The benefits of digital retailing are many: happier customers, more confident salespeople, bigger profits. And yet many dealers struggle to implement digital retailing. The big hurdle is employee adoption. Dealership employees across all levels are reluctant to change.
It’s a major problem. You are making a substantial investment. You need your team members onboard because they are the ones engaging with customers day-to-day.
When digital retailing isn’t fully embraced or successfully implemented, you can end up with the opposite effect — losing sales and customers instead of gaining them.
Why Employees Resist Digitizing
Before we get to a solution, it’s important to recognize the reasons dealership staff are hesitant to adopt digital retailing.
• One more system to log into: Staff already must log into a minimum of three systems every day — your CRM, your DMS, and your inventory management system. CRM adoption is already a pain point for dealers. If your staff can’t use the CRM, why add another system?
Adding to job security fears is the rising success of companies like Carvana, which sold more than 90,000 cars in 2018 without a single salesperson.
• Loss of control: High-performing salespeople have years of experience and have perfected their own style and process. As the saying goes, “If ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” If salespeople, who often have an entrepreneurial mindset, are forced into a more rigid process, they can feel like their way of doing things is being taken away.
• Job security: Employees in many sectors share a common fear that technology will phase them out. Car salespeople may believe that if digital retailing works well, their job will be obsolete. “If a customer can buy a car online, why do they need me? I don’t want (or know how) to do anything else.”
• The Carvana effect: Adding to job security fears is the rising success of companies like Carvana, which sold more than 90,000 cars in 2018 without a single salesperson. Their entire process is done online. Motivated by this fear, staff may even find ways to sabotage digital retailing.
• Fear of being micromanaged: With digital retailing, leadership can gain more data and insight into specific components of the sale and how well individual employees perform. People don’t like to feel like big brother is watching. In addition, salespeople may feel like the “art of the sale” is becoming the “science of the sale.”
• Change is hard: No one likes change. People will hold onto the status quo, even at their own demise. To change, we need either fear or motivation. Leadership has plenty of fear and motivation with decreased margins and the potential to sell more cars less expensively. But what’s in it for the staff? Dealership staff may see only the negatives of digital retailing.
How to Get Employees Over the Hurdle
Dealer leadership, together with the digital retailing vendor, must partner to overcome these roadblocks. Here’s how:
• Get buy-in. Make the decision process inclusive of everyone: salespeople, F&I managers, the GM, and sales and desk managers. Share the vision for the dealership and ask employees what they think. Discuss specific, desired outcomes, such as improving your CSI score from 4.5 to 4.9 or reducing your average transaction time by half.
• What’s in it for me? Leadership and the vendor must clearly communicate how digital retailing will help employees be more successful. Here are some examples that motivate staff:
- “Today you’re selling 10 cars a month. This can help you sell 20.”
- “What would your income look like if you sold 50% more cars?”
- “If you could prepare a deal in one hour instead of three, how many more customers could you take care of?”
- “When customers have a better experience, they buy more often and tell their friends.”
- “More consistency will lead to better satisfaction. More satisfaction equals more referrals.”
• “Pull,” don’t “push.” When you “push” something, staff may do the bare minimum and even find ways to make the program fail. Instead, you want “pull” with staff recognizing what’s in it for them and telling leadership, “I want this, I need this.”
• Start with a few champions and let it spread. Ask for two or three volunteers to be program “champions.” See how well it works for them by tracking specific success metrics — including transaction time, gross profit, and CSI scores — over 90 days. After seeing their success, more and more people will want to become part of it.
• Train, train, train. Digital retailing is not a “set it and forget it.” It’s not a website widget. Consistent training must be part of the process to ensure constant improvement. Rely on your vendor, the experts of the product, to train your team. Insist on a minimum of two training sessions a month.
• Document and share success stories. Use data to show how the program is really working. At least monthly, but ideally weekly, highlight success stories from your digital retailing program. If a salesperson has a record month, highlight it. Pull up a stellar customer review on the screen.
If it doesn’t help you sell more cars, or make more money, it will just be a distraction.
For dealership groups, share these stories across multiple rooftops. More stores will want to get in on the action. Remember, if it doesn’t help you sell more cars, or make more money, it will just be a distraction.
Five years ago, not a single car was purchased online. Now hundreds of thousands of people buy cars online. What will the auto retail industry look like in another five years?
To compete and survive in the coming years, dealerships need to invest in their people and digital platform. By alleviating the fears around digital retailing, you’ll not only get your people excited about the direction of the dealership and the industry, you’ll end up with the best outcome possible — more cars sold, a better customer experience, and more profits.
Mike Cavanaugh is executive vice president of MAX Digital.