In my time working in the Automotive Sales Industry, I’ve heard this cliché used far more times than I could ever count: Old School versus New School. Probably because, as the Internet Sales Manager, my area of responsibility falls under the New School heading by necessity and it seems the people who long for the old school days would very much like to see the New School processes fail. People want to go back to doing things the way we used to because “it used to work.”
But customers don’t care about what school we went to. I remember hearing people talk a decade ago about how they could never buy a product on the Internet because they need to see and touch it before they buy it, not to mention that they didn’t want to share their credit card information with anyone that wasn’t in person. That was also back when the store clerk would put your credit card on the plate, place the carbon paper over the top, and slide the bar back and forth to imprint your receipt.
So when one afternoon at our dealership we were musing about what the future of car sales was going to look like, we immediately envisioned a world where the customers would be the ones driving the sale. Because, whether we like it or not or whether we even realize it or not, they are anyway. And they aren’t going to change the way they want to shop to fit our desires or even our ROI report.
We truly believe that if a customer could buy a car online the way that they shop on Amazon.com, they would. So our challenge isn’t trying to find ways to entice customers to change what they want in order to accommodate our sales process, our challenge is to find ways to adopt our sales process to accommodate the way our customers want to shop for cars. People live online and in our increasingly busy lives, we find the time to do the things we need to do for our personal lives multi-tasked during our online presence. And for most of us, buying our next vehicle is a personal purchase.
While the old school approach tells us to withhold price until you have the customer and their trade sitting at the desk in front of you, the customer tells us that they are willing to do the research online and more and more of them are willing to complete their transactions even for these major purchases online. How do we adapt?
We show them that we can do it. We embrace being transparent about our pricing. The days of pricing a car up a few thousand dollars in order to give us room at the negotiation table make us uncompetitive. The travel industry has paved the way for supply and demand pricing and although customers check us out to see if we’re still playing the haggle game, they are quick to recognize and appreciate the value of market-based pricing.
And we offer to help them avoid spending a couple of hours at our store if that’s what they’d like. We offer to send an appraiser to look at their trade, and we can have the appraiser bring their top choice to test drive so that they can check out our car in the comfort of their own neighborhood while we check the condition of their car. Even for customers who aren’t narrowed down to one particular vehicle are so appreciative of our offer that it sets the tone for the positive experience they’re going to find doing business with us in the New School way.