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Kiran Karunakaran

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An Ode to Negotiation

Have you tested the wind lately? It is now a headwind, that gentle breeze known as negotiation-free selling that first rippled lot flags in the early ‘90s.

Even as more dealers embrace these winds, some consumers will continue to want to negotiate. Many enjoy the banter and are skilled negotiators, and sales departments will continue to take them as ups.

Dealers are prudent to employ among their sales team professionals skilled at moving shoppers through the steps to the sale and price negotiation.

Yet, more and more, sales people are expected to be a different breed – technically sophisticated, people-engagers, concierges of sorts to escort shoppers along the shopping journey they’ve already determined would be their path to their purchase.

You know the surveys about this:

  • Especially Millennials, which is now the second-largest economic engine behind fading Boomers, don’t want to negotiate. They spend up to 15 to 17 hours shopping online for their perfect vehicle before walking into the dealership. They’ve checked prices, compared prices, and perhaps consulted TrueCar to understand what they should – and will - pay for that vehicle.
  • CarFinance.com and Accenture note respondents to their surveys rank negotiating the sales price as the worst part of buying a new car. “If given the opportunity, they would consider making their entire car-buying process online,” notes Accenture.
  • Just 17% of consumers surveyed by AutoTrader “like the current car buying process just as it is.

Whichever type of consumer engages with you, whether first as as an online up or as a showroom up, the prevailing wind requires you navigate with them differently in those environments than ever before.

To a great degree, your team is already doing a more thorough and skilled job allowing customers to  control more of the experience as you transition them from their online to their in-store experience.

Yet all of us, being mortal and prone to falling back into old behaviors and practices, can benefit from tools that help us stay the right course with customers, say the right things and at the right time, ask better questions, and keep on track.

Fortunately, customer engagement management (CEM) tools now being used in dealerships can help staff deliver this customer-centric sales process. The control over the process it gives shoppers and sales associates alike puts all parties at ease and builds trust during the in-store process that make buyers brand enthusiasts.  

However business comes to your dealership, you must convert more ups, calls, and be-backs into sales. These leads likely originated today from online engagement with your dealership, so how you handle them in the store must parallel that experience. This calls for consistency in your online and in-store cultures and your pricing, payments, trade evaluations and other intricacies of the deal in either place.

Closing rates increase when customers engage sales associates in a better organized, thorough, consistent and seamless sales process. With customer engagement, this is the wind blowing most fruitfully.

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