Think about the last time you had a really great conversation.
When I think about a great conversation, my mind goes to those a-little-too-long lunches with business colleagues. Game night with friends on the weekend. Laughing until I cry until the wee hours of the morning after not seeing family for some time.
Great conversations stay with you. You reflect on them warmly, and often, they feed future conversations. They become a part of our fondest memories.
I believe in all of these situations, I am being sold on something.
I feel like I must clarify — I don’t want to cheapen the authenticity of these wonderful moments with a sales analogy. Rather, I want to do the opposite. My aim is to enrich the authenticity of sales opportunities by comparison. In those moments, I’m being sold on a good time. I’m being sold on a connection, relatability — a togetherness that keeps me present in the conversation with a desire to keep it going. I feel heard and appreciated.
We should be authenticating the sales experience by tapping into and drawing from those moments. Make customers feel heard and seen at every point in their shopping journey!
In car sales especially, which have high-pressure connotations even with a lack of pointed pressure from sales, a great conversation can shatter the fog of “dealership dread.” A point of connection between shopper and associate can open up the conversation beyond the product. Good conversation puts customers at ease. It welcomes them; they let their walls down a bit.
This is the age of the digital dealership. Without context, recommending A.I. to accompany your digital dealership might sound logical. Sane even. Fielding your online, or "digital", clients while your team concentrates on delivering the best possible in-store experience is an objectively good idea. Except that these consumers aren't digital, they are humans using a digital platform. How better to set yourself apart with a "wow" than humanizing your digital platform? Sure, the COVID-19 pandemic threw a bit of a wrench in onsite visits. But at the end of the day, if there isn’t a living, breathing person at the end of a dealership’s communication touchpoints — well, let’s just say there are other dealerships down the road, and certainly on the internet.
The usefulness of A.I., and A.I.-powered bots, begins and ends at that first point of contact. They can’t hold and sustain that all-too-important conversation.
Let’s look to Carvana briefly. Consumers are attracted to that straightforward process that saves them time. But they still lack that conversational touch that makes great, welcoming salespeople at dealerships a more trusted resource. I believe if dealers can engage in this straightforward way of handling business while maintaining that human connection, they can win big.
It’s so much more than that. In automotive sales specifically, car shoppers are about to make what is likely the most expensive, emotional purchase they can make. And they aren’t just buying an engine, wheels, and seats. A vehicle is an extension of a unique human being with specific interests and lifestyles. Does it make sense to utilize a tool that can’t emote?
How can a chatbot relate to the mother of two who needs all of the best safety features? Or the owner of three dogs who needs ample space for them when they go on their beloved outdoor adventures? A.I. can’t sympathize and empathize with a customer's perspective.
Those in automotive sales know that you have to act fast on a lead. Customers need to be engaged promptly so you can keep them on the line. At the same time, it might serve us better to slow down. Ask some different questions upfront - get to know your customers on a deeper level. Discover their yet undiscovered needs.
Create and foster a great conversation. Make this a memorable experience, one that they can reflect on later where they felt like they mattered. There’s something about great conversations that make you want to have them again and again. What better way to build customer loyalty than by bringing that human experience to each and every sales interaction?
No matter what, in and out of the showroom: keep having great conversations. I know I will.
Carol Marshall is VP of Operations at ActivEngage, Inc. and has been helping ActivEngage become an industry leader for the past ten years. She has over 20 years of industry experience and has held positions with national organizations such as Mazda N.A. and AutoNation, respectively. A cancer survivor/fighter and a world-class super mom, Carol's strength and resilience only make her a stronger leader.
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