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dealership training

THE EXECUTIVE EDITION: Lies the Digital Age Told You About Selling Cars

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| by David Metter, President of AutoHook powered by Urban Science

In Part I of Lies the Digital Age Told You About Selling Cars, we overturned one of the most blindly accepted industry-wide standards about the current state of consumer car buying behavior. For far too long, the assumption has been vehicle shoppers have everything they need to make a purchase decision online, and they already know what they’re buying before ever stepping foot in a showroom. The common misconception has been that the average consumer in the digital age only visits one dealership before purchasing a vehicle.

What we found after surveying 2,748 U.S. consumers that have purchased a car in the last year is that the above statement couldn’t be further from the truth. In reality, not only does the average customer visit at least 2.4 dealerships before making a buying decision, but almost half – 46% – said they visited three or more dealers before purchasing. Over a quarter of our sample size, 26%, said they visited four or more dealerships before buying. All of this data was collected by AutoHook and Urban Science in May of 2018 from people who purchased or leased a vehicle within the last year – not from a published study conducted five years ago.

As a former general manager of a dealership, CMO of a privately-held dealer group and as a marketer in general, I found the fact that roughly 1 in 4 people (26%) in the year 2018 visit four or more dealerships before buying a car to be personally absurd. Though surprising, this statistic solidified a new truth about the state of our industry. Contrary to what dealers have been told, the in-store experience is arguably more important in the digital age than ever before in the history of the car business – and for several reasons.

The most prominent reason being if a customer has a bad experience with one of your salespeople when they come in for a test drive, they will leave and buy from someone else. If they go to two dealerships and have a bad experience at both, they will go to a third and even a fourth dealer to buy from the one that provides them with the experience they expect and deserve.

Just like everything else that has surfaced from the digital age, car shoppers have a LOT of choices when it comes to what they’re going to buy and who they’re going to buy from. Purchase decisions are still made at physical dealerships, most likely following a test drive – NOT exclusively online. Shoppers in-market for a new vehicle don’t have their minds made up about what they’re going to buy by the time they visit their first dealership. Outsell says 6 out of 10 car shoppers enter the market unsure of what they want to buy. Our own research and survey data consistently shows 78% of people are still considering multiple brands by the time they visit their first dealership.

So we as an industry, we HAVE to get this right. Instead of operating based on pure, often biased assumption, dealers need to seriously reconsider their order of priorities in terms of how they run their business and where they spend their money. The digital age has armed us with so much intellectual power, yet at the same time, it’s made us a little lazy. It’s cast a shadow over what’s really important – defining value and personal worth by likes, clicks and follows rather than interpersonal relationship skills.

Part II of Lies the Digital Age Told You About Selling Cars verified the auto industry has become too quick to rely on technology as a crutch to do the work for us, rather than picking up the phone and having a conversation - or dare I suggest having the inventory knowledge and social skills to not only sell a car, but to foster ongoing relationships that lead to repeat, loyal customers. It is officially time for a new dialogue to emerge. The question we as an industry need to be asking is not how can we leverage new technologies to help us sell cars, but how can we leverage new technologies to help our salespeople sell cars?

Rather than answering the above question based on my expertise and years of experience in this business, I’ll share the real-life success stories of how two actual dealerships in the digital age are using great data processed through great technology to help their people sell more cars and lose fewer opportunities.

DEALERSHIP #1

One of our dealer clients needed an accurate way to measure the true effectiveness of their follow-up process by knowing what was and wasn’t working within their current lead mix as well as how many opportunities their salespeople sold compared to how many they lost to competitors. Using their individual salesperson data, we analyzed each person’s sales and defections and identified who had the most potential to improve. We then pinpointed the time frame during their follow-up process when their people struggled the most, which for this particular store was during days 0-4 after a lead hit their CRM. Lastly, we exposed their highest defecting lead source.

Armed with a roadmap highlighting their greatest areas of opportunity, the owner of this dealership shared this data with his sales staff and reviewed each person’s sales and defection trends with them one-on-one every month. He created an environment of transparency and friendly competition by making this defection analysis technology available to all his salespeople, thus holding them personally accountable for every sale they lost in addition to what they closed.

The dealer then helped his staff implement a more aggressive follow-up strategy for working leads 0-4 days old. He provided additional training on how to better work leads that came from their highest defecting source (especially during this time frame). He took the time to listen to feedback from all his salespeople and found opportunities for peer coaching to help further reduce their collective number of defections. He also implemented a system to reward the people who showed improvement each month.

With a refined follow-up strategy fueled by better prepared, more empowered salespeople, they saw the following results in just 90 days:

  • Their overall defections decreased by 89%, with a 44% decrease in defections specifically during days 0-4 post-lead.

  • They increased their number of closed sales tied to their highest defecting lead source by an astounding 242%.

  • Most importantly, when it came to the salesperson identified as having the highest defection rate, that individual successfully increased their closed sales by 78% and went from being the worst performer on the team to one of their top performers.

DEALERSHIP #2

This store needed a way to identify any potential problems with their lead mix to see which sources were underperforming and why. Using the same defection analysis technology as Dealer #1, they were able to determine the issues they were having with their highest defecting lead source were due to external factors outside of their control – rather than a lack of effective internal follow-up. They then confidently decided to cancel this lead provider and put those marketing dollars back towards their bottom line.

Ninety days later, they saw a 61% average increase in salesperson performance after removing that lead source – not to mention they were able to free up a total of 40 man-hours per week that were previously devoted to working those high-defecting leads. The best result of all? Four of their salespeople went from being average or below average performers to their TOP FOUR salespeople.

And they didn’t stop there. This dealer applied the same technology to define which model(s) in their inventory represented the most defections specific to their salespeople so they could go after leads tied to underperforming models more aggressively. Model A represented the most opportunity for improvement, and again within 90 days, they increased closed sales specific to Model A by 51% and reduced defections by 30%.

What we can conclude from the examples listed above, is that technology can help your people in a multitude of ways. Technology can help your salespeople close more deals and reduce their defection rates. Technology can help your people free up wasted time chasing leads from a faulty source. Technology can identify which models your people struggle with the most in order to boost specific model performance. Technology can even tell you if your customers are leaving your store to buy the same model somewhere else, or if they’re defecting to another brand entirely.

But the most important thing to take away is that technology in the digital age still doesn’t sell cars. It can do a lot to light up the right track for your people to do just that, but at the end of the day your salespeople need to know your inventory like the back of their hand – what makes it better than competing brands or models, and what makes doing business with you a better option than anywhere else.  

The truth in a current landscape littered with lies is that there’s no way for any one dealer to know everything they need to know about their overall market, which models represent the most opportunity for their store, and if their salespeople are doing their jobs and following up with leads appropriately. That’s where the technology and data come into play. With a complete view of who is struggling and exactly what they’re struggling with during the initial contact and follow-up process, dealers can take immediate action to help their salespeople reduce defections and improve their performance across all facets of their sales operations – so they can be one of the 2.4 dealerships (at least) with a shot of winning the sale.

 

Lies The Digital Age Told You About Selling Cars [Chapter 2]: Are We Using Technology as a Crutch?

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| by David Metter, President of AutoHook powered by Urban Science

There is this perpetual echo of the word “disruption” in the car industry. What will be the next big disruption? What do we need to prepare for that will change everything we know about selling cars? The reality is disruption is largely incumbent upon technological advancements and the rate of societal adoption to these new, uncharted territories dominated by things like artificial intelligence and machine learning. These future “disruptors,” such as the rise of alternative online retail formats, subscription services or the transition from gas-powered vehicles to autonomous, connected cars are impossible for any one dealer or OEM to predict, let alone control.

Therefore, I’d like to propose a new approach. What if instead of the next big disruption we focused a little more on what we can control – the constants – the parts of the equation that aren’t powered by data or machines. What I mean by the constants is the people, or more specifically, the relationships that form when a customer goes to look at a car and has a positive interaction with a salesperson while doing so. The value of relationships when it comes to selling cars has been vastly undermined by the shiny new innovations of the digital age.

I think we’ve become so infatuated by the latest technology and the newest cutting-edge solutions to selling cars that we forgot about the fact that technology becomes useless without the people behind it who make it work. Relationships in the digital age still take precedence over technology and despite the advancements we have yet to see, technology in all its glory can’t replace social skills. All this talk about connectivity and connected devices yet I think we’re failing to connect the dots when it comes to knowing what will ultimately yield the highest ROI for dealerships, both in today’s world and in the future – knowing who your best salespeople are and how to keep them.

We as an industry need to stop using technology as a crutch. We’ve become so focused on the next big disruption in digital marketing that we’ve started to rely on the help of digital tools entirely, forgetting that cars are still bought and sold by actual people at actual dealerships. Deloitte’s 2018 Global Automotive Consumer Study reported car shoppers still rate physical interactions with a vehicle as critical to their buying decision – with over 8 out of 10 needing to see the vehicle in person before making a purchase decision. So, if this is the case, why are we spending the majority of our time and money on the minority of the buying public?

It’s all about striking a perfect balance between technology, the right data and the right people. It takes all three to get the job done. Technology is a powerful tool that can be leveraged to enhance or continue existing relationships, but it can’t create them in the first place. When it comes to the right data, we are extremely fortunate because our solutions are powered by the Urban Science® DataHub™, which allows us to be the first to know when a customer buys a car, what car they bought, where they bought and if they didn’t buy from you. And we get that sales data and the equally important defection data within days – not months.

In the same way that technology lacks value without good people, the right data can uncover things about your salespeople you otherwise never would have known. For example, you consistently see all these closed sales opportunities by let’s say, “John,” so naturally you think John is one of your best salespeople. But how many opportunities is John losing every month to one of your competitors? You’d never know without the right data. So it all goes hand-in-hand. The person selling the most cars may be losing more opportunities than he or she is closing, so your “best” salesperson can quickly become your worst salesperson when you can compare what they’re winning to what they’re losing at the same time.

Having that ability to layer sales and defection data on top of your CRM data is critical if you want to operate more efficiently. Without it would be like making decisions for your dealership based on a cost-benefit analysis but forgetting to include the cost part of the equation. It’s the only way to add enough dimension to your CRM data to make it truly actionable – instead of looking like Flat Stanley.

Having the right data combined with great technology can help your operations in a multitude of ways. It can suppress the leads in your CRM that have already purchased so your people can stop wasting time following up with them. It can pinpoint the ideal time and channel to re-engage your lapsed or dormant leads. Technology can help dealerships interrupt a customer while they’re shopping online and grab their attention just long enough to influence their decision-making process. It can also help ensure a customer chooses to visit your showroom instead of your competitors with things like test drive incentives.

The reality is technology will never be able to stop a customer from walking out of your dealership after a negative experience with one of your salespeople. Furthermore, when it comes to closing lead opportunities, your salespeople may already be at a disadvantage. A recent Automotive News dealer training webinar reported that as many as 98% of qualified leads fail to result in closed business. So instead of pouring all your focus into staying ahead of the next big disruption promising more and better leads, maybe we need to shift our focus back to the one thing capable of converting those leads into sales once they hit your showroom – your people.

Great employees are what gives meaning to the capabilities that stem from great technology. Your salespeople are the foundation needed to ensure data-powered solutions work in favor of your dealership. In a word, the future state of our industry’s digital landscape is unpredictable. But there are two things we do know. Change is constant and retaining great salespeople is still paramount. There’s not a lot we can do to control the rate of change, but fortunately for dealers, there’s a lot we can do to help our salespeople and to make sure we're holding on to the good ones.

 

Stay tuned for Lies the Digital Age Told You About Selling Cars, Chapter 3: Power to the [Sales] People to learn more about the importance of retaining your best salespeople and how to provide a better in-store experience.

10 WAYS TO BOOST SOCIAL CONVERSION WITH AUTOHOOK INCENTIVES

A How to Guide for Dealers

Why Social? Marketing 101 says if you want to effectively reach your customers you have to be where they are, or “in the right place at the right time.” Social media represents the most widely utilized communication channel in existence. Salesforce reported 66% of all Internet usage occurs on social sites. Facebook takes the cake as the most widely used platform with 80% of Americans using it on a regular basis (talk about being where your customers are).

Why AutoHook Incentives? That’s an easy one. In order for a customer to redeem an AutoHook incentive, they have to physically walk into a dealership. We all know the chances of selling a vehicle drastically increase when you’re able to get shoppers off the Internet and into your store. But what AutoHook does that’s even more important than driving more showroom visits (yes there are more important things), is we use the most up-to-date sales match reporting to prove exactly which incentive offers resulted in a sale.  

Below are 10 ways to boost the revenue driving opportunities already available to you as an AutoHook customer. Simply reach out to your AutoHook Client Service Specialist (CSS) to implement any of the examples listed below. They will help you set up campaigns and make sure these efforts convert into sales or service appointments.

1. PLUG INCENTIVES INTO YOUR EXISTING SOCIAL CAMPAIGNS

Plugging in an incentive into any social campaign is very simple to do. All AutoHook needs to know is the URL of the landing page you want to drive traffic to - whether it’s a specific vehicle, model, service offer, or special. We then provide you with a trackable link you can drop into any Facebook or social campaign. We attach a unique identifier to every offer so we can prove sales attribution for your store. Furthermore, we source out every link separately so that you can differentiate which specific AutoHook campaign converted into a showroom visit or sale in your CRM.

  • Customize Time Frame & Offer Amount: All we need from you is the landing page you’d like to promote, the value of the incentive you’d like to offer and the time frame in which you’d like the campaign to run.
  • Ex: Boost your new vehicle specials with a $50 offer.

2. USE YOUR CRM DATA TO CREATE CUSTOM AUDIENCES

We know no two dealers and no two markets are the same. Therefore, we don’t believe in one-size-fits-all solutions. Despite what vendors try to tell you, no one knows your pain points better than you. The most valuable data you have at your fingertips is your own customer data. Use this to pull targeted lists that address your unique needs and then work with a Client Service Specialist (CSS) to implement the campaign on social.

Here are a few examples to get the wheels turning:

  • Pull a list of customers who are in equity and provide an incentive for them to get into a new vehicle for the same monthly cost.
  • Consolidate a list of all active leads across all your 3rd party sources and retarget those individuals all in one place.
  • Use equity-mining software such as AutoAlert to identify all customers in your market who have upcoming contracts ending on a lease or purchase.
  • Target customers who visited your service drive but did not purchase from you.

3. ELIMINATE WASTED TIME & MONEY

Wouldn’t it help to know which leads in your CRM have already purchased so you don’t waste time and money trying to sell them? A high percentage of car buyers are only in market for a relatively short period of time. Through near real time sales data from Urban Science, AutoHook can help you identify which customers are no longer in market for a vehicle. No one (not even the OEMs) has access to this data within DAYS after sales transactions occur (rather weeks or months). Work with your CSS to create a suppression list of all the customers currently in your CRM that have already purchased a vehicle elsewhere.   

4. INCREASE CUSTOMER RETENTION

This is a HUGE and often undervalued aspect of the car business. Retention is half the battle. We know 30% of people will defect to a different brand after their lease is up. Use an incentive to ensure they come back to your store to test drive the newest model or any other vehicle they might be interested in. Mine your CRM data to find consumers who are “in equity” or who have a lease coming to term in the next 3-6 months.

5. TARGET UNDERPERFORMING MODELS

Real Dealer Case Study: Germain Ford of Beavercreek

  • Using the data found within the MarketMaster tool and Urban Science’s shared sales database, AutoHook identified specific areas of opportunity for Germain Ford of Beavercreek to grow their market share by targeting the top three models they were losing to competitors (including the Ford Focus, Fusion, and Edge). We then implemented a $50 test-drive incentive on all Focus, Fusion and Edge VDPs and SRPs, while running social campaigns to drive traffic to those pages. The result was a 47% reduction in overall lost sales (pump-in). Click here to see the complete case study.

Can’t move a VIN off your lot? Try increasing the dollar amount of the test-drive incentive.

6. TARGET UNDERPERFORMING AREAS

Utilizing Market Master, AutoHook can help you identify the zip codes in which you’re losing the most sales opportunities. We can also show you the areas with the highest levels of pump-in sales and increase the incentive offer to come in for a test-drive in those underperforming areas. This will help you take back market share from the top brand competitors in your market.

Never heard of Market Master? A lot of dealers don’t know this powerful revenue driver exists. Market Master is an Urban Science tool that uses near real-time sales data to identify the biggest areas of opportunity within your market. It’s typically located within your dealer portal through your OEM (currently available for Ford, FCA, Honda, Hyundai, Toyota, and Nissan). 

7. CONQUEST TOP COMPETING BRANDS

Go after the models you know you’re losing to competitive brands in your market. Tailor the creative and messaging in your social ads to express why your brand is the better choice. For example, “Before you go back into a new Ford F150 here’s a $50 Visa Gift Card to come in and test drive the Dodge Ram at Hometown Chrysler.”

8. PLUG INTO VIDEO PRE-ROLL

Custom links can be embedded directly into your video ads on Facebook. Need to move more of a certain model, try offering $25-50 just for coming in to test-drive the featured vehicle. Chances are, if they’re watching the video, they’re already interested.

9. SECURE MORE FIXED OPS APPOINTMENTS

Running service specials? Why not promote them on social to get more exposure? Use incentives in your service and parts campaigns on social sites. Here are a few examples:

  • Schedule a service appointment and get a $25 Visa gift card.
  • Buy 4 tires get a $50 Visa Gift Card.
  • Get a $10 Amazon Gift Card just for getting your oil changed with us.

10. BOOST HOLIDAY SPECIALS

Memorial Day is coming up! Lift the performance of your limited time holiday offers with a $25 gift incentive (or an amount of your choice). Dealers spend countless amounts of money to get customers in the door. Why not spend another $25 to ensure the sale? This same idea can be deployed throughout the year to increase sales around the holidays and give wings to your current specials and holiday sales events. 

To conclude, the opportunities in which you can leverage AutoHook to boost the performance of your social campaigns are limitless. Plus you have the attribution reporting that goes along with it, so you know we’re delivering results in the form of sales and service revenue.

In January of 2017, AutoHook opened up our API so that other best in class technology vendors could tie in our incentive offers to their own existing solutions. SOCIALDEALER is the latest partner to join in our open API initiative. Current and future clients of SOCIALDEALER will see even higher form fill conversion rates on social due to their integration with AutoHook’s API. To learn more about the new capabilities of this partnership, click here.