Used car dealers take all forms.
Some fit the prevailing stereotypes that car buyers have come to expect over the years. From checkered sports coats or sharkskin suits to ridiculously overbearing commercials full of shouting, we’ve all seen it before. Perhaps you’ve even experienced it for yourself, when looking to buy a used car.
So strong are these visual representations that they drive our perception of salespeople, in general. Not just used car salesmen, but all salespeople (regardless of what they’re selling). It speaks to the pressure put upon a buyer. It speaks to a lack of disclosure inherent in a ‘quick deal.’ It speaks to our distrust.
But as much as any stereotype finds some basis in the truth, they never define a group as a whole. Used car dealers are no exception. Many recognize the flaws within the industry, and use them as motivation to eliminate pitfalls within the buying experience. These sellers maintain a higher-quality inventory, offer manufacturer-backed programs, price vehicles competitively, and present a wider range of financing options. There are countless ways used car dealers can distinguish themselves from the stereotype. But true success could be found in…
Taking a Page From Amazon
Raise your hand if you’re an Amazon customer.
Okay, now bring your hand down if you’re NOT a member of Amazon Prime.
Chances are, if you raised your hand, it’s still up. (If you’re sitting at your computer, or scrolling your phone with your hand up, you might feel weird. Rest assured that your feeling is entirely valid. We have no way of verifying how you’ve responded to either question).
Our point is this: in amazon.com, Jeff Bezos was successful in creating a simple, and uniquely satisfying buying experience, regardless of the product being sold.
He then went and enhanced it further with Amazon Prime, incentivizing purchases for the consumer. With “Free Two-Day Shipping” as its de facto battle cry, Amazon’s table-setting within the average American household jumped from $544 annually, to $2,500 annually. With an estimated 80 million U.S. customers, over 50% of American households now count themselves as Amazon Prime customers.
Back when Amazon was primarily focused on book sales, Bezos summarized his sales philosophy as, “Amazon is not in the business of selling books, we are in the business of helping people to buy books.”
Let that Sink in …
It doesn’t matter what someone is selling. If they were to take that particular quote, substitute their product in place of the word ‘books’ and genuinely adopt the phrase as their new motto, they’d transform their customer’s experience.
Think of how you’d feel purchasing your next vehicle from someone who was ‘not in the business of selling cars’ but ‘in the business of helping people to buy cars.’ If the sentiment was genuine, wouldn’t that be a strong step in the right direction, when trying to create a relationship based on integrity and trust?
After all, you need to buy a car. You’re going to buy a car. Would you rather buy from someone who is focused on selling you a car, or someone who is helping you to buy one?
If You’re Gonna Do It…Do It right.
Whether you’re more inclined to shop brick and mortar, or like the ease of click and order, the bottom line is that you have options. And with the daily increase in the prevalence of eCommerce-driven business models, car buying is really no different.
But much like Amazon, the impact of internet presence on used car dealers lies in their execution. This is 2017 – everyone has a website. In fact, if I’m offering paid counsel to any business without a website, I won’t be handing out advice on open credit (because they won’t be around for long).
A website holds value in a number of areas. First and foremost, it makes a business visible. No, seriously…nearly 90% of shoppers conduct online research before making big purchases. A business without a website has rendered itself invisible to potential customers.
Even if a business has no interest in eCommerce, there is no arguing the informational value of a well-designed website with compelling content. As one of the last consumer-driven industries to be completely overtaken by online sales, car dealerships need to take special heed of this. Consider the online research that an average car buyer performs before any vehicle purchase.
It is no longer acceptable to slap up a few grainy photos alongside an abbreviated blurb of factory specs. In fact, a reputable dealership takes the time to create an immersive experience in which the customer can research a vehicle in-depth. Not just the make and model, but the specific vehicle. The inclusion of a vehicle history report, along with a gallery or virtual tour help empower the customer’s buying decision, along with the ability to compare it against other makes and models. The opportunity to calculate payment, schedule a test drive or apply for financing are all steps that differentiate a dealership from the stereotype …
Sell Without Selling
Because the customer wants to buy, they just don’t want to be sold to.
Sure, there are a growing number of ‘Buy Now’ options on dealership websites, but most car-buyers have no interest in buying a vehicle sight unseen. Regardless of the ease of online sales, this isn’t a book, or a sweater, or a warrantied appliance. Larger investments like cars and homes require a walk-through or a test-drive.
Amazon recognizes that many of its visitors may only be ‘window-shopping,’ but its design and content are built around fostering choice in commerce. It serves as a resource, and by doing so it avoids any negative connotation related to retail sales. Any sale comes as a result of ease and convenience.
To avoid the negative stereotype of used car dealers, a dealership should make sure that it provides their customers with a resource. By fostering choice in commerce, they are empowering potential customers. And by removing any element of pressure from the front-end of an experience, they are creating ease and convenience.
In other words, they are ‘helping people to buy a car.’