As much as the price, brand and model of a vehicle present key factors when it comes to making the final decision on which car to buy, there’s a lot that a dealership and its salespeople can do to make those sales happen With countless dealerships and options to choose from, it’s now all about the so-called soft skills your staff possess to convince prospective buyers to get their new vehicle from you.
From a reliable CRM system and strong online presence to exceptional social skills and personalization, there’s a lot to learn about the importance of sales psychology in car sales. If you’re looking to provide our customers with an outstanding buying experience, whilst increasing your sales numbers and customer retention, keep reading to find out all the important aspects to focus on when it comes to sales psychology.
Reimagining the sales process
The Covid-19 pandemic has caused an unpredictable shift in the auto industry, but even before that car sales in the U.S. were down 5.8% in December 2019, as compared to the same month in 2018, while full-year sales fell 1.3%. The industry is changing rapidly, so dealerships have to come up with creative ways to sell cars, while ensuring long-term profitability.
In fact, numerous car dealerships have started to rethink their sales processes with a focus on personalized shopping experiences. Taking a consumer-oriented approach, as many of the most successful dealerships do, requires ongoing learning, as customer preferences continue to shift. This is where sales psychology in car sales plays a crucial role.
Know what the buyer wants
The very first step to selling a car is to know the needs, preferences, and budgetary limitations of your customers. This is tougher than it sounds! Start an initial conversation to understand these key factors – it is the basis for the relationship building that is vital for closing the sale and retaining customers long term.
Buyers, who are satisfied with their shopping experience, will trust the dealership personnel. They are more likely to buy F&I products, return to your service drive for vehicle repairs and maintenance, and recommend the dealership to friends and family. But first impressions matter a lot, so you can’t mess up in that regard.
One of the best ways to find out about customers’ individual needs and preferences is to ask qualifying questions when they visit the dealership. Nowadays, in-person visitors go to around 2 to 3 dealerships before making up their minds. It means a single interaction can actually make or break a sale. You can consider the following questions to ask early on:
- What brings you in?
- Are there any specific vehicle makes and models you are looking for?
- Do you want a new or used vehicle?
- What features do you want in your car?
- What do you dislike about your current vehicle that has led you to consider this purchase?
- What does your timeline look like?
- Are you planning to pay for the vehicle upfront? Would you like to discuss financing options with us?
- Have you ever financed a vehicle before? If so, what were your monthly payments like?
But every conversation is different, so these are not the only questions you might need to ask. In fact, several of these questions could be answered naturally while speaking to car buyers about what they are looking for and how much they are willing to pay. Under no circumstances should you grill consumers about their requirements and finances – an aggressive sales pitch can turn them away from your dealership forever.
After getting to know customers on a more personal level, your salespeople will be able to hone in on the exact vehicles and F&I products that match their preferences. This, in turn, can help improve your vehicle sales numbers and cut down on the time customers spend sitting at your dealership. As per a report by Cox Automotive, customers who spend an average of three or more hours have a worse overall dealership experience and are often less likely to follow through with their purchases. The more you can do to streamline the customer’s car buying journey, the better.
Make the process as personal as possible
It is a natural progression to personalize the process to each unique customer, after asking those clarifying questions. To put it in a nutshell, personalization is all about adjusting services to meet each customer’s specific requirements, instead of focusing on broad sales tactics. While it is true that buying trends can help your sales team understand the preferences of different customer demographics, it is necessary to treat each visitor as an individual.
Research by Accenture reveals that around 43% of U.S. consumers are much more likely to buy products and services from companies that make the experience of shopping as personal as possible. It includes aspects like offering product recommendations, special discounts and other incentives for customer loyalty. However, there is a more direct and impactful way to build relationships with potential customers – focus on the individual, instead of the product.
Since you have started off strong by asking clarifying questions, it is now time to know the person behind the purchase.
- Why do they need a new vehicle?
- What will they use it for?
- How would a new or used car improve their lives?
These types of individual-focused questions can reveal the motives behind customers’ purchase decisions and help your sales team personalize every aspect of the buyer’s journey.
Leverage CRM tools to track leads
In most cases, car buyers aren’t ready to finalize a purchase during their first visit to the dealership. Purchasing a vehicle isn’t as simple as choosing a dress or book. Consumers can spend days or even weeks contemplating this decision before they actually make up their minds. Nowadays, car shoppers have more options available, as access to information is more convenient and easier than before.
To help collect, manage and organize customer data, many dealerships have integrated Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tools into their workflows. CRM software such as Modera Salesfront lets car dealers build more productive relationships with both prospects and buyers by storing crucial information in a secure and centralized format. Using a CRM, your salespeople can quickly pull up customer records, contact information and purchase histories to better understand buyers’ individual needs.
Modera Salesfront makes it really easy to follow up on sales leads, generate actionable insights, increase conversions, and personalize the overall shopping experience. When you create a detailed profile for prospective car buyers, the sales team can do a much better job of identifying what vehicle models or accessories a customer may be interested in. On the other hand, the F&I staff can find out what products customers are looking for or could benefit from. This improved accuracy can streamline your sales conversations and open up upsell opportunities, which may help increase new car sales revenue.
Yes, there is quite a bit of overlap between personalization and dealership technology. For instance, when you use a CRM platform, it allows your staff to build more accurate and compelling customer profiles that guarantee future sales conversations. Automated email marketing can also help individualize your consumer-facing communications and introduce more variety into your marketing efforts.
An online presence is a must these days
Search engines and social media platforms play a decisive role when it comes to the buying experiences of consumers. Research found that vehicle buyers spend around 14 hours researching and shopping online before ever visiting a dealership in person. If you don’t have a strong and active online presence, there is a high chance you are missing out on quick sales and opportunities to develop lasting customer relationships.
A recent study by automotive CRM company discovered that 80% of shoppers visit at least two websites during their independent research. 65% start their search on a third-party website, while 32% end up on a dealership’s page. These findings demonstrate the importance of your website as an active sales tool. Offering consumers a simple means of collecting information on vehicle features, prices and financing options can help build trust early in the buying process.
However, the website should be informative, easy to navigate, and filled with engaging content. It has to be effective in driving sales leads to have an impact on the bottom line. Make sure the website has comprehensive vehicle pages with photos and other information, proper shopping guides, breakdowns of F&I products, real-time pricing information, and much more. If the website takes time to load, isn’t informative, or lacks compelling content, customers will take seconds to leave.
Please ensure the website content is consistently updated to reflect the most accurate information about your dealership and vehicle inventory. Hire someone to optimize the web pages so the website has good visibility on search engines, while providing viewers with a positive experience when they browse. The goal of website optimization is to make it simple for online shoppers to locate your dealership, browse your inventory and start the purchase process. The website should function as a stepping stone in the buyer’s journey and encourage customers to visit your dealership in person.
Focus on sales training
Consumer preferences are changing all the time, which makes it hard to keep car sales tactics relevant and impactful. Apart from training new hires, it is imperative for dealerships to offer upskilling and professional development opportunities that encourage employees to grow. Business training, in particular, can provide an inside look at a wide range of selling fundamentals, including:
- Digital retail and sales techniques
- The way to conduct retail presentations
- Psychology behind high-end purchases
- Basics of sales conversions
Apart from sales training, staff should be provided with regular refresher courses on F&I products, loan and lease offerings, and standard maintenance contracts. It will help encourage the sales team to introduce stuff like F&I packages much earlier in the sales conversation. It can also provide your sales team with an edge when negotiating with high-intent shoppers who are ready to make a purchase.
What you should remember while selling cars
- Every buyer is different. They all have different backgrounds, budgets, wants, requirements, and desires. Don’t treat all prospects the same or you are bound to lose sales. Remember, everyone has different reasons for buying a vehicle, whether it is new or used.
- Don’t lie to customers. If you don’t know the answer to a question, ask them to wait and reassure them about getting the answer. A customer loses trust if they believe you have lied to them in any capacity.
- Potential car buyers will ask you what seem to be senseless questions when you are working with them. Your first reaction would be to say what does that have to do with buying this car, but the real reason for some of their questions is to test you. Customers will test your knowledge and honesty in order to decide if they want to buy a car from you. So patience is key here.
- Don’t bad mouth any other car dealers. Customers aren’t at your dealership to find out which other dealers they should stay away from.
- It is important to dress professionally and act the part. Customers are less likely to approach a salesperson who smells like an ashtray and is dressed in shabby clothes. Wearing clean and pressed clothes and having a positive attitude is a must.
- Knowing the product, which in this case is the car, is necessary, but product knowledge alone won’t sell the vehicles. It is about making the customer feel comfortable about spending their hard-earned money. If they feel the car salesperson doesn’t know what they are talking about, they are likely to walk out and never come back.
- Be informed regarding your inventory. Whether it is new or used car inventory, you should have a good idea of what you have in stock so you can switch them to another car if the need arises.
- Get customers to trust you. Encourage them to talk about themselves, listen to what they want, and build some rapport. As mentioned, don’t hesitate to ask questions, and if you don’t know the answer, ask them to wait a bit while you get the answer they seek.
- Always follow-up. Use the CRM to stay in touch, and ask for referrals because car buyers can provide you with future sales and income.
- Last but not the least, thank customers when they leave the dealership, whether they actually made a purchase or not. If they have bought a vehicle, inspect the car with them and make sure they are happy with the services received.
Every sale starts with a conversation – knowing how to communicate with diverse audiences is a basic requirement, as are interpersonal and relationship-building skills. This accounts for why some dealerships have started prioritizing soft skills in their hiring processes.
While it is relatively easy to teach a new salesperson how to use a CRM system like Modera Salesfront or fill out a purchase contract, improving their interpersonal abilities isn’t always straightforward. Dealerships prefer to either create their own in-house training programs, work with a third-party provider, or some combination of both.
Sales psychology in car sales is a tricky aspect to master and it won’t happen overnight, but once the salesperson knows how to put it to good use, you will notice a significant uptick in sales for sure!