Before heading to the dealership, 80% of prospects contact the store by phone, email, lead form, text or chat, according to Call Source.

So when does a dealer really close a sale? Today, the real close starts before the prospect even visits your dealership. It begins with those initial contacts.

Because of that, I contend a business-development center that withholds information in order to set in-store appointments is among the most counter-productive strategies a sales department could use.

No prospect asks, “May I set an appointment to see a salesperson?” They call for specific information that only a salesperson, not a BDC agent, can provided.

If one dealership won’t give it to them early on, another one will.

The initial interaction with today’s prospect determines where they will set their appointment, so beginning the close requires providing accurate and complete information in a high-quality manner that will earn the appointment.

That means not relying on BDC reps but on Apple Store Genius-type salespeople providing the knowledge and transparency earning them the right to request an appointment.  

Some Data Points:

  • J.D. Power says 74% of prospects will drive 20 miles (32 km) or more to receive what they perceive to be a great dealership experience. How do they determine that hinges on the first interaction and what they read on review sites.
  • DrivingSales data says 39% of prospects won’t consider a dealership unless they can easily receive a competitive price in advance of a visit. Dealerships with old-school management unwilling to quote prices risk losing almost 4 in 10 sales opportunities. Why turn away potential customers? To protect grosses?
  • According to the 2015 DrivingSales Customer Experience Study, 80% of vehicle buyers visit only one or two dealerships before buying. This data underscores the need to have a very positive initial interaction with a highly knowledgeable salesperson on the first contact.
  • An Accenture survey says 75% of consumers said they would “buy a car online” if given the opportunity.

Dealers who truly believe in giving digital customers what they want should consider offering to deliver a car to buyers. This is clearly a trend from progressive dealers I know.

All the new entrants to used-vehicle sales (Carvana, Beepi, Vroom, etc.) basically only offer home delivery, and they are thriving.

By offering remote delivery, a dealership can expand its sales footprint and market share.

Another reason for enabling prospects to gather as much accurate information as they wish from a dealership in advance of a store visit is it saves everyone – from customers to dealership employees alike – time and aggravation at the store.  

It also can help a dealership do the elusive 1-hour sales process, achieve more 5-star online ratings and generate more referral leads.

Does a dealership want more sales? Seems like a silly question. But not handling the initial contacts correctly and giving prospects more of what they want can cost dealers appointments, leads and sales.

Former dealer Mark Rikess is founder of The Rikess Group, a consulting and training firm. He is one of the original advocates of one-price selling. He is atmarkrikess@gmailcom and 916-715-8129.