Are You Scaring Your Customers Away?

Home > Insights > Are You Scaring Your Customers Away?

Scaring your customers away is the exact opposite of what dealers are after, even at Halloween. But sometimes,  we keep doing things the way we’ve always done them because, well, that’s just how we’ve always done them.

Nationwide, closing rates — sales as a percent of all the customers who walked in the door — hover in the 25%-30% range. Yet, industry analysts note that approximately 90% of prospects who walk in are ready to buy. In fairness, some of these are upside down on trades or have credit problems, and a sale is just not going to happen. But even allowing for that, at 30%, people who are ready to buy seem to be walking (or are they running?) out the door.

Are you adapting to – or scaring — today’s customer?

Most dealers use a fairly regimented sales process — one that may have been around for decades. But times are changing. And your long-standing go-to process might not work as well for today’s customers. In fact, it might be scaring them away. Could it be time to step back and look at the big picture?

Many of the people walking into a dealership today have studied the CARFAX Vehicle History Report on the car they’re coming in to buy.  Successful dealers are adapting and the in-person experience is leveraging the customer’s knowledge on the car and helping them transition to closing the deal.

A lot has changed in recent years:

  • Buyers are different
  • The way they buy cars is different
  • What people expect is different
  • The amount of information buyers have is different

Your customers are car experts

One of the biggest changes is the amount of online research customers do before you ever meet them. Studies show that the average buyer does up to 14 hours of online research.

That means when they walk in, especially if they’ve seen a CARFAX Vehicle History Report, they know the models, trim levels, options, mileage and condition of the used vehicle they’re interested in. In many cases, they’re coming in to look at one specific vehicle sitting on your lot.

When they arrive, they’ve done their homework and they’re ready to get down to business and get on with their lives. Customers today want dealers to acknowledge that they’re pretty smart. That they’ve done their 14 hours of research. They want to be treated with the respect they feel they’ve earned. Some dealers are finding this actually makes their job easier.

Industry expert Bob Grill suggests a new, simple 3-step sales process.

  1. First, give the customer credit for what they’ve done; for the research work they’ve completed. And this builds instant rapport too. It might go like this, “Welcome to XYZ Dealer. Most customers tell me they’ve done some research. Do you mind telling me what you’ve done?” It should go without saying – but we’ll still say it – deliver this with a smile and a friendly disarming tone; not as a challenge.
  2. Start where the customer left off; whatever they’ve done up to now you don’t have to repeat. After all, whatever they’ve done to this point got them to visit you.
  3. Lastly, simply “Ask them” what’s next. For example, “I appreciate all the research you’ve done to get to this point. My only question is, what would you like me to do for you next?” When you do this, you’re showing them dignity and respect. And, it moves the process along quite quickly too.

Of course, being transparent and being able to help that customer understand what makes that vehicle unique (no two used cars are alike) should be a part of your process, too.

Bottom line

Of course, there will usually be more steps than just three in the process. Most customers still want to do test drives. But these three steps should be worked into your customer process.

The bottom line? Your customers are coming in prepared differently than ever before; armed with lots of knowledge. Revamp your approach and stop scaring them away.

Stay Connected!

Keep up to date with the latest CARFAX news and insights.

CARFAX. Put the power of our brand and information to work for you.

CARFAX invented vehicle history in 1986—and has been investing in it ever since. CARFAX has the most accident, damage, and service information.