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Advertising is a one-way communication, but selling is a conversation. When I sold Jeeps in 1979, there were only two forms of sales conversation, in-person and on the phone. Today, the conversations that sell also include:
* Video Chat
* Back and forth click and response between a shopper and your website
* Back and forth interaction with you inventory on AutoTrader, Cars.com, etc.
* Back and forth with information about your store, store policies, and your employees
The in-person conversation is usually where the sale is closed, but the selling process includes all these conversations across both human and technological touchpoints.
The dealership website can be built to quickly lure shoppers away from technological touchpoints and into a conversation with a human. Some stores find the number of phone calls from their site goes up when they take price off the vehicles, only to realize many of those calls simply ask for the price and drop off. The irony here is that ecommerce sites try to keep shoppers from calling the store for simple information requests. Labor costs money. There is even a cost to having commissioned sales people answering these calls. They can get so burnt out being free information providers. They end up working the customers too hard too soon out of desperation or give up working them altogether.
It's frustrating for human employees to try to catch up with shoppers who have been having conversations with websites for hours and are just now letting the sales person in. More and better tools are being built to help stores bridge the gap and improve the holistic steam of conversations. I was delighted with some of what I saw in this area at the NADA convention and in online demonstrations since then.
Selling has not changed. It is still about conversations that help the shopper get the right bundle of features and benefits. What has changed is where those conversations are taking place. Keep your eye on video. Recorded videos are a chance to get the customer engaged with their ears as well as their eyes, and live video demonstrations are a fantastic conversation.
Look for interactive video to play a major role in the future. These videos will have tables of contents next to the screen, allowing the shopper to get right to the portion of the video they really want, or to bounce back and forth. Imagine that, the shopper having a conversation with your video.
The basic technology is available today. The army of people capable of fully utilizing these tools is a work in process. Fortunately the focus among product development teams is shifting toward ease of use for those in the dealership as well as consumers. As an industry, we will get better at these conversations, online and offline. The industry will sell more vehicles more cost effectively as a result of it.