Who’s the Better Sales Closer: You or the Web?

Customer experience management helps dealerships fight back against Internet sales

Joe Orr recently penned a great article that shared a story from the Los Angeles Times about a woman who went online to buy a vehicle. She researched her car on Beepi, went into the dealership to test drive the car, and then promptly left the dealership to purchase the vehicle online.

Although this article could have become an argument between the value of third-party sales sites and dealerships, the discussion in the comments focused on who was the better sales closer: the living, breathing salesperson or the computer? In this case, the computer won.

I don’t disregard the fact that consumers like the convenience of an Internet buying process. All you have to do is look at the Amazon model to see how our current “get it now” culture is redefining the way consumers want to do business with companies across a variety of channels.

Recent stats show that car buyers are now spending 18 to 20 hours on average researching vehicle information and inventory online before even stepping foot on a dealership floor. There is no doubt these shoppers are visiting your dealership more informed and transaction-ready.

But I believe what consumers want and are pushing for is not an entirely digital road to sale, but rather an experience that feels positive. Just think how much different the previously mentioned buyer’s experience could have been if she had come across a salesperson who really cared about customer experience management.

What if the seller had taken the time to build value in the product, himself, and the dealership? Chances are good the woman would have driven, rather than walked, off the dealership lot—in her new car.

Looking at our back-end data, we find that there are some winning strategies every salesperson can take to enhance and manage the customer experience:

  1. Test drives
  2. Manager introductions
  3. Enter customer data into the CRM

Test drives

If your salespeople have not managed the customer experience and built value with a test drive, enhanced their experience by introducing a manager, and logged their information into the CRM, is it any wonder why people are choosing to buying vehicles online?

Buyers need to touch and experience the vehicle to perceive value. If your sales team is not managing the experience, chances are good the customer will walk away from your dealership and buy from Vroom, Carvana, or Beepi. Test drives—the one thing buyers will never be able to do online.

Our dealership analytics have proven over and over that test drives increase closing ratios dramatically, versus the mere 2% closing ratio for customers who don’t drive. Knowing these numbers, why would you not create the culture and accountability to ensure this important step happens?

Manager introductions

It may sound simplistic, but the dealerships we work with that have incorporated manager introductions into their sales process see a 20% bump in closing ratios. On a typical walk-in, a deal with no introduction closed at 17%, while the deal closed at 29% with a test drive (more on that later), and if a manager introduction was made, the number jumped to a whopping 38% close ratio.

The numbers are staggering and the message is clear: By taking a few minutes to get managers involved in the process, you can increase your sales ratios by more than 20%. Are you willing to take a few minutes to make 20% more?

Want to see these numbers go even higher? We’ve found through our back-end analytics that involving a manager earlier in the sales process increases these ratios by a few more percentage points. What a great, no-cost way to enhance the customer experience.

Log all visits in the CRM

The industry is falling down in this area. More information about showroom visits is critical for franchise dealers facing lower margins, increased competition, and a market where more than 70% of consumers visit only one or two dealerships before making a buying decision. In this environment, dealers with a strong CRM-centric culture will see the obvious benefits of having more customer records to work with each month.

This is backed up by a recent study from PCG Research and our own back-end numbers. The report found that 85% of respondents who began tracking all CRM visits sold more cars, 60% saw a 20% to 85% lift in logged showroom visits (some dealerships saw a 100% lift), and 70% of sales representatives said they had more time to complete their CRM tasks.

We are at a pivotal time. The only way to succeed is to make it our mission to enhance and delight every customer who walks in our door. In fact, these steps are so important there is now a category for them in automotive called customer experience management, and it’s the difference between a driver buying from Beepi . . . or you. Don’t let your showroom be another company’s benefit.

Clint Burns is the founder and CEO of The Next Up and can be reached at cburns@thenextup.com.

Clint Burns


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