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At South by South West (SXSW) I attended Chris Brogan’s and Julian Smith’s session “I Don't Trust You One Stinking Bit” a really long title I thought but it did sum up the session. As usual I walked away my head swimming with ideas and making connections between trust, social media, customer experience and content.
As I thought through these ideas an old sales training model from the early 90’s came to mind and suddenly the role of social media in the car business, hell in any business became as clear as a bell to me.
While running my dealerships in the early 90’s one of my favorite sales training modules involved two triangles, some of you may have seen this example in a training session in your career. It goes like this:
This came to me from an old Clint McGee training tape where Clint talked about getting the customer to “spend YOUR time”. In training I would train salespeople to spend time with the customer introducing and selling him/her self, the dealership, doing the walk around, introduction to the service drive and the what I called the dealership community wall (a wall of pictures of good customers, testimonials, community sponsorships ect. all framed in a hall and wall at the back of the showroom)
As you can see from the picture above if you could get the customer to “spend YOUR time” then the closing rate and negotiation was short and the gross profit was higher. In those days it was determined this took place over a 3 day period.
In contrast if you weren’t able to get the customer to “spend YOUR time” then the closing rates were low and the negotiation stage would take far longer and the gross profit, much lower leaving the customer’s far less satisfied.
As I continued to think about this it hit me…
The “TIME” Clint wanted us to get wasn’t OUR time at all it was the customer’s time and we were working to establish trust in that small amount of allotted customer time, (the 3 days).
We only had those 3 days because we didn’t have all of the communication methods we have today and the customer didn’t have the plethora of in home shopping tools they have today
Now this model has been turned on its head and yet we still continue to do what we always do when we don't understand something, we throw money at the problem. We create loyalty programs that give discounts to good customers (why?), we create referral programs for people to get money if they refer people to our dealership / business and we have even started to try to take these models to social medial.
There this practice is the equivalent of a fart in church, if the customer trusts you then they like you and if they like and trust you then they will be loyal and they will refer their friends to your dealership or business, especially through social media. You don't have to pay them for it in fact they will be insulted if you try.
“Trust cannot be bought…it is its own currency and the two don't mix”
So what does the new sales model look like?
It’s an hourglass of Trust and Time. “Time like trust is its own currency, you can’t get it back and no matter how much money you have you can’t buy more of it”.
Now the CUSTOMER’S time spent is over 90 days and is a series of interactions with online research sites, your online marketing experiences, social media and your website.
As with the model above the more the customers engagement with your online properties the higher the closing rate the shorter and closing time will be and the higher your gross profit will be on the car or item you are selling.
This process now takes place over a 90 day period with little to no interaction with personnel in your dealership or business.
To win here you will need a combination of online properties that give the customer what they want (the information):
Do you have the car / product I am looking for?
Can I find it easily and can I find any additional information I want about it quickly and easily?
How much is it going to cost me? You will answer this question. While it is not the primary driver of the customer’s decision to buy from your dealership / business, it does get you a seat at the table.
If you are not competitive then you won’t even be considered.
This is why I have such a hard time with the pundits that still want to drive everything to a phone call or an appointment, bottom line is the customer will only call if you have a seat at the table thinking they are going to call or submit to “Get a Quote” is ridiculous. I know what you're saying they are doing it now, yes some are doing it now but they are becoming more and more the minority… really fast.
Once you do have your seat at the table then it becomes a combination of social media, engagement with the dealership personnel and TRUST.
These two will combine to give the customer the confidence that they are making the right decision. This is still the 2nd largest purchase the customer is going to make in their lifetime and it hasn’t changed, they still need to feel good about it.
The big differentiator here is how much time can you save me in your dealership. In stark contrast to the earlier model we are creating more trust now by minimizing the customers time in the dealership, being more transparent and giving them more control.
Customers have less time now than they ever have and speeding it in your store is the last thing they want to do with it. Offer home delivery, get as much done electronically as you can by doing so you are helping the customer make the decision to buy from you.
Ironically by them spending less time in your store you are showing the proper respect for the customer and their time and you gain higher loyalty by doing so. Don't just apply this to sales either do it in service too.
In short by being transparent and getting the customer the information they want quickly and easily, you get your seat at the customers decision table.
By engaging them on their terms allowing them to see the human side of your dealership and confirm their decision with other through social media you get less friction and when you do talk with the customer the conversation is not as much about the price as it is confirming their decision to buy from your dealership / business and working out the details of delivery of your product or service.
Now here is the hard part, this can’t be outsourced you and your personnel have to do it. Someone else can’t show your human side only you can do that. This can’t be accomplished with Stock Photo’s or 2 or 3 of the car, I need to see the real car I am buying from every angel.
In the end customers buy from people not dealerships and the buy a cars not a stock photo (even the new cars).
So it takes some effort on your part, to train differently, market to customers online instead of advertising at them, merchandising your cars properly and the convenience of you service department right, connecting with customers instead of up-ing them and being transparent, authentic with your information and genuinely trying to help.
Put the same amount of focus and effort on the things above that you now put into negotiation tactics and closing skills and you and your dealership / business will be far better off for it.
Like it or not the business has changed and I believe for the better.