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The last year that I sold cars, before starting a BDC, was 2003. While 7 years doesn't seem like that long it was a lifetime in technology, and if I had to do it all over again I'd do it the same way. What? That's right, I'd do it the same but I would go about it very, very differently. You see, even back when I first started selling cars I understood the value of creating positive, win-win relationships with my customers, in fact, a lot of the things I train on today, in regards to social media, I learned while working lot traffic and building my own book of business.
One of the first things I did when starting my very first job selling cars is have two sets of post cards made, one for sold traffic the other for unsold traffic. The first thing I would do when a customer drove off the lot is send them a post card, maybe it was a post card thanking for them for their business or one thanking them for their time, but every person I spoke to got one in the mail.
Once a month I put a newsletter together with Microsoft Publisher and walked down the street to a printer and had it printed up. I would then address them by hand, stamp them and put them in the mail, one to everybody in my database, whether they bought a car from me or not. I would even clip out magazine or newspaper articles if I found one that would interest one of my customers and mail that to them as well.
I would devote part of my day calling my customers, keeping track of them and building relationships each and every chance I got. I understood that the value was in the relationship, and that relationships were worth more than the commission check I earned from selling them a car, you see I wanted them to come back and buy another car from me and another, I even wanted them to send me referrals, and you know what? They did, and they were happy to do it.
So earlier when I said I would do it the same way I meant it, and by the same way I meant that I would still build relationships, because that's where the real value comes from. Of course, I would go about it differently because I have so many tools at my disposal today that I would have a much easier time going about it. Back then I would talk to service customers and talk to the HR department of X-plan companies (I worked at a Ford Store) to get more business, all of this took time and I had to do a lot of this stuff on my own time, at home or on my rare days off, but as I look back it was well worth the experience I gained.
But I ask myself now, how would I go about this differently if I sold cars today?
I'd have a blog. On that blog I would write about the same things that I wrote about in my newsletter. I would write funny stories, stories about my family and my experiences as a car salesman. I would still interview the detail manager about how to best take care of leather or how to get those pesky stains out of the upholstery. I would upload my customer testimonials along with pictures of them enjoying their new vehicles. I would even go so far as to interview them, just like I did for my newsletter, but this time I would blog about how their experience was working with me versus the other guy down the street. I'd blog about the makes and models at my dealership, really show my passion for the products I sold. I'd use my blog to build relationships, not sell cars. I would let people know, through my actions, not my words, that I wanted to get to know them, that I'm in the car business to take care of them, not to rip their heads off.
I'd have a Facebook profile that I'd use to keep up with my customers. I would upload pictures of them, that I took, just before they left the lot and tag them in it. Then I would go to their Facebook wall and say something nice about them on their wall, on the picture that I tagged them on. I would do that because I know that they would feel compelled to say something nice about me and then all of their friends would see it. A kind of impromptu testimonial. Then I would listen. I'd watch to see what my customers were talking about so that I could get to know them. I would then find articles online that interest them and post it on their wall with a little note saying that I came across it and thought about them. I would also partner with local businesses and get coupons from them so that I could give them to my customers. I'd give as much as I could, I'd give advice when I could and offer my service whenever I had a chance, even if I had to mow the grass of one of my elderly customers who's grandson was out of town for two weeks and couldn't get to it (Yes I did do that).
I'd create videos. Lots and lots of videos. I would create walkarounds that I would post on Youtube, my blog and on Facebook. These wouldn't be ordinary walkarounds but the fun kind where I see how many people I can fit in the trunk. I would post videos teaching my customers how to operate the navigation, the memory seating, and any other number of things. I'd get a service tech to show my customers how to check their fluids and the importance of proper maintenance. Whenever one of my customers, or a potential customer wanted to know more info about a particular vehicle I would take a video of the car and show it to them, making sure to use their name in the video. I would then upload their video, with the proper meta tags to Youtube so that they rank in the search engines.
I would have a LinkedIn account where I would connect with as many of the influencers in my market as possible. I would find as many opportunities as I could to refer the people in my network to them. I would do this because I know that the people on LinkedIn carry a lot of authority, and if I could get an endorsement from a few of them, it would bring me more business. I would go to great lengths to be a connector of people, build as much social capitol as possible so that they would in turn connect people to me.
I would organize as much face to face as possible. I would organize meetups at the dealership where the finance manager could talk about budgeting, credit repair, or the value of gap insurance. I would even have the service manager conduct new car care clinics. I'd invite customers in to test drive new models so that they could give me their opinions on them, of course I would record the whole thing and upload the videos to Youtube, Facebook and to my blog. I'd organize networking functions so that I could bring my customers even closer together so that they could network and get to know one another. I would organize giveaways every month, dinners for two, or tickets to the theatre. I would use these to create excitement around me and my dealership.
The Good News
If you're selling cars you don't have to wait for customers to walk on the lot, you can build relationships with your past customers at the same time you build relationships with new ones. The hard cost is next to nothing, you could partner with a local restaurant for the free dinners or at least get a discount. Of course, this all takes time, but if you devote just a fraction of your time each day to building relationships, before you know it, you will be working by appointment only.
This is the 21st century and as salespeople we need to use the tools that are available to us to build a community of raving fans around our personal brand. It doesn't take much work to put a strategy in place but I assure you, once you start building relationships with your customers and take care of them in any way that you can, they will, in return, take care of you. What are you waiting for, get started now!
David Johnson is the digital marketing strategist for PersuasiveConcepts.com and Next Generation Dealer Services