Three Things to Know About Your Showroom Visitors

With all the changes in your business, especially with regards to how customers shop your dealership, are you aligning your showroom processes with this new customer behavior? If you haven’t adapted your showroom training, you may be missing the boat with a lot of your showroom visitors.

What exactly has changed? For decades, your showroom process did not change. Customers came in and were greeted by a salesperson. The salesperson was taught to build rapport, qualify and land them on a vehicle. Next, present and demo the vehicle, building value and mental ownership. Finally, trial-close the customer, do a trade walk and write up the deal. Gain agreement through some lengthy back-and-forth negotiating, get them in the box and do a spot delivery.

The customer has taken more control of the shopping and buying process. They don’t need you like they used to. The greeting is more often when they land on your home page or call the dealership. Customers use online tools to research vehicle features and prices. Today’s shoppers use services like KBB and Edmunds to determine their trade-in value. Car shoppers can weigh finance options, calculate payments and get pre-approved quite easily.

In today’s market, the first half of the sales process is done prior to visiting a dealership. The greeting, needs assessment, vehicle selection, features and benefits, trade value and financing make up the “pre-visit” checklist for most car buyers.

There is a positive. Today’s showroom visitors are more educated, lower in the purchase funnel, and more ready and prepared to buy.

Why did it change? The Internet is what changed the buying process; the negatives of the old showroom process are why it changed. A lot of customers didn’t like our old showroom process. The main reasons are:

• It takes too long. (Sir, if you’d pay sticker, you’d get out quicker.)
• Customers don’t like sales pressure. (Even if you aren’t high-pressure, you are still asking them to buy now.)

• Customers don’t like the back-and-forth negotiating process.

• Customers generally don’t like the hassles associated with buying a car.

By using the Internet, customers don’t have to go through all of this, so why would they?

What to do about it? Get rid of the things customers don’t like. Help them with their pre-visit checklist. Be an ally, not an adversary. Create chemistry and value instead of conflict. Adapt your showroom process and teach your salespeople the new skills and steps to win the patronage of the best opportunity you’ve ever had—an educated, ready-to-buy showroom visitor.

This adaptation is not a major overhaul; rather, it’s just some tweaks and new questions to ask. Here are a few examples of changes you should make in your showroom process.

v Screen your customers. It’s a great practice to ask showroom customers if they’ve had a chance to look at your inventory online. Have they submitted a Web form or called the dealership prior to visiting? You create conflict when you contradict prices and other information they’ve already seen or been given by your dealership or the manufacturer. By asking a customer if “they’ve purchased or shopped at your store in the past,” you may discover they use your service department regularly or a friend recommended them.

Ask the customer, “What do you hope to accomplish today, so I can be of the most service to you?” This question helps your salesperson determine a time frame for the visit. It may also educate the salesperson in how ready the customer is to buy or what still needs to be done. In many cases, shoppers are in your showroom to do the one thing they can’t do online—test drive.

v Accelerate your process, and tell your customer you are doing so. “I can tell you’ve done a lot of homework and that’s great. Sounds like the only thing left to do is test drive the car, make sure it’s the one you want and go over the final figures, am I right?” Yes or no, your salesperson will know where he or she is in the process and can adapt.

Offer tools your customers use at home and work in your showroom. Kiosks or counters with Internet access in the showroom are a necessity. Nothing slows down the process like making a customer leave to finish their research. Having third-party tools available for customer use can prevent “we have to think about it” from coming up so often.

v Be prepared. A lot of your showroom traffic is appointment-based, or should be. Be ready for your appointments. Make sure customers know exactly where to go and how to find their salesperson. Have the car pulled up by the showroom, gassed up and cleaned up. Have a deal folder started with online credit applications, a printout of the vehicle information, a KBB printout, copies of e-mails and whatever other pre-visit information that was gathered. This way, you can pick up where you left off.

These small adjustments to how you conduct business in your showroom can make it much easier for customers to trust and appreciate you. It sends a message to customers that you understand their process and are willing to help them make a big decision. They may think, if you are this good before they buy, then they’ll be treated really well after they buy.

Vol. 7, Issue 9