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How to sell cars…when you don’t have any.

Updated: May 24, 2021

boost blog #9

A friend of mine tried to buy a new car last week. Actually, he’s been trying to buy one for nearly a month. You would think turning up at a dealership with a sub 100,000 kilometre Dodge Journey (that I watch him hand wash every weekend) would mean that he wouldn’t leave the first dealership without having signed on the dotted line.

But he’s been told that there is no stock at the moment. And for some reason having no stock today means the sales teams don’t seem particularly keen to sign him up. Which is odd. There’s a faint whiff of arrogance that accompanies the statement, “We can’t get one for a few months”.

Photo by Erik Mclean on Unsplash

Respectfully, he screams ‘new car buyer’. With wife and kids in tow to check the seven-seater is fit for purpose (i.e. its big enough for their older teens and their mates plus some sports equipment), the family is clearly ready.

The family have visited 8 dealers; only one sat them down and spent some quality time with them. Only two put their details into their CRM. Most dealer sales executives gave them a business card (my old boss used to call that the business card f*** off, because it demonstrated that as a sales exec you weren’t properly invested in finding a solution for your customers – he found it rude and insulting).

Stock will get tighter before it gets better for many brands, and meanwhile your dealership is at risk of burning customer goodwill with sales people folding their arms and declaring there is nothing they can do (at least virtually). Its time to dig deep and think about how this might well play out over the next three to six months.

Here are some points to consider:

  1. Be the best dealer you can be – make these customers yours – even if it’s for 12 weeks away.

  2. Think ‘can do’ not ‘can’t do’.

  3. The sales process is still your friend. Use it.

  4. Gross margins are going to be good – someone who wants a car now will pay for it…but;

  5. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that customers are desperate.

  6. For every brand and dealer that is short of stock there is a smaller more aggressive brand or dealer who is determined to win incremental sales.

  7. Customers will remember how you’ve treated them. The good experiences and especially the bad. Don’t let your dealership be in the later group.

  8. Get a firm grip and transparency on what stock is in pipeline – sell the pipeline.

  9. Make sure every enquiry goes into your CRM.

  10. As a sales manager, look closely at leads per dealer recorded in your CRM – why are some better than others. (Recently I have observed one sales exec only recording one of every three or four enquiries – what will he do if stock frees up; who will he be able to follow up?)

  11. Your sales performance today affects your F&I now, your used car performance next week, and your aftersales revenue tomorrow. Don’t let short-term thinking in the showroom ruin your dealership performance in the mid-term.

  12. Work your CRM and focus on vehicles that aren’t in short supply.

  13. Used prices are high – this means the cost to change is likely to be more attractive for most customers; see point 12 again.

Lastly and most importantly, get your staff to be empathetic. What do I mean by that? Consider these two scenarios:

“Mrs Smith, it’s a real frustration for us too that we don’t have stock at the moment, but we are keen to help you. We will move heaven and earth to get you a car as soon as we can, but the wait time might be longer than we would normally be happy with? Lets arrange a test drive for you (and the family)”

“We can’t get stock at the moment and the wait times are long. What do you want to do?”

Which one do you prefer?

Get prospect details in the CRM, make the deals happen and be the winner. Sell some can do attitude not arrogance. Your business will thank you for it in the weeks months and years to come.

Boost Auto is an automotive consultancy focussing on sales effectiveness, marketing effectiveness, business planning, process improvement and green fleet adoption.

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