Those consumers have, more than likely, already narrowed your dealership down to one of only a couple that they plan to visit. And, while your website may be spot-on and easy to use, with the best search tools and calls-to-action in the universe, the fact is that most of those consumers end up walking into the dealership without any prior contact with you at all.
Now, it is said that over 80 percent of consumers that visit your dealership left their house with the full intention of purchasing a vehicle that day. So, their first impression and their initial experience at your dealership can dramatically affect their purchase decision -- not as far as if they will purchase that day – but if they will purchase from YOU.
Top-performing dealers close somewhere around 40-50% of walk-in customers, according to Dale Pollak. Other online articles place walk-in closing rates at somewhere between 30-38 percent. Regardless, out of every 10 customers, most dealerships miss anywhere from 5-7 sales, which translates into a ton of lost revenue.
Of course, if you don’t improve that first impression or the initial experience you will always be missing those opportunities; chasing more traffic rather than trying to increase sales through a better customer experience. And, the best way to improve the customer experience is to maximize every encounter with each potential buyer that comes onto your lot because, very simply, it’s the least expensive option.
In my experience, there are basically two types of on-lot practices that impact both first impressions and initial experiences for customers. First, there are the dealers that do crazy stuff such as dressing up their lots with hokey signs, generic stickers, balloons and blow-up dinosaurs - seemingly to draw attention. And, then there are the dealers that do little to nothing because they either don’t want to use that crazy stuff on their lots or they think the sales will happen regardless – so they just don’t bother. Even high-volume dealers who may be satisfied with their sales are missing deals with these practices – and no dealership wants to do that! So, why do these types of things, when it’s likely sending entirely the wrong message or no message at all? It’s sort of like trying to hire someone, looking them up online and viewing their professional LinkedIn profile or resume where they’re all dressed up and look great. Based on this, you think they are the perfect fit for the position. But then the prospective employee shows up for the interview in a tank top, flip flops and can barely form a coherent sentence. It rather changes your perception immediately.
Sadly, due to poor public perception, many car shoppers already dislike going to dealerships – everyone knows this. Creating the proper “welcome” from the moment the customer pulls into the dealership and providing relevant, meaningful information can go a long way toward making them feel more comfortable and at ease and affirms that they have come to the right place. Setting the proper tone from the beginning can immediately begin to build the customer’s trust and confidence in you, help lessen their anxiety and move them closer to a purchase decision.
Of course, there’s a lot more to increasing sales than simply introducing yourself appropriately and having a well-presented lot. That said, this next statement has been carved into just about every dealer and sales trainer’s guidebook for decades; and that’s proper fact-finding AKA information gathering – a staple of the steps to a sale. But an important one.
An interesting statistic I recently read stated that more than two-thirds of car buyers actually end up purchasing a vehicle other than what they originally came into the dealership for. There are obviously many reasons for this, but it ultimately comes down to them no longer wanting what they originally thought they wanted, or maybe you just didn’t have it.
Either way, at that point it’s often then a matter of whether or not they are able to choose another vehicle instead – at your dealership. This is where providing them with the tools to do so quickly and easily can be critical. Remember, they came in on a particular vehicle based largely on the information they already spent a considerable amount of time and effort gathering – usually from the comfort of their own home, I might add.
Now, if they are to buy from you – today, they may be starting that entire information gathering process all over again -- but now while they’re on your lot, rather than at home. This can be either a daunting process, or an enjoyable one for them and a key contributor to a won or lost sale. That’s why it’s vital to have information readily available to them in an easily-accessible format; either with knowledgeable staff; using visual merchandising tools; or, optimally, both.
If that information is not easily accessible and they’re unable to quickly and easily select another vehicle while they’re there still on your lot; and end up leaving your dealership without making a purchase; the likelihood of them returning decreases dramatically. We’ve all heard of the “be-back bus”. Not a fun ride.
Make sure that you deliver a great first impression and an even better initial experience by having your lot in order and merchandised just as well (if not better) than your online presence. And, ensure that both your salespeople and your customers have ready access to the information they need to move the through vehicle selection process quickly and enjoyably.
Consumers will be more receptive, less guarded, trust you more and, in the end, be more likely to purchase that day. Which is the desired result and the goal of every salesperson and sales manager in the history of ever!