Fishers Imports owner Peyman Rashid advises dealers who are late to the digital party to improve their online presence, develop an omnichannel sales strategy, and enhance the buying experience.  Photo courtesy Fishers Imports

Fishers Imports owner Peyman Rashid advises dealers who are late to the digital party to improve their online presence, develop an omnichannel sales strategy, and enhance the buying experience. Photo courtesy Fishers Imports

Over the last century, the sales model for the auto industry has evolved into a tangled mess of backroom discussions and price drops aimed at getting cars off the lot and money in the bank. So it’s no wonder that, in a recent poll by HubSpot, only 1% of buyers considered car salesmen to be trustworthy. To combat this mistrust and stay relevant in a tech-focused society, auto dealers should steer away from the traditional sales model and begin ushering in a new set of tactics for a new era of sales.

Peyman Rashid

Peyman Rashid

Our customers are able to quickly access and share information on products from the palm of their hands. According to Pew Research Center, nearly 80% of shoppers are beginning their search and making regular purchases online. And, because it’s so easy to research vehicles, compare prices, and get the best deal online, they are no longer willing to put up with spending several hours in a dealership for the same results they can get on the couch at home.

In order to compete with third-party platforms and private sellers, we need to transition to a more customer-service focused sales model and give shoppers what they want: the satisfaction of getting a good deal. By leveraging technology to assist in online sales, we now have the opportunity to streamline their operational processes and increase their buying audience all in one fell swoop.

Below are a few suggestions aimed at assisting in your transition to a more tech- and customer experience-focused sales model.

1. Create an Online Presence.

In the era of Amazon, a large majority of customers prefer to use digital platforms to begin their buying journey for products, including cars. According to a recent survey by Autotrader, car buyers spend 59% of their time searching online compared to the 15% that spend time visiting dealerships or other sellers.

The use of social media is also key in order to capture audiences on their own turf. Pew recently reported that 51% of Americans report making online purchases using their cellphones, and 15% say they have made purchases by following a link on social media sites such as Facebook or Twitter. Keeping your business profiles up-to-date with the latest deals, inventory, and more will allow your followers to stay informed year-round, not just when they’re looking to purchase a new vehicle.

With an increase of third-party selling sites, it’s now imperative for dealers to have an online presence. Dealers should include inventory photos and information on their website to assist consumers in their search prior to visiting the dealership in person. The industry experience and personal touch we offer will also help to beat the online competition.

2. Develop an Omnichannel Sales Strategy.

Dealers with an online presence can also begin utilizing their digital component in the dealership itself with the use of tablets, such as iPads. They allow for quick access to vehicle information and simplified financing options, they assist in the sales process, and they streamline the collection of consumer data on the showroom floor.

Dealers can go a step further by using web software that enables the car-buying process to take place entirely online, from researching the perfect vehicle, to financing and even home delivery! The use of a digital sales component also generates additional data from customer interactions that take place online, which can be used to analyze your sales process, identify potential leads, assist with marketing efforts, and more.

The increased use of technology in the auto sales industry will provide consumers with the opportunity to purchase the perfect car for them, not just the best car available.

3. Enhance the Buying Experience.

Still interested in getting buyers into your showroom? Autotrader reports that more than 70% of buyers would visit dealerships more often if the buying process was improved. Enhancing the buying experience will also lead to more positive reviews, increased word-of-mouth marketing from happy customers, and an overall better reputation for your brand.

By creating a more customer-focused sales process and offering one-on-one sales support, dealers demonstrate to consumers that the overall experience is more important than the sale itself. Focus on the customers need from the moment they walk into the door, send a message on social media, or call with questions.

Peyman Rashid is the owner and co-founder of Fishers Imports, a luxury used-car dealership based in Fishers, Indiana.