5 things your dealership should start right now to prepare for an economic downturn!
Preparing for the unknown......
While I believe this economic downturn will not be as severe as 2008 for a lot of reasons and, even though it will be a much shorter recovery, we will have a downturn none the less.
In 2008 the most well-run car dealerships did the following five things during that time to survive but to thrive and transform their business into a lean mean selling and servicing machine.
- GET CONTROL OF THEIR CUSTOMER BASE FOR COMMUNICATIONS AND MARKETING
- GET A SOLID SALES PROCESS
- GET A HANDLE ON THEIR INVENTORY
- THEY ALIGNED THEIR SALES WITH A GREAT CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE
- MARKETING IS A CONVERSATION. START CONVERSATIONS WITH RELEVANT INFORMATION FOR THEIR CUSTOMER
The dealerships that did these five things not only survived the 2008 crash, but they also thrived and came out of that economic crisis better than the dealerships than they went in with.
In the following paragraphs, I will break down each of the above and give you some ideas on how (and why) you should start doing these right now.
1 GET CONTROL OF THE CUSTOMER BASE FOR COMMUNICATIONS AND MARKETING
Your customers are currently siloed into the DMS and CRM respectively. These systems are the worst places to try and communicate or market to customers. Dealership CRMs and DMSs are typically filled with duplicate entries, inaccurate data and have almost no interaction history or engagement with the customer that they are trying to initiate a conversation with.
Here are some steps a dealership should take to get a relational- marketing database started:
1 Get ALL customer and transactional data out of the DMS and CRM systems.
2 Update that data with CASS (USPS standards) and NCOA (National Change of Address) regularly.
3 Enhance the data with outside information such as social media info to have relevant conversations at the right time.
4 Segment the data in order to know what customers to talk to and how to talk TO them, not AT them.
5 TRACK EVERYONE! Website customers, existing customers, potential customers, and marketing engaged customers.
6 Dealerships should look for relevant gatherings of customers and how they can help them.
Existing customers will get a dealership through this downturn…
If a dealership simply talks to them and simply just crosses their fingers hoping for the comeback, they are most likely going to end up disappointed.
2 GET A SOLID SALES PROCESS
“EVERY OPPORTUNITY FOR A DEALERSHIP TO SELL SOMETHING HAS GONE FROM GOLD TO PLATINUM”
Ryan Gentry Owner Edge Performance Sports
There will be fewer opportunities, which is why dealerships should start making the most of them right now. A solid sales process has a foundation for both salespeople and managers:
1. Management to know in real-time when a salesperson has an opportunity – it's best to know an opportunity is in danger of going the wrong way before the customer leaves the dealership or hangs up the phone, not after there is no way to follow up.
Managers, more importantly, need to know when a salesperson drops an opportunity. 1 out of 15 dropped opportunities is a sale for the dealership or be a sale for their competitor.
Hundreds of “UNDONE” tasks in a dealership’s CRM isn’t process. It’s a potential sale graveyard for the dealership.
2. Holding salespeople accountable for each engagement with a customer – salespeople must update the outcome of each engagement in order for their CRM systems (along with management) to coach them on how to help customers down the path to purchase. Salespeople can’t just enter a customer into the CRM and move on or just set some arbitrary follow-up date. It must be a deliberate cadence based on the engagement with the customer and how they are behaving.
3. Salespeople must decide BEFORE moving on to the next opportunity that they are going to do with the opportunity they have now. Managers need to coach salespeople on how they should engage the customer to move them down the road to purchase.
4. REVIEW MISSED OPPORTUNITIES IN NEAR REAL-TIME THROUGHOUT THE DAY – management cannot wait to review missed opportunities even as quickly as the next day. The market moves faster than that. A dealership’s management team should review dropped and unsold customers throughout the day. By coaching the sales team and making the calls to those missed opportunities themselves in order to get the prospect back on track to purchase.
5. Follow up isn’t an option – The sales team must complete all follow up every day. No exceptions!
“It’s not what a manager knows that kills him… it’s what he doesn’t know”
Larry Bruce CEO PowerSportsX
3 GET A HANDLE ON YOUR INVENTORY
“Wholetailing” your way into cash for aged inventory is the best way to get this inventory gone”
Larry Bruce CEO PowerSportsX
Aged inventory is cash that may make the difference for a dealership in the coming months. Start now with an aggressive plan to sell that inventory by starting with inventory over 90 days.
1 Inventory over 90 days should be in or rotate, through Manager’s Specials. Those vehicles should also be featured on the dealership’s website with a landing page for special pricing and dealership promotions.
2. Create a daily hit list and distribute it to sales staff with a flat commission bonus.
3. Create a “manager’s special” landing page with all aged units over 90 days. Work to use test ride offers and other incentives for vehicles on MAPS.
4. Email out a specials link to landing pages with a newsletter.
5. Dealerships should make sure to have price drop notifications on their websites that highlight these aged units.
6. Dealerships should also create a popover that leads customers to that manager's specials landing page.
The main point here is not to wait until units are aged. By being proactive and aggressive now, dealerships can loosen that cash up.
4 CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE IS THE DIFFERENTIATOR
86 percent of buyers will pay more for better customer experience. By 2020, customer experience will overtake price AND product as the key brand differentiator.
For customers, TIME is the most important factor for great customer service experiences. Customers want to spend less time in the store and more time on their machine. Here are some things you can do to speed up the sales process when the customer comes into the dealership.
- Get as much of the paperwork done before the customer comes into the dealership as possible. Spending eight hours in the dealership is not fun for the customer and it gets in the way of the exciting part of the deal which is them leaving with their new Powersports machine or motorcycle.
Send the customer a link to fill out the instant trade-in value form. This should integrate directly into the appraisal tool the dealership is using. This way, a dealership can see what the customer does and can get the trade-in out of the way before the customer comes in to buy avoiding conflicts of information & starting the sales process in an adversarial way. If the information that the website of a dealership gives the customer in terms of how much the customer’s trade-in is worth and it’s far off the number that the dealership tells the customer, it is understandable why a customer could be irritated since they got the valuation from the dealership itself.
2. Send the customer a link to fill out the credit application BEFORE they come into the store. This gets credit out of the way and allows the dealership to focus on the fun part of the sale when the customer comes into the dealership.
3. Print all the documents for the loan before the customer comes in and get them in and out of F&I in 20 minutes. Every minute the dealership helps the customer fulfills the promise of the better customer experience promised and the customer will remember that experience when they talk with their friends.
4. Personalize the purchase experience by having the machine ready to go with all of the apparel and accessories that go with it waiting for them before they come into the dealership to buy the machine. 49% percent of buyers have made impulse purchases when receiving a more personalized experience process – and this often happens during the most emotional time in the buying process - when they are taking delivery of their new vehicle.
Customers are placing less of their loyalty on price and product and more so on the experience, they receive in the store and after the sale. Dealerships who do not keep up with the increasing demands of their customer will only find that those customers leave.
5 MARKETING IS A CONVERSATION
Broadcasting a message (“The Blast”) and hitting customers repeatedly until the message sticks are no longer acceptable to customers. Marketing as a conversation is the strongest delivery method a dealership can employ. Customers will reject all else as noise.
Marketing automation makes this process so much easier. Here are a few things to look for when it comes to marketing automation:
1 Equity in a trade isn’t enough. Dealerships need to know if the customer is in the market to buy. Just because they have equity doesn’t mean they want to trade in their Powersports machine or motorcycle.
2. Time-based interactions have little context for the customer and usually end up unopened, unclicked and in email purgatory (the Promotion or Other tab). Use behavioral-based automated interactions to add context to the conversation. Now the dealership is talking to the customer and not at them.
3. Use SMS with an email to increate a two-way conversation and engagement.
4. Use data to engage your customers with offers tailored directly to them, then listen to what the customer wants & needs. Conversational Marketing is just that… trying to strike up a conversation with the customer.
Conversational Marketing turns traditional advertising on its head by engaging customers and asking what they need then bringing offers that meet those needs. Bring value to the customer, not just offers.
The above strategies will retain more customers and make them a dealership’s best advocates. That’s when they will bring their friends in and provide repeat business. This is the kind of loyalty money or discounts cannot buy.
I hope this advice resonates with dealers and helps them get on these things before they are thirsty. As I said in the beginning, it’s hard to dig the well when you’re already thirsty.