This article, Automotive Internet Sales Manager Training, is a preview chapter from my upcoming second book, “How to Sell Cars on the Internet”
If you are interested in the first book in the series click on this link: The Automotive BDC Manifesto
Part of automotive internet sales manager training is specific procedures that you can put in place to maximize your efficiency pre- and post-appointment. The high volume of internet traffic creates complications that must be addressed in order to convert a high percentage of these customers successfully.
Automotive Internet Sales Manager Training: Introduction
The general idea is to have an incredibly efficient, machine-like business, that operates under strict guidelines, while still having a human face towards the customer. You should dream of a process in which your customers are taken from the internet lead to a confirmed appointment to a sold customer like a factory. Make no mistake, those who manage and own the store expect this out of the internet department. To sell to these customers, they have invested in leads, business development centers, and you, and they want the return on investment.
The X-Factor is the customers themselves. Some customers are still operating in a universe where the dealerships are evil middling businesses, looking to trick and bully them into buying something they don’t want. The idea of shopping online is particularly attractive to people who have this mindset since the internet provides a tool in their internal struggle against the “evil dealership.” This pool of customers is combined, in your internet leads, with your “luxury internet” customer, who see shopping online as a way to make their lives easier, a benefit that they are willing to pay extra for. Half of the fun of working in the internet department is figuring out which customer is which.
So, you are in a department where the management expects the world, the dealership expects a machine, and your customers expect, well, different things. Your best bet in this environment is to insist on holding yourself to a high standard as far as your processes.
Let’s breakdown what I mean by this.
Automotive Internet Sales Manager Training: Pre-Appointment
Rule: The customer needs to know where your store is, where to park when they arrive, and what you look like BEFORE they leave for their appointment.
This rule is maintained best with a pre-appointment process and template. Every day when you arrive at work, you need to print out the day’s appointments. Then, with paper in hand, go through your dealership’s CRM to send appointment confirmation emails to each of your department’s customers that are coming to the store that day. If you have appointments that are meant to show when the store opens, be sure to send their template the night before.
While secret shopping, I rarely see this type of template, even though this is such an easy thing to do. The receptionist at your dentist, an hourly wage non-salesperson, sends this type of email for every appointment, why can’t you?
Standard Appointment Confirmation
When I do see internet departments send this email, this is what it often looks like:
Your appointment is set for 3 pm today. See you then!
While this is better than nothing, suffice to say that we can add a bit of salient information.
Andrei’s Appointment Confirmation
SUBJECT: Appointment at 3:15 pm today at Audi West Hollywood
Your appointment is set for 3:15 pm today to meet with Andrei Smith at Audi West Hollywood. We will have the car you expressed interest in (linked here) ready for you to drive when you arrive.
Our store’s address is:
1100 Mulberry Lane, West Hollywood 90120 (click for Google Maps link)
Your appointment is with Andrei Smith; this is what he looks like:
Our parking is tight, so when you arrive, give me a ring and I can come to park your car in the back. If you would prefer to park yourself, there is street parking on the side street. Here is the layout:
[PICTURE OF STORE PARKING SPOTS]
Can’t wait to meet with you today!
This email template achieves the following:
- Confirms the time of the appointment
- Establishes the vehicle of choice (giving the customer to respond before the appointment if they want a different car prepared!)
- Confirms the address of the dealership
- Shows the customer whom to look for when they arrive
- Shows the customer where to park when they come and offers valet parking
I think we can agree that this is a better standard to use than the generic time-confirmation email that is common to so many dealerships.
Customers are so often late for their appointments and customers are often disrespectful when they do arrive. The best way to counteract this is to lead by example. If you set the standard high, by speaking eloquently on the phone, using proper grammar in your emails, and offering value above and beyond your competition, you will earn the respect of your customers.
Automotive Internet Sales Manager Training: Appointment Arrival
When the customer arrives at the dealership, you should have the car they are interested in (or one that fits their desires) pulled up, ready to show. The first step is not to show them the car, but rather to do a quick check-in sheet. Often when talking to business development center representatives, I hear complaints about “non-logged appointments” which stems from a lack of process. The people who do the follow-up calls at your store will not work effectively unless you log your appointments!
My process for when a customer arrives is to walk up, introduce myself, shake hands, and then offer them a beverage (coffee, tea or water). After these pleasantries, I ask them to follow me to my desk, as I need to “log them in for their appointment.” Where this phrase comes from, I’m not sure, but it’s my process, and it works.
When I get to my desk, I sit down, mention that this will be “very quick,” and I log their arrival in the CRM system (the customer almost always sits down as well). It’s at this point I ask the customer if they are looking to take a test drive today. If they confirm that they are interested in driving, I ask for their license to “log” in the sales office. I take their licenses and make an old-school paper copy, which I bring back with me to the desk. Then I hand back their licenses and write down their phone numbers on this copy. This provides me a great opportunity to confirm their phone numbers and makes finding them in the CRM later easier for my other representatives (easier to search a phone number than to wade through ten “John Smiths” or “Purush Guptas” to find the right customer!)
This is my tried and true process. In no ways is this the final process for logging and tracking the arrivals of the customer at the store, but it is sufficient and infinitely repeatable. The magic of repeating the same process over and over again is consistency and confidence. When you do something for the first time, you lack polish in the act. When you have done the same check-in process a million times, the customer can feel your excellency and will follow your lead. This is why so many salespeople report that they say the same thing to every customer. It’s because, on the whole, the stuff they say works, and they feel comfortable and confident speaking it.
So, develop and standardize your check-in process at your store. It’s critical for the success of your internet department for you to keep track of the arrival of your customers in a way that maintains accurate records and shows your customers your professionalism. The essential aspects of this process must include a proper introduction to the customer, logging in the CRM of their arrival, and a confirmation of their phone number.
Some CRM systems allow you to scan the customer’s license with your cell phone. I find this to be very useful, as the CRM will place the customer’s driver’s license photo into the digital file, making remembering the customer much more comfortable in the future. That being said, customers will often protest if they see you scan their license with your phone. As such, if you do plan to use this feature, do the scanning in the sales office, away from the customer. If you want to be ethically sound, you should ask the permission of the customer first, before scanning their license into your digital database. I’ve personally moved away from this part of our process because of customer complaints, but I think it has a lot of value.
Automotive Internet Sales Manager Training: Sold Appointment
When you’ve followed your sales process well and been successful in selling the car, there are a few processes I recommend implementing at the end of the appointment to increase your paycheck.
First thing, ask for the survey. Every manufacturer has some customer experience survey that is sent to the customer 3-10 days after the sale. Although the manufacturer will ask you not to mention the survey, I can’t in good conscience advise that. It is an open secret in the car business that surveys are coached. The reason that manufacturers tell you not to is that many of these surveys one day end up as part of marketing campaigns, and therefore it’s essential the manufacturer can act as though all the results are honest.
The survey conversation is one that needs to be handled with care. You need to know the customer well to understand how to approach the conversation. If the customer loves you, then you can be straightforward. You can directly mention that there will be a survey coming in X days and you would appreciate it if they can fill it out with all Xs.
If the customer is neutral about you, you can mention that there is a survey coming in X days and ask if everything went well today. If they confirm that they had a good experience, you can mention that your entire staff depends on happy customers doing the surveys. With the neutral customers that have established that they had a good experience, I will often watch their face as I talk about the survey. If they seem receptive, I will mention that “according to our manufacturer, anything less than an X is a failing score.” If they are less receptive, I will tell them that the survey is critical to us and to “please take care of us.”
If, when bringing up the survey at the end, the customer seems uncomfortable, back away from the subject. The last thing you need is an unhappy customer complaining to your manufacturer that you tried to coach them on the survey after a bad experience. Just wish them good luck with their new car and make sure to do the follow-up to make sure they are enjoying it after the fact! These are your “do right and pray” type of customers.
In the last few minutes that the customer is at the dealership, I have had some success asking for referrals. The general idea is that you mention that you are trying to sell more cars and you ask if they know anyone that is in the market. Although it’s rare that they will have someone right off the bat, it will plant the “referral seed” in their mind. If you have done right by the customer, they will be excited to be your advocate at work and in their friend groups. Referral business is the ultimate goal in any sales job, so don’t neglect this!
Automotive Internet Sales Manager Training: Non-Sold Appointment
You can’t win them all (the first time around). When a customer is leaving from an appointment in which they did not buy a car, there are specific processes you can follow that will increase the likelihood of converting the customer in the future. I recommend sitting down with the customer and doing a quick review of their experience driving the car, and asking them what the next steps are.
Some of the time, when you sit down with the customer at the end of the appointment, they will reveal a complaint or disappointment they experienced during their time at the dealer. This information is gold! First off, this is an excellent opportunity for you to address any objections. If a customer complains that the car they drove doesn’t have Bluetooth, but it does, then this is the time to fix that misunderstanding. It is infinitely easier to tease out these objections in person than it will be when they are at home, not picking up your phone calls.
On the other hand, if a customer doesn’t like the car, it’s still best to find this out before any follow up has been done. I’ve had plenty of “check-outs” where the customer tells me that they are already decided on another vehicle after the appointment. This is also a great thing to find out at this point! If you didn’t tease this out, the customer might think they are rude to tell you upfront. If you don’t find out this information in person, there may be weeks of unneeded follow-up. This is an excellent opportunity to save your store some time!
Customer on the Fence
There are also the customers that are on the fence at the end of the appointment. Although they are not going to make a deal at that point, you can utilize the last few minutes to leave a great impression. Mention some of the value-adds that your dealership offers to buyers and perhaps invite them back for an upcoming sales weekend. These few sentences of back and forth can mean the difference between a customer coming back to you or not. These days you will find that many of your customers come in for an appointment to test the cars and then go home to shop for pricing. If you sense that this is the case, the “check-out” is a great time to mention that your dealership “always sells to market” and “never loses a deal to price.” By saying this, you have planted the seed in their head that they are not rude if they don’t give you another opportunity to win their business.
It’s crass, but I often say that guilt is one of the most important parts of being a good internet salesperson. If you professionally conduct your process and embody an undeniably friendly attitude, even the hardest customer will feel guilty not giving you a swing at the business. If you find that your customers that have already come in for their appointment call you later to see if you want to match or beat a competitor offer, then you have done your job. You want them to feel guilty, deep down, if they buy elsewhere.
If you can show the customer that you are an excellent salesperson with tremendous value AND make them love you enough that they feel guilty not buying from you, you will be successful selling cars on the internet.