We build these relationships not only by creating truly memorable experiences throughout the customer journey, but also by consistently providing something that the competition cannot.
The industry is in a scramble trying to figure out how to sell more vehicles, but the answer is right in front of us: Communicate with, and show genuine care for, the clients we already have.
It seems simple, but I wonder if our efforts in this direction as an industry really filter down to our clients in a meaningful way. It takes a strong commitment on a store-wide level to walk the walk in assisting our guests, in a pro-active manner, conveying their importance to us.
At Johnson Automotive, I want all of our guests to ignore any competitive offers they receive, simply because of our relationship. We build these relationships not only by creating truly memorable experiences throughout the customer journey, but also by consistently providing something that the competition cannot.
First Things First: Getting It Right From the Start
Instead of being a cliché, “customers for life” should be an ever-present objective in the Sales Associate’s/Manager’s mind. What we do and why we do it surpasses the individual sale or the monthly objective.
This might start with new guests in the showroom. They have already picked our dealership, so the relationship has begun. Our Managers are required to Google them and briefly research their social media accounts for basic information. Something as simple as using someone’s preferred title (e.g., “Doctor” instead of “Mrs.”) can go a long way in showing that details matter, and that we care about getting the relationship right from the start.
It is critical to establish rapport with a guest who’s about to spend $50,000 on a vehicle. Today’s consumers want you to relate to them on a more personal level, and doing so is essential to earning their business. Once the client has purchased from us, serviced their car with us, or even engaged with us online, having software that provides personalized, credible offers goes a long way in keeping their business too.
Staying in Front of Our Clients
We know that consumers today are more savvy and less forgiving with marketing, so sending them the latest ploy (fake handwriting, “win a free teddy bear,” scare tactics, etc.) will not work. Calling them on the phone also won’t work – but they will listen to a voice message. What information you leave on that message is all important. And asking for permission to communicate in their preferred method (text, email, etc.), rather than asking for a call back, will often prompt a response.
Offering them what no one else is offering will get their attention. Our clients deserve to know that opportunities exist for them in ways they might not have thought of:
- About to expire (or expired) factory warranties: We offer extended warranties at discounted pricing to ensure that our clients come back to us, producing residual gross profit and increasing product penetration.
- Owns a vehicle that we have a particular need for in our L-Certified inventory.
- Options that increase value, such as Lexus’s latest safety features, technology, styling, and factory warranty, while maintaining a similar payment.
- Alternatives to their current model, as it may no longer fit their needs.
Vehicle sales are then a natural byproduct of what we do.
This is where AutoAlert is particularly helpful to us. It lets us know precisely where and when to plant the seeds that shorten buying cycles. Because we know the vehicle position of our native clients, we are able to deliver more precise options.
It also allows us to plant seeds with our conquest customers, who outnumber our native customers three to one. All of those people have vehicles we truly need, and I want their next purchase to be from us, not a competitor. We market this clientele in the same way as native: We need your vehicle, Do you have warranty protection on your vehicle, Is your current vehicle fitting all of your needs, etc.
Sales as a Natural Byproduct of Planting Seeds
Planting seeds with clients is our objective, creating needs they didn’t know they had, and always offering them more. Vehicle sales are then a natural byproduct of what we do.
“Is your current vehicle fitting all of your needs?” This question is posted in all of our service lanes and in all of our Sales Centers, which are set up in our customer lounge areas.
Along with our presence in the service lanes, we ensure that our efforts to communicate extend to proactive telephone solicitations, e-mail campaigns, and direct mail campaigns, all supported by AutoAlert’s analytics. As customer fatigue is always a concern, we schedule the delivery of our messages very carefully.
Our new guests are always made aware of all of the options we provide, with a refreshing message letting them know that we will reach out when we see any opportunities available in the future. This plants the seed with them, but is also a reason to buy from us – we will continually keep them informed of relevant options.
A True Win-Win
Catering to our current guests has the added bonus of obtaining high-quality pre-owned vehicles. As margins for new vehicles shrink, pre-owned vehicles are a great way to increase the overall gross profit, as well as increase CPO standings.
What better inventory to sell than local vehicles, bought here, serviced here, and traded here versus bought at auction, with buyer’s expenses, buyer’s fee, auction fees, transportation, and then … who knows what you end up with? They were selling at auction for a reason. We prefer obtaining our own clients’ vehicles that we can certify, vehicles we can price according to pedigree, vehicles that cannot be shopped – and we have kept a customer in the process.
In every instance where these programs have been implemented, CPO and L-Cert sales have skyrocketed, without exception. We’ve also realized increased profits, market penetration, and sales ranking through our customer retention.
When it comes to increasing car sales, the answer lies right in front of us, in our current guests. Using software like AutoAlert makes it easy to reach our goals of personalized, helpful interactions across the board with every client. When we take the time to cultivate relationships in this way, we reap the rewards.