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"So everytime a lead comes in you want me to go out on the lot and shoot a video of that car? Do you know how much time that will take?" Internet Sales Representative, Dealership Unnamed to protect the guilty...
This past week I practiced what I preached, used best practices to merchandise a car and sold it inside of 1 day. Did it all actually take 19 minutes? No of course not, but the actual time I needed to do what any sales person at a dealership can do with a smartphone and a laptop took 20 minutes. I'll get to that in a bit.
It's interesting to watch attendees at any workshop or conference sit through any session on inventory merchandising through video. First they can relate to the speaker, as it's usually a peer, not a vendor. They're intrigued by the notion of using video, not only to merchandise inventory but to enhance the prospective customer's experience. Finally they're blown away by the actual results the presenter communicates in regards to the amount of sales they can generate just by adding this wrinkle to their process. The room is fired up, dealer principals and GMs are chomping at the bit to get their staff to do video, and they get back to their stores with the mandate that everyone will generate this kind of content.
Fast forward a few months, the buzz has worn off, the staff have come up with thousands of reasons why they are too busy to create content and your dreams of pages of inventory lined with walkaround videos is on life support. I can't comment on my US friend's stores but I see this all the time at Canadian dealerships.
I'm not writing this post to provide any quick fix solution nor am I writing it to wag a finger judgingly at the dealership staffs. I'm writing this because I had to sell one of my cars last week and I did everything I have either learned at a conference or preached to a room full of sales staff myself. This post is a chronological series of events to show:
1. What I did to merchandise my car
2. How much actual time was spent on the exercise
3. How long it took to sell the car
I had to replace my wife's 2008 Toyota Yaris Sedan, it was a manual transmission and due to an injury she could no longer drive a stick. We had put some serious kms on the car (almost 200000 at time of sale), but it was always dealer serviced, still incredible on gas and never had any major repairs done. It's not a "high demand" car (it's a Yaris for god sakes - who we kidding!), but it's a solid brand and if merchandised right I knew I could get a buyer sooner rather than later. I spoke to one of my dealer friends to help assess the current value of the car and I was off to the races. So what did I do to prepare and merchandise my car? Did I do anything radical or out of this world? Nope, I detailed to the best of my abilities and resources, took pictures and shot a video walkaround.
The detailing took the longest, I thoroughly washed, vacuumed and Armour All'd the car. Maybe a good 90 minutes of my time. Once the car was ready I positioned it on my driveway, being aware of where the sun was, and that the car didn't have anything else around it that didn't need to be in my pictures. Next using my handy smartphone I banged off at least 2 dozen pictures working counter-clockwise around the car making sure to capture everything. A whopping 5 minutes to execute. Finally I shot my walkaround video. Now granted during the time I was detailing the car I was thinking about some of the things I wanted to say in the video, that reasons why my wife and I liked the car, the features and the reasons the car may make sense for another buyer. I started at the my walkaround like I did my photos, moving counter-clockwise around the car and in less than 4 minutes I had my video. I connected to my YouTube account and did my upload.
Now if I worked at a dealership I would have the luxury of having a vehicle that was already detailed for the lot or showroom at my disposal. That would have saved me the 90 minutes up front I personally put into prepping my car. Knowing that most dealership sales staff do not need to worry about detailing cars on the lot my exercise is now clocking in at a hefty 9 minutes of effort.
I pulled my photos off my phone to my laptop (1 minute) and checked to see that my upload to YouTube was finished. Everything was ready for me to build my listing. I logged into Kijiji (for my US friends its a classified site started in Canada by ebay), and begin to put together my listing. After going through their wizard, the only heavy lifting I had to do was write my description of the vehicle. My write up was very personal, again focusing on the "why buy" aspects of the vehicle as I saw them and then wrapping it with a few specs and accolades I quoted from review sites. My time to build my listing was maybe 10 minutes in length. I knew the car inside and out. I didn't need to write the perfect description, just something that would resonate from one owner speaking to another. I now had my listing complete with a walkaround video, full gallery of photos and a custom description. All of the things I (we) keep telling our peer to do at their dealerships. I was now clocking in at the 20 minute mark of actual time spent building this out. I launched the ad to the website and moved on to other projects.
Just hours later I had half a dozen leads on the ad, two potential buyers wanting to get me deposits even before seeing the car in person. Others were checking my availability to see the car that day or the next. All of the buyers were exactly the kind of folks I was speaking to in my ad, families looking for a well maintained small car that could keep their costs down at the pumps or parents looking for a low cost solution to get their college bound student a vehicle they could feel secure with. One of my leads quickly turned into an appointment for that same night. Others were booking appointments with me as well for the coming days. I was feeling confident I would have a buyer by the weekend.
My single appointment the first day the ad was posted showed up at my house, her parents in tow, ready to test drive the car. She told me that she and her husband needed to get rid of one of their bigger vehicles as they were simply paying to much at the pumps. They just needed a subcompact to get around town with her kids. She thanked me for posting a video as she said, "that really helped me decide I wanted to see your car, I sent the link to my dad too so he could check it out". She and her father test drove the car and he gave it the thumbs up. They had a cash deposit already with them and agreed to pay asking price. Done, sold, easy.
I sold my car in less than 12 hours from time of posting my ad. Remove the time I spent detailing my car I spent 20 minutes on merchandising it. 20 minutes! I don't think I took better pictures than the next guy, I don't think my description was a masterpiece and my video, more utility than art, got the job done. I have never worked at a dealership, but I have had the immense pleasure of learning how to execute this exercise mainly do to the fact of incredible powers of example. If I can take a few pointers from the likes of Adam Thrasher or Elise Kephart Adame I have to be doing something right!
So next time I hear a sales person or an internet sales rep at a dealership say "I don't enough time to do that" I can share this experience with them. 20 minutes. Sold same day. I know of many folks out there that figured out the right process for their store to achieve this kind of content generation with great results. You simply have to commit and not settle for half measures. The small amount of time I put into the exercise resulted in a very quick sale.
"Fall in love with the process, and the results will come". I saw that online today I think it wraps this post up appropriately.