Most dealers agree that used vehicle buyers typically have three key questions on their minds as they’re considering a purchase:
- Is this the right car for me?
- Is this the right deal?
- Is this the best dealership for my business?
These questions are not new, of course. In fact, I’d argue they’ve been around since the days when dealers first started selling used cars.
But, here’s what is new: Many of today’s used vehicle buyers aren’t really looking for dealers to answer these questions. Instead, buyers want dealers to affirm answers they’ve already found for themselves online.
This shift may not seem like much, but I believe it’s a significant, if not seismic, change that suggests dealers should re-think, and potentially reinvent, the way they present and sell used vehicles.
“Most of our customers come in asking about a specific used vehicle and our price,” a Chicago-area dealer says. “They don’t need our help to land on a car like they used to. Now, we help them make sure they’ve made the right choice, stand behind our price and earn their business. ”
I asked this dealer and others to share how they have adapted their showroom presentations and processes to provide the affirmation today’s buyers seek as they consider a used vehicle purchase. Not surprisingly, technology and market-based transparency are key ingredients:
“Is this vehicle the right one for me?” The key here is an effective presentation of each vehicle’s “story” in the context of a buyer’s wants and needs. Questions like, “what appeals to you most about this vehicle?” provide segues to review a vehicle’s strengths and potential weaknesses. Dealers are combining CarFax and other condition reports, service histories and expert/owner reviews from third parties into mobile and desktop presentations to help build buyer confidence in the vehicle.
“Is this the right deal?” I’d assert that the effort and energy today’s buyers put into researching used vehicles and prices creates an opportunity for today’s dealers. I like how a dealer in Texas describes the opportunity:
“We run to price, rather than away from price.” Today’s buyers respond positively to market-based and third-party pricing comparisons because they reflect the information buyers have already found online. Buyers understand color, condition, mileage and other factors contribute to the “story” behind their chosen car and its price point.
“Is this the best dealership?” Here again, dealers have an opportunity. The more their showroom experience resonates with the experience buyers find online, the better off they’ll be. To advance this connection, dealers proactively share customer testimonials (the same ones posted online) and demonstrate why their dealership deserves a buyer’s business.
Dealers say that as they’ve adopted this three-pronged, buyer- and market-focused approach to selling used vehicles, they worry less that their sales teams leave money on the table or that they fail to consistently present each vehicle’s unique strengths.
“The shift in confidence in our sales team has been incredible,” the Chicago dealer says. “They know exactly how each car and price stands in the market, which helps them tell the car’s story in a more transparent manner and get the gross profits I expect as a dealer.”
“We’ve turned what used to be a confrontation into a collaborative, consultative process where the market mitigates any push-back from customers,” adds a velocity dealer in Florida. “My financials and online reviews tell me it’s working.”
I recognize the shift to a more buyer- and market-based approach to selling used vehicles may be difficult for more traditional dealers, particularly those who still doubt the influence of the Internet and the way it’s reshaped car-buying expectations for consumers. These dealers will continue to lose ground to those who recognize that “victory through validation” is the new mantra for effectively satisfying the needs of today’s used vehicle buyers and selling more cars.
Dale Pollak – vAuto’s founder, has 13 years of dealer leadership experience and is a highly sought-after best-selling author and recognized speaker on maximizing dealership profits from pre-owned vehicle operations. Pollak educates, challenges and motivates his audience, working extensively with dealer 20 groups, dealer associations and large dealer enterprises across the country. Pollak received his B.S. in Business Administration from Indiana University and is a graduate of the General Motors Institute of Automotive Development. He also holds a law degree from DePaul University’s College of Law, and is a four-time winner of the American Jurisprudence Award. You can reach Dale at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Call out: Instead, buyers want dealers to affirm answers they’ve already found for themselves online.