Let’s go back in time for a moment. 16 years ago, in 2003, there was a brand-new highline dealership. This dealership was getting very little walk-in traffic. Despite having 10 salespeople on the floor, they were lucky if even one customer came in on any given day. With no existing CRM database, they also had zero prospects to follow up with. Salespeople simply hoped to get a customer. This was at a time that Internet leads were not plentiful, and, believe it or not, some leads even arrived by fax!
So, one brave salesperson I know decided to take matters into his own hands. He went on the Internet and started investigating brand enthusiast website. By identifying active forums and inserting himself into the conversations in a non-sales way, he became a valuable resource for the community without alienating them by being too “salesy.” This salesperson, with some effort, was able to win the trust of these forum members and generated sales to the point that he was selling a little under half of the dealership’s 100 monthly vehicles.
And why was that? Because, he listened and helped. No strings attached.
Jump up to the present. Consumers now have a plethora of information sources and dealers “potentially” receive leads from several of these. However, these leads are frequently sent to multiple dealerships; and salespeople (or Internet Managers and BDC reps) compete with other stores in what many dealers refer to as the “race to the bottom.”
While leads are great, you have a much better chance of earning a consumer’s business if you first make a connection. Today salespeople can connect with, engage and assist consumers online in many more ways than that salesperson could 16 years ago. Whether that connection is made via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or any other social platform, consumers that connect with an informed person and get their questions answered are much more likely to trust them and then choose that dealership over any competition.
Social selling is the exact same strategy. Today many salespeople connect with, engage and influence buying decisions through personal efforts in the social media realm. Some dealers discourage this practice. But how is it any different than that new salesperson who sells cars to their family, friends and acquaintances? These sales are simply based on referrals and building trust in the customer experience.
As Facebook’s organic reach declines, your dealership would be wise to leverage its most valuable resource – your employees. Allow them to differentiate themselves from the fierce competition out there and increase the odds that in-market consumers will come to your dealership; simply because they have built a relationship with an employee or were referred by a trusted source.
Handcuffing employees so they cannot use social media only hurts sales. Not only does it hurt sales, you waste a valuable opportunity for additional exposure to those employees’ networks without any added expense at all. It is a highly viable promotional opportunity.
Let your employees tell everyone they know about your dealership, specials and vehicles you sell via any social media platform they desire. If you’ve been in retail car sales for any amount of time, I’m sure you’ve experienced the moment when a friend or acquaintance bought a car elsewhere because they didn’t know that you sold cars.
And, have taught your younger salespeople that they should tell everyone that they know that they sell cars to avoid encountering the same mistake.
With today’s technology, dealerships and salespeople can not only tell their immediate network that they sell cars, but an exponentially larger number of people through their immediate network’s connections.
Don’t be afraid of social media. Embrace it. Let your employees use it. The bottom line is that they want to sell more cars and you want them to do the same thing.
So, let them be successful at it!