Any great car salesman knows a bit about the history of car sales in America — especially starting with Henry Ford, who came up with the best formula on how to sell cars back at the beginning of the 20th century. Ford, the father of car salesmen, was credited for getting at least two major things right on his way to selling 1 million cars by 1920 — pricing his vehicles to be more affordable and paying his own employees a decent wage so that they could one of their own.
But that’s history.
You already know that. But are you really doing what it takes to adapt to the way that consumers are buying cars today? Check these 10 practices to see if you’re doing what it takes to follow the latest rules on how to sell cars.
1. Know Where to Start
Meet your consumers at the “front door” of the process. If you devote the majority of your resources to the physical location of your dealership, you could be losing out on a significant number of prospects. Here is one statistic that you need to keep in mind — the average car buyer in America spends an average of 11 hours online before ever heading to a dealership. Think about that. Optimize your website with keywords (search terms) that will boost the chances that visitors land on your site.
2. Focus on Showcasing your Inventory
Keep the data on your inventory updated, especially used cars. It’s essential to address the primary point of researching for vehicles. Make sure the images are professional, accompanied by relevant details, such as mileage and availability of CARFAX reports.
3. Develop a Strong Content Plan
Visitors are on your site. Now what? You could still lose their attention within a matter of seconds. If you have a bounce rate of 75 percent or higher, it’s unlikely you have enough content (videos, financing options, new car and used car info) on your site for visitors to keep exploring the vehicle and buying options on your site.
The key is to develop a web content strategy that keeps viewers engaged, as well as encourage them to move throughout your website to find more relevant information on their way to make a buying decision. Use your content to answer all their questions throughout the buying process. Another bonus to providing this great customer service: The longer a visitor stays on your site, the more likely they will move on to the next step.
4. Use an Effective Lead Generation Tool
With amazing content on your site, don’t ruin it by dropping the ball when it comes to lead generation forms. Put your best foot forward in developing a lead generation strategy that works. It’s critical. Online consumers generally are reluctant to give out their personal information without getting something in return, sometimes in fear of getting bombarded with a seemingly endless stream of emails.
Use interactive forms that provide them with something in return — whether it’s an entertaining way of helping them narrow their vehicle preferences or offering a personalized trade appraisal or special offer. Using those types of forms, a Toyota dealership in Minnesota with two locations was able to generate 451 leads in 90 days, with 63 percent of the leads indicating they were ready to buy now.
5. Respond Quickly
Responding quickly doesn’t mean within a week. Or even a day. If you don’t respond within an hour, according to a Harvard Business Review study, you’re already at a major disadvantage.
Some studies suggest responding within 15 minutes will significantly improve your chances of closing a deal. That Harvard study showed that those who responded to a lead within an hour were 60 times more likely to close a deal than those who waited 24 hours or longer. The ideal situation is to at least respond immediately through marketing automation, and then follow up within that first hour with an email or call.
6. Revamp your Offline Strategy
The best online strategy won’t compensate for old sales tactics, like making a high-pressured sale or trying to sale a buyer on a new sports car when she’s interested in a used sedan. Listen to your customers. Respect their wishes to stay within a specific price range. Take a look at what one buyer shared about her experience with four car dealers before purchasing a used vehicle. Check to see if your sales staff is making the same mistakes.
7. Regularly Train Your Staff
It’s also important that you keep your team updated on how to keep the transition between online and offline seamless. They also need to be knowledgeable about what’s available in your inventory, financing options, and other information that makes the transaction straightforward. The less waiting for answers, the better.
8. Be Transparent
Don’t make prospects to jump through hoops to get the price of a car. Just put it out there. Many car dealers are now posting the asking price on the website. Be competitive by doing the same. If you don’t, you could be turning off car shoppers. According to the Harvard study, more than consumers said they would leave the dealership if they weren’t given a price upfront.
9. Be Willing to Negotiate
Many shoppers — nearly half of them — expect to be able to negotiate for a better deal than the price listed. Be prepared with a policy about negotiating. If you can’t budge on the price, explain clearly why. Perhaps you dropped the fee a couple of times previously. Make sure to clearly explain that.
10. Listen, Listen, Listen
This is one tip that never gets old. Slow down on the sales pitch and take a minute to hear what the prospective car buyer is looking for. If you don’t have a specific vehicle on your lot, by all means show different options. One long-time Honda owner told us she nearly signed a contract for a used Accord but insisted she wanted to think about it. The dealership tried to sweeten the deal, but then allowed her to walk away without a lot of pressure. After researching the dealership’s inventory site overnight, she came back for a test drive in a Toyota Corolla. Within minutes, she had decided on the latter vehicle. The dealership allowed her to stay in control and won the sale.
The rules of how to sell cars has changed over the decades. Increase your chances of sealing the deal by staying in tune with the new playbook.