In the not too distant past, the car salesmen of the 20th century faced an entirely different set of rules and expectations compared to those faced by car salesmen today. Back then, the overriding principle was on how to keep the buyer on the sales floor and sales desk the longest. The name of the game was to put the customer in as much “car” as they could afford. “Upsell, upsell, upsell” was the mantra to follow — being responsive to questions brought up by the buyer was not really a primary focus.
Fast forward a couple of decades and the car salesman is no longer that important in the car buying process. With the evolution and near total penetration of the internet, prospective buyers are now more informed than ever about the vehicles that they intend to purchase. Whereas car salesmen of yesterday wore the hat of promoter, today’s car salesmen must wear the hat of “internet marketer.”
The resources and tools found online — such as AutoTrader.com, CarGurus,com and kbb.com — all combine to bring an immense arsenal of information to interested car buyers. Autotrader offers consumers a wealth of comparative information on new and used vehicles with immense ease an immediacy. They can determine which dealerships have which cars in stock at any given moment. They can conduct prudent purchasing research to a degree and a scale that was simply unfathomable in the 20th century.
The accuracy of this research is extremely precise. CarGurus.com uses proprietary algorithms to provide their users with comparative data based on model, price and even dealer reputation.
Added to this mix is also the the social media element. Not only do the car research sites offer discussion based platforms on their portals, but potential buyers also use social media when making car buying decisions. They interact on Facebook Groups and other social media channels with other car buyers and tweak their buying decisions that way. Even sites like Craigslist and eBay Motors offer valuable data to potential buyers.
In perspective this all means that the 21st century car buyer is much more informed and has broader marketplace options from which to choose in purchasing a new vehicle. This also means that the 21st century car salesman must adapt. Those that are successful today are aware of the powerful marketing tools available to potential buyers. They have restructured their approach and left the role of promoter behind. The name of the game today is “customer engagement.”
21st century car salesmen must be able to compliment and augment the value of the research that the potential buyers have procured on their own. Customer relationship management becomes far more important than front-end sales tactics.
Fortunately, the same technology that brings powerful research tools to potential car buyers, also brings a great wealth of data to the car salesman. Data regarding potential buyer’s key questions, time spent reviewing specific models, time spent on the sales floor, trending topics on social media regarding specific models — all of this is now easy to gather, analyze and apply. This data, when used properly, allows successful dealerships and car salesmen to differentiate themselves from the rest of the competition.
Yes, the days of generating easy sales by playing to the impulsiveness or emotions of potential buyers are gone. However, the 21st century car salesman can still be successful by engaging and effectively managing the relationship that is built with potential buyers. The fact that today’s buyers are more informed should facilitate the sale, not hinder it. This, of course, if the 21st century car salesman in question leverages data the same way the buyers do.