How To Sell More Cars To Millennials Like Me

How To Sell More Cars To Millennials Like Me

I would be considered a millennial, or a Gen Y consumer.  After all, I’m twenty-eight, a new mom,born in 1984, just about to have my ten year high school reunion and often think to myself-“If I wasn’t in the auto business, if I didn’t do this for a living, what would motivate me to purchase a car?”

What’s the first thing that comes to mind?  My iPhone. I have it with me at all times as if it were my second child.  I keep a charger in my car, a charger in my office and two chargers at home.  The millennia generation uses their smartphone device for everything, especially buying a car.  In a recent study, the 18-34 age group was calculated to be the highest demographic to visit automotive websites. Keeping this statistic in mind and coupling with other statistics that reveal Gen Y’s extraordinarily high smartphone usage, reveals the importance for dealers to make their websites as mobile friendly as possible with Gen Y friendly options like chat, text and video.

Thanks to mobile chat and text options, shoppers can communicate with me and my dealership via mobile-based chat or text. Both myself and my younger customers like this because it’s instant. I find that texts are read almost instantly and replied to regardless of how busy someone may be.  That’s not necessarily true of email or voicemail. In terms of emails, most, including myself, tend to skim through. Although some emails from dealerships stand out, most don’t and they tend to all look the same. My smart phone is more than merely a means of checking email and responding to calls, it’s a tool for chatting and texting in real-time with buyers.

In addition to chat and text, I find that video greetings are also a powerful tool because they help to personalize the car buying process.  A personal video from a manager or a sales rep stands out from the other template emails and helps my team come to life. I rely heavily on video in my sales process, and find that it is my biggest ‘trick’ when it comes to maintaining a high customer return rate.

With enough reputation building and quality posting about a person, an article, an experience, or a trend, I am able to create buzz about both myself and Sunset Honda. While the dealership website is important, I find that my customers appreciate sharing their experiences with me on social sites as well. 

So in short, what makes a Gen Y, millennial consumer like me buy something? I believe the answer is smartphone-friendly communication tools, a willingness to get personal, accessibility and a strong online presence. But is that enough? Of course not! You’ve got to create a fantastic experience - so good that they buyers want to talk about it. 


Elise Kephart is a sales and marketing phenomenon in the automobile business and is nationally recognized as "The YouTube Diva". Since 2007 Elise has sold thousands of vehicles to local and out of the area clients. Her personable and persuasive sales and marketing videos are personalized for every customer creating a strong bond and trust. Elise has presented at seminars nationwide, including several of Jim Ziegler’s Internet Battle Plans as well as the spring 2012 Digital Dealer conference in Orlando, where she has consistently 'wowed' the audience by teaching how to create and edit quick and effective videos and deliver them to customers within minutes. Elise has visited several dealerships across the country teaching her unique technique in the auto industry and has been praised by the likes of Jim Ziegler, Grant Cardone as well as Dealer Marketing Magazine. Elise is currently an Internet Manager at Sunset Honda in San Luis Obispo, California. Her amazing videos can be seen at and she can be reached at

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Comment by David Ruggles on July 22, 2013 at 1:45pm

RE: "I find it both comical and irritating that your enlightening article & video gets push back from those longing for the days when only a privileged few had any information."

Push back?  From who?  It is what it is, but dealers had better be mindful of what is really going on.  Denial is more than just a river in Egypt.  What is telling is the lack of understanding of what an efficient market is and what it means to dealers and sales people.

According to J.D. Power, NOT ME, there is a rapidly moving trend of buyers who visit dealerships, gather information, then retreat to the relative "safety" of their PCs to use the Internet for their negotiation. I've done it myself, now that I am a consumer, after a career life as a car sales person, manager, then dealer.  Further, there are opportunists these days who will assist consumers in using the Internet for their negotiation, even to the point if getting dealers to bid for their business in a "non blind" process.  There is nothing I know of that can be done about this.  And dealers will either participate, or not.  The math is beginning to look difficult.  Factory transactions are at historical highs, with OEMs retaining maximum gross profit, while dealers are experiencing margin compression in both sales and F&I.  This, while OEMs are forcing higher expense levels on dealers. 

So explain to me how this math works in an environment where some people in our industry think an "efficient market" is a good thing for us. 

Comment by Steve Richards on July 22, 2013 at 11:17am

Elise, you are a modern sales person and an impressive one at that. You get it; "it" being the need to change the sales process because the consumer, Millennials, Gen Y & X, and even Boomers have all changed their purchase process. I find it both comical and irritating that your enlightening article & video gets push back from those longing for the days when only a privileged few had any information. The information flow is two-way, it's too bad that so few retail sales people are taught to use the internet as a sales tool, just like the consumer uses it as a buyer's tool. Keep it up, you and those few like you are the future of our business.

Comment by Marsh Buice on July 20, 2013 at 10:55pm

Elise, love what you do, love what you stand for. I'm a big fan!! Thank you for sharing. 

Comment by David Ruggles on July 20, 2013 at 8:45pm

@ Elise - I never meant to imply that you are engaged in arming consumers with even more information than they deserve.  I thought you work for a dealer.  I DID mean to imply that the selling of cars is NOT the objective, gross profit is.  And the word "transparency" is a much overused word.  Those that use it generally seem to not understand its implications.  Legal transparency is a given.  The letter AND the spirit of the law should be followed.  But those of us in the industry need to understand the economic consequences of transparency to dealers AND their sales people.  I know the idea of an "efficient market" sounds good until on understands what it means to us "middle men."  We are contributing to our own demise.  We can't make up our own definitions because we want to.  Once a product becomes a commodity there are no middle men. 

Comment by Elise Kephart on July 20, 2013 at 12:23pm

@Dave:  Jim is a good friend of mine as well.  I disagree with vendors that use dealer's own data to arm customers as well...unfortunately it IS out there. We don't participate in those vendors at Sunset.

Comment by Larry Sherstad on July 20, 2013 at 9:43am

Hi Elise,

Get them on the phone, make the appointment, get them into the store and sell them the vehicle. Perfect! Using all of the tools available is the secret and you are one of the best. Thanks for sharing.

Comment by David Ruggles on July 20, 2013 at 12:00am

RE: "If the customer is shopping you, regardless of age...the salesperson and the dealership have not proven to the customer any value whether it be in the product or the value of buying from them."

This is new?  The difference these days is that increasingly consumers are using the Internet to stack things in their favor in the negotiation, is if they need any more advantages.  THAT is the trend that is further decreasing margins.  I have no problem with things being the way they are.  My problem is with vendors talking up increasing transparency as if all transparency is good.  My problem is vendors who use dealer's own data to arm customers with a degree of transparency they have no right to.  My problem is with dealers who unwittingly participate.  Ask our friend JZ if he agrees with me.

Then there is the economic fact about what absolute transparency and efficient markets means in the real world.  Its significantly more than just another word. 

Comment by Elise Kephart on July 19, 2013 at 9:31pm

With phone traffic, very rare do people call and ask "what's the best price."

With internet traffic, very rare to do people ask "what is your bottom line"

When I have read through emails before, the salesperson automatically sends out a templated email shooting over a price first thing and then ten paragraphs about how their dealership is so great.

The process should be to make contact with the customer...get them on the phone, get them into the store.


Comment by Elise Kephart on July 19, 2013 at 9:26pm

If the customer is shopping you, regardless of age...the salesperson and the dealership have not proven to the customer any value whether it be in the product or the value of buying from them. 

You are going to have a small percentage of people who will waste hours and hours of painful "best price" shopping...but the majority (goes back to basics) will buy from who they like and if there is enough value.

Comment by David Ruggles on July 19, 2013 at 8:35pm

@ Joe - It IS a race to the bottom with the consumers who have the best credit and are truly Internet enabled.  They can get dealers in bidding wars from the comfort of their PC.  According to Experian, only between 28 and 32 percent of consumers have credit scores that might make them eligible to be fast trackers, but many of those are a ticking credit time bomb because of debt to income issues.  We should NOT assume everyone is 720 FICO and higher and has all possible information.  If a consumer did have all possible information, it is doubtful they could interpret it.   The industry has either purposely, or by accident, made decyphering cost information impossible for consumers and next to impossible for sales managers.  The funniest thing about "transparency" is that dealers aren't transparent with their own employees.  Why should they be? 

In the words of a training icon, long since passed, "One has to earn the right to ask all the "pushy questions."  You can't just have a sales person meet a consumer and start an interrogation.  There is an art to it.  But that art is being redefined as accomplishing it over the Internet via chat, email, text, etc., can be problematic.

The book is still being written, but everyone's an expert.  I merely point out the math as it shakes out today and the inevitable result of absolute "transparency."  Do sales people really want an efficient market, if they know what it means?

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