Simple Tips for Selling to Recession-bashed Consumers in the ‘Recovery” Economy

Autobytel’s Dennis Colome gets back to basics with some smart tips for getting the most out of those online leads
In the roller coaster of today’s economy, there are three things that we can all be certain of: one—consumers continue to submit requests for vehicles online, two—online leads are among your most cost-effective customer generation tools, and three—consumers consistently look for ways to make car buying easier with less haggling. The question is: Does your dealership have the right best practices in place to leverage those leads and sell those cars?
I suggest going back to basics with a few simple and proven selling practices for working with today’s recession-bashed internet customer:
Know thy customer
Who is your 2010 online customer? Like the rest of us, your prospective customers have probably been buffeted by the economy, but are beginning to regain some confidence and to cautiously loosen those purse strings—as evidenced by the leads they submitted to your dealership. But it is important to take into account that this car buyer is probably a bargain hunter (like almost every consumer these days) who assumes a bad economy means universal fire sale prices—including at your dealership—and is indulging champagne fantasies on a beer budget. He or she has probably spent hours online, configuring vehicles, dreaming about that bigger engine, that GPS nav system, leather seats—basically ‘car-ing up’ online way beyond their means, but hoping against hope that the price quote will come back within their budget.
Provide realistic vehicle choices
This is why it is critical to provide three vehicle choices that not only address those champagne tastes, but provide desirable beer-priced alternatives, including a used car option. I suggest each online lead response include the following:
1.       Closest match to originally requested vehicle.
2.       Vehicle that is ten percent less expensive (either new or used).
3.       Lower-priced than one or two, but similar, pre-owned vehicle (be sure to include a picture).
Remember that a third of consumers who submit a request for information on a new vehicle, end up purchasing a used vehicle.
Know thy database
Some of your recession-bashed customers have been dreaming about that car enough to dip a toe in the water by submitting a purchase request, but as of yet have been unwilling to take the full plunge and return your call or email. Don’t let that stop you. You still know a lot about that customer—enough to continue the dialogue with him/her. With the shelf life of purchase requests longer than ever, it is not uncommon to revitalize a customer, even after two years! Send weekly or bi-monthly ‘pre-owned special of the week’ emails targeted to that customer’s needs and the requested and/or existing vehicle. Remember, once a car lead has been in the system for 28 days, the odds of that consumer purchasing a used vehicle increases significantly.
Know how to talk to your customer
Many of the internet managers I work with have great success with a very simple technique; they ask their online prospects what they would change about their existing car, if they could. This not only provides critical selling information, but it opens up the dialogue, illuminating what that customer’s specific needs are so you can find the right vehicle for that customer, i.e. the vehicle he/she is willing to buy.
Whether our economy is in an up or down swing, applying these best practices should help you get the most out of your online leads, sell more cars more efficiently and build customer relationships for the long term.
Dennis Colome heads up Autobytel’s Dealership Training Programs. For more information email or visit



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