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The Road to the SaleThis month I have been talking about how the ten step sales process or road to the sales has transformed. I was going through some boxes and found an article that I wrote in the Spring of 2004 for a workshop I did in Raleigh-Durham, NC. The article was about what I believed to be the ten steps to selling an Internet customer. So as you read this article keep in mind that it was written in 2004. I will review and see how we can update even more to take advantage of known trends and technological advances since then: Everyone that's been in the car business for any length of time has been introduced to the ten steps or road to the sale. It's fundamental for success. Where the traditional road to the sale was written for and counts on face to face interaction, the Internet process relies on your process and communications skills. Where your image and personality helped to make a good first impression on the lot, the speed and message of your responses set the stage for the Internet process. Throughout the process on the Internet your ability to communicate via phone and email will directly impact your ability to make the sale. Simply put, the lot customer is already there and presumably to buy a car. With an Internet customer you have essentially the same process, however, you have the added steps of getting the customer the requested information and getting them in the store where the two processes merge. So let's take take a look at what i believe are the steps involved in the Internet sales process.
  1. Receive and Respond
  2. Sell - Self / Process / Dealership
  3. Determine Want / Need
  4. Select a Match
  5. Send / Present a Quote
  6. Follow-Up
  7. Sell / Set the Appointment

Receive & Respond

As stated earlier the speed and content of your initial response sets the stage and "is" the first impression the customer gets of you and your dealership. Let's start with speed of response. Knowing that most Internet customers will submit several requests when shopping for a car, you want to make sure that your response stands out. While auto responders are perfect for a quick initial reply there are a couple ground rules that you need to follow. First, keep it brief and to the point. Second, let them know it's an auto responder. Just let them know that you received their request and that you will be contacting them very soon. Even though an auto responder was sent the clock is ticking since Internet customers have become accustomed to immediate information. The content of your real initial response is very important. For example, if you use a template for your initial response that ask for more information and send it to a customer that submitted a very specific request you lose all credibility.

Sell - Self / Process / Dealership

Without face to face interaction you will need to establish rapport and build trust with your timeliness, phone skills and your dealerships process. Imagine that you're a customer and have submitted requests to four different dealerships. Of the four only three even respond and two send emails asking when you can stop by the store. However, one send you a copy of the invoice and and shows you two others car they have that are similar and could save you some money. Experience tells me that a majority of the time the guy that offered more information will win. Your emails should not only provide more information but tell how your store's process will save the customer time as well as money.

Determine Want / Need

You begin to work on this step with your first response. Each subsequent email should continue to do this until you have established exactly what they are looking for. This step is fairly basic and simply asking the right questions to get to know them and what they are looking for.

Select a Match

This is where your morning lot walk pays off. Knowing your inventory and keeping an accurate inventory list on hand or readily available will help tremendously.

Send / Present Price Quote

There are many different thoughts on sending a price quote. Many say absolutely not until they're on the lot, others will only do it on the phone. If you're reading this then your dealership hired me to help show you how to sell more cars online. Therefore i am going to focus on what has worked for me. In eight years of selling to Internet customers I have tried just about everything. In doing so I have determined that Internet customers are not looking exclusively for the best price. I believe the majority are looking for a convenient and hassle free process. They are trying to avoid the old school showroom method. It was when I started sending out informative price quotes that my sales really took off. Pick out a car that you have in-stock and that you feel is close match and send them and email with the installed options and your Internet price. The customer is more like to respond if you have provided them with the options and pricing. You can also include a car higher and lower to give them options. If it's not what they want they will let you know.

Follow-Up

This is where most dealerships fail. A consistent follow-up plan will do more for your sales than just about anything else. Remember that Internet customers start looking earlier in the sales process than traditional customers so a follow-up plan is absolutely fundamental to your success.

Sell / Set the Appointment

I know that there cases where you sold a car to someone out of state and did the paperwork by mail and had the car shipped. Those are the exceptions and not the rule. Most of the time you still have to get the customer in store and we've all heard the expression "that you never get what you don't ask for." In each of your emails and calls always ask for the appointment. Then send reminders a day or so before the appointment. At the time there was a distinct difference between what we called an "Internet" customer and a traditional lot customer. Today that line has blurred so much that it hardly exist anymore. Today nearly everyone has done some research online. So for all intents and purposes everyone is just a customer. Today it's even more important to have a process and with Social Media's increasing influence it's actually easier. Just a thought... * * * Read more about Improving Car Sales on this blog.

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