a marketing campaign is, how would you respond? Likely you might say something like, “messaging is important,” or “having a target persona is extremely necessary.” While both of those statements are true, I would argue that consistency is the most important element. You can’t have a successful cohesive marketing campaign that’s not unified. To help you execute and stay consistent in your marketing, here are 5 tips for success: (more…)