Younger car buyers are particularly attracted to an instore used-car sales process that dovetails with the information they found online.  Photo by Juma MacMillan via Pixabay

Younger car buyers are particularly attracted to an instore used-car sales process that dovetails with the information they found online. Photo by Juma MacMillan via Pixabay

Dealers face many challenges as you adapt your sales process to meet the expectations of today’s tech-savvy consumer. The conversation around digital retail and F&I tends to focus on new-car sales. But this shift is just as apparent on the pre-owned side: The average used-car buyer now spends 14 hours researching before they purchase.

It’s safe to assume your next customer will be more informed about the units they studied than your salesperson by the time they show up on your lot. The traditional, 12-step “road-to-the-sale,” which hinges on the dealership controlling the process, is no longer effective with most customers. According to DrivingSales’ most recent “Customer Experience Study,” 99 out of 100 car buyers expect the process to be a hassle, and 56% said they would buy more often if it weren’t.

Luckily, you can realign your process to sell the way customers want to shop and buy, and it only takes six steps. Here’s how it’s done:

1. Shake Up Your Sales Team.

You must retrain your salespeople to listen to the customer and focus on their needs, not the dealership’s goals. It’s essential for salespeople to find out upfront where each customer is in the buying process. Do they know what car they want? Have they done the research? If so, let them know you value the time they spent.

From there, the salesperson should set the agenda and show the customer how they will get the customer in and out — quickly. Salespeople should become “instant experts” and be able to build quality and value for any vehicle on your lot.

2. Make a Promise.

Mandate a simpler, easier sales process that begins with sharing how and why your dealership is different. This “brand promise” shows the customer why their experience with your dealership is going to be unique. It also assures them of an experience unlike that delivered by the dealership they visited last time or earlier that day.

3. Love Your Product.

Be proactive about telling the customer about the features and benefits of the car. Use evidence-based selling by sharing facts about each vehicle. Think OEM packages, J.D. Power ratings, crash ratings, certifications, and miles per gallon. This in turn builds quality, value, and excitement. Checking all three boxes is a reliable way to get the demo and the sale.

4. Price to Sell.

Price your vehicles to market from Day One. Some dealers are still listing vehicles high for the first 20 to 30 days before discounting. This strategy ignores the fact that most used-car buyers are pricing multiple vehicles and dealership online. Posting each unit with a reasonable discount can eliminate back-and-forth haggling, and honoring that price when the customer arrives — as the law requires — builds trust.

5. Work the Payment.

Don’t make your interest rate negotiable. This results in an erosion of trust. Instead of fluctuating the rate, get to an affordable payment by extending the loan or putting more money down.

6. Offer Protection.

Position your protection plans as an “easy button” for customers. Show how a modest increase — even $30 extra a month — can reduce or eliminate out-of-pocket costs for maintenance and repairs. By doing so, you are selling peace of mind. This is appealing to everyone, but particularly to millennial buyers.

Confidence builds confidence. A modified sales process that centers around fair pricing and salespeople who are confident and knowledgeable about all the vehicles they sell is sure to create a more enjoyable experience for your pre-owned customers. You are also more likely to employ happier, more successful salespeople who stay with you for a long time.

Patrick McMullen is senior vice president of strategy and innovation for MAXDigital and has expertise in dealer and digital retailing operations.