I saw confusing answers in a poll asking dealers about their sales goals.

Most dealers named used-car sales as their primary growth target. Yet they said they planned to add more new-car than used-car salespeople.

They also indicated head counts for business-development centers that handle phone and Internet contacts would increase the least among their various operations.

Let me get this straight. These dealers want to sell more used cars, but not add appropriate staff levels for that. They want to make online business better and more customer-centric, but they’re holding back on adding staff to do that.

Are dealers thinking that by adding more new-car sales people they will just simply become better at selling used cars and also handle more general online business? Sounds like a recipe for trouble.

Selling new cars requires detailed product knowledge. Selling a wide variety of multi-brand used cars in inventory requires even more. And selling certified pre-owned vehicles is a special talent all in itself.

That leads to another issue: Are you marketing three different product segments to three different buyer groups? If you do, you’ll get better advertising results.

There are different buyers and different selling techniques for new, used and CPO cars. It makes sense to advertise these different products to each demographic and properly point out the value statements for each kind of buyer.

CPO buyers really want a new car, but like the cost savings of a nearly new car. They also like the CPO warranty, and will step up a few thousand dollars to buy something other than a regular used car.

New-car buyers are much easier to sell a lease to because they want all the goodies without all of the payment. And a used-car buyer wants reliable transportation at a low cost.

Instead of blending all types of inventory into the same print or TV ad, dealers should separate them and be clearer in the message.

Here is how this strategy can be deployed in your current local TV advertising.

  • When considering new-car buyers, promote low lease payments and convenient dealer services.
  • When driving used car-buyer interests, give them what they want, which often is an affordable price and payment and bumper-to-bumper warranty coverage to limit their financial risk.
  • CPO buyers want a hard out-the-door price, a factory warranty and often a higher trade-in allocation. Marketing should highlight those things.

Do you see how the messages are more focused and appropriate for the right buyer? Dealers should think of themselves as department-store retailers. Market what the different departments offer to the right type of buyers. Better results await.

Adam Armbruster is a partner in the business growth firm Eckstein, Summers, Armbruster & Co. He can reached at adam@esacompany.com or 941-928-7192.