Make More Friends. Sell More Cars.
The thing about books is that they’re forever.
They are the permanent record. For thousands of years, we’ve built giant buildings to hold all the books that are written, to maintain the permanent record.
Except the other thing is: Nothing lasts forever.
I wrote the original draft of How To Sell More Cars while most of the world was on Covid quarantine in 2020. When the first edition was released the world was just reopening and I published the book to help car dealers, managers, and salespeople adjust to what for many was a whole new way of doing business.
I said that the car business had changed more in the previous decade than it had in the last century.
Evidence? New vehicle sales in the U.S. took a sharp 14.6% plunge. Suddenly, the tried-and-true methods of in-person sales were shoved aside. With lockdowns and social distancing in play, the drift to digital became not just logical but necessary. Dealerships that once thrived on the hustle and bustle of showroom floors found themselves turning to the digital domain, tweaking their strategies on the fly.
Then came McKinsey's report, shedding light on the unexpected surge: online car sales had doubled in a mere year from 2019 to 2020. And by the time 2020 wrapped up, a whole 10% of U.S. car sales were wrapped up online. A stat that, just a year before, would've been almost laughable.
But, as restrictions lifted, a fresh menace loomed: supply chain disruptions. The Auto Alliance highlighted some manufacturers reporting inventory shortages up to 30% in 2021. Roughly 3 million vehicles were put on hold due to missing components. The resulting scarcity spiked prices across the board, stressing both dealers and buyers.
Once customers could come back to the stores, it didn’t matter because dealers didn’t have cars on the lots. A lot of dealers were able to get fresh asphalt on their nearly empty lots over the last few years.
This year dramatic inflation and rising interest rates have thrown another wrench in the works.
I say all that to say this:
The only constant in the car business is that the car business will change, but none of that changes a thing about selling cars.
What seemed like a novelty just a few years ago, is just another day in the life today.
Mitch James from Genesis Victoria in British Columbia says that customers have gotten used to shopping from their couches and bringing every dealership in Canada literally to their front door.
Studies from the likes of Cars.com and JD Power echoed this sentiment, pointing out a growing comfort with online car buying. Nearly 60% of car shoppers said they were open to buying a vehicle entirely online, an increase from just 32% in 2019. Dealers who offered online shopping tools saw a 10% increase in customer satisfaction ratings.
This shift has forced customers to look beyond local dealerships, making automotive retail a highly competitive national, and sometimes even international, marketplace.
Your competition isn’t just the store across the street now. It’s every dealer, everywhere.
The robots are here now
Three years ago, I told you the robots were coming for your job selling cars.
In just the last few months, Artificial Intelligence made its grand debut in society and has already created billions in value for some and cost others their paycheck.
For the last 70 years, computer nerds and sci-fi aficionados have talked about the Turing test, the ability for a computer to so completely imitate human communication, that human beings can’t tell the difference. This year, the computers passed the test.
Chat robots will soon be able to take a digital deal from start to finish. Click. Click. Click. Done. If you’re lucky, maybe the robot will schedule you to deliver the vehicle with you. And split the mini for the deal with you. Maybe, they just pay you $15 bucks an hour to do their bidding.
Getting ahead of the deal
The only way for you to stay in the deal is for you to get ahead of the deal.
Make sure more human beings know you, like you, and trust you before they need you. Before they become in-market buyers. Before the robots notice them.
Make more friends. Sell more cars.
I spent a lot of time in How To Sell More Cars talking about the power of social media in general and Facebook specifically calling Facebook the 800-pound gorillas.
When I started thinking about what might have changed in the last three years, the first thing I thought about was Facebook. My own use of Facebook has declined a bit, both personally and professionally. I’m finding LinkedIn more useful for building and maintaining relationships with my far-flung car dealer customers. TikTok and Instagram seem to be getting more of the social media glory these days. I was fully prepared to tell you that Facebook was on the downhill slide.
Boy, was I wrong.
Facebook is now officially the 850 pound gorilla. Its growth is unabated. Year after year. In 2022 alone, Facebook added 10 another million monthly users in the US and Canada. 95% of the adult population have a Facebook account.
You now know two things about almost every single person you know, about every single person you meet, and every single person you walk past without talking to:
- They’re going to be a car buyer someday
- They’re going to check their Facebook feed pretty soon
Beyond the visible horizon of Facebook, TikTok, and Instagram, there's a surge in the adoption of advanced technological tools designed to streamline and enhance the sales process.
CRM systems, once simple digital diaries, are now complex platforms driving sales strategies. Data shows their adoption has shot up by 15% since 2019 among auto dealers. Coupled with advanced analytics platforms, these tools provide invaluable insights that are seamlessly integrated with social media efforts.
Yet, at the core of these technological advancements, the foundational ethos of the car sales profession remains unchanged; forging genuine relationships still closes sales.
So, while it's tempting to be enamored by the glitz and allure of the newest social media sensation, it's vital to remember that they are tools—each with its own unique potential and utility. Your job, regardless of the medium, remains: make more friends, sell more cars.
How do you do that?
1. Humanize Your Digital Presence:
Even on digital platforms, people crave genuine connections. Craft your online persona to be as authentic as your real self. Engage in meaningful conversations, respond to comments, and share stories that resonate with your audience.
2. Continual Learning:
The tools and platforms might change, but the core skill of selling remains. Dedicate time to understand the features and benefits of each digital platform, and adapt your sales techniques accordingly. TikTok, for instance, thrives on short, impactful content. Could you showcase a car feature in a 30-second clip?
3. Collaborative Partnerships:
Partner with influencers or local businesses to expand your reach. Maybe there's a local coffee shop that's popular? Collaborate for a 'test drive and coffee' event. Their audience becomes exposed to your offerings, and your audience gets a cozy coffee spot recommendation.
4. Virtual Test Drives & Tours:
For online buyers, offer virtual test drives or 360-degree car tours. Make them immersive, detailed, and personal. This not only offers potential buyers a feel of the car but also demonstrates your commitment to excellent service.
5. Referral Programs:
Encourage your satisfied customers to bring in friends or family. Offer them incentives for every successful referral. This way, you're indirectly making more friends who trust the word of their own friends.
6. Community Engagement:
Get involved in your local community, both online and offline. Sponsor local events, participate in community service, or host informative webinars. This showcases that you care about more than just selling cars.
7. Value-Driven Content:
Provide value to your audience even before they become buyers. Share maintenance tips, car reviews, or safety advice on your social platforms. When followers derive value from your content, they're more likely to trust you with their purchase.
Leverage every tool in your arsenal. But as you wield these tools, always ensure that the focus is on genuine connection and not merely on creating digital white noise.