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Ian Cruickshank

Ian Cruickshank VP of Sales and Marketing

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Best Selection? Lowest Price? These Differentiators Don’t Work. Here’s What Will.

Here’s a reality check. You have the same new cars as your brand competitor, and you are all competing for the same car buyer’s attention. How can you differentiate yourself from the competition and convince that buyer to come to your dealership?

In large cities, there can be as many as ten dealerships selling the same new cars. For example, the small city I live in has four BMW dealerships. Los Angeles area has eight, Atlanta area has three and New York City area has nine. If a car buyer lived in any of those cities and wants to buy the same black M6 Grande Coupe with red Nappa Leather, which one of those dealerships should they visit?

All dealerships can order the same new cars from the factory and all vying for the attention of this car buyer. So the question is:

What can you do to make sure the buyer comes to your dealership and not your competitors?

Successfully differentiating your dealership can make the difference between selling more cars, or losing valuable market share to the competition.

Let’s go over how this can be done.

Find out Exactly how you’re Different

Driving to work, I heard countless advertisements on the radio about dealerships talking about the best selection or lowest prices, and I think to myself “They can’t all be right”. And when this happens, people tune out or – worse – they completely mistrust this message. In that case, you’ve lost.

What you need to do is some customer research and find out why they come to you and why they buy from you.

After a successful sale, make sure to do a win analysis. Get your team to ask these questions:

  • Why did you come to this dealership?
    Is it location? Is it selection? Was it a referral from a previous buyer? Did we have the best reviews on Google? OR, are you just in a part of town that’s next to the lottery corporation and all the winners see your dealership first after picking up their big bag of money?
  • Why did they ultimately decide to buy from our dealership?
    Did they like our salespeople? The service? Was it the lowest price they found? What was compelling enough for them to drop thousands of their hard earned dollars on your lot versus the other guy?

Keep in mind that your sales team may, or in many cases may not be, the right people to ask these questions. You may want to ask these questions by way of a follow-up phone survey. Do this as part of the call that you make a few days after the sale – you know, the call that you are making to ensure your customer had a great experience and that they are not suffering from buyers remorse (you are making that call – Right?). If you have a marketing team member on staff, they are likely the best candidate to carryout this process.

Once you have about 30 or more responses you’ll be able to find trends in the answers provided. These trends will provide you with unbiased input on why people like your dealership and will provide you with differentiators based on what the market actually feels about your dealership.

This gives your message much more resonance than something simply made up in a board meeting, and will attract more people like the ones that have already bought cars from you.

Construct the Message

156258d2d9170e4965ed960512c11718.jpg?t=1Now that you have found out why people truly come to you, it’s time to distil those findings into a succinct message that buyers can relate to. When creating a message, try to keep these things in mind:

  • Use unlike statements
    Using "unlike" statements is the quickest way to show you’re different from the rest. For example, your Toyota dealership is in the suburbs, try: Unlike many other Toyota dealerships that are clogged up in the dense city, we are located right off the highway for your convenience. Or if your dealership opens on the weekend, try: Unlike many other Ford dealerships, we are open the entire weekend, so you can find the car you want without taking time off work.
  • Message on benefits not just features
    Frame and explain the benefits of your differentiator to the buyers. As with the examples above, if I had simply stated that I was off the highway, I could have been met with a “so what?”. Once the statement "being off the highway" is framed as being convenient, then it will resonate with buyers who value convenience. Likewise, if you simply stated you are open all weekend, people may just be thinking you’re promoting your hours, rather than understanding the value you are open later or longer than your competitors.
  • Avoid inward facing statements
    I get it, you’re the biggest dealership in your county. Or you’ve sold more cars than your next three competitors combined. As much as this is something to be proud of inside your dealership, this doesn’t hold as much weight with a buyer. Frame your message from the perspective of the buyer and ask “What’s in it for me?”. So, if you’ve moved more inventory than your competitors, try “More GM buyers have trusted us to deliver the car they want” rather than “We’ve sold more cars than any other GM dealership.” 

By creating the right message, you’ll be able to communicate your strengths in a way that resonates with more car buyers. This in turn, will attract more shoppers and – ultimately – help you sell more cars.

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