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Sunday, November 27, 2016

Car Buying Stages - Where is Your Prospect Now?

In every aspect of our lives, Google is tracking our online behaviour (on a macro and micro level) and spotting trends that frequently confirm what we already suspect but often providing insights that give us added understanding of offline behaviours and thinking processes. Along with some direct research done by Google (as it pertains to the car buying process) the following findings were recently published:

The car buying process can be split into 3 stages:

  1. Thinking Stage. Average length = 26 Days. There may be some event or realization that starts people thinking about a purchase during which time some conversations with friends, family, and colleagues take place as well as some casual browsing (usually online). As a car sales professional, this is the period when you want your name to come up in those conversations.

  1. Research Stage. Average length = 19 Days. The data collection stage involves lots of online and offline activities (including visiting dealerships) to determine what’s available, reviews/ratings, relative costs, etc. More and more of this phase is being done exclusively online
  1. Buying Stage. Average length = 12 Days.  The buyer is comparing features, pricing, and narrowing down to a short list as well as test driving and checking promotional offers. If dealership visits did not happen during the research stage, they will occur now.
According to Google, the whole process takes 57 days (on average). The important take-away from this research is that if you meet a customer on the showroom floor, they could be at any one of these stages.  If they are at Stage 1 or 2 (or even 3), are you going to stay with them to the end? Can you provide the value and motivation to speed up the process and transition them to the next stage? If today is not the day, do you have a follow up system that respects where the prospect is located in the buying cycle? Have you orchestrated a series of communications with the prospect that, over the coming weeks or days, will provide value and demonstrate your commitment to keeping the prospect's best interests in the forefront? 

If your prospect in the showroom is in Stage 3, you may have what Duane Marino calls a "transaction-ready" buyer. These folks already know what they want and their financing preference so your job is essentially to "get out of their way" and make the purchase as friction-free as possible. For this customer, it is still important to remember your professional obligations to insure they understand which vehicle they are buying and their financing options but dragging them through your 90 minute sales process may lose you the sale.

What Google has sketched out are averages which means some people work quicker and some slower. Can you build rapport and quickly discover what stage your prospect is in? As a refresher, read my earlier blog post on techniques and wordtracks to make the Discovery Phase of your engagement with the prospect the secret to finding out when and how to close the sale.  

Monday, August 24, 2015

"Here's How We Operate"

At the end of the Meet & Greet phase and before the Discovery phase (and before you have proposed a solution), you must provide some reasons why the customer has made a good decision in working with you and can be assured of how the balance of the process is going to unfold. This includes an assurance that you will be sensitive to the customer's timeline and needs as well as being a resource during their car shopping process (no matter where it leads).

Start by asking this question. "Are you familiar with how we do business here at Top Tier Motors?" Since the answer is almost always going to be "no", follow up by saying, "Here is what you can expect from your visit with us today. I'm going to ask a few questions to understand what's most important to you in getting your next vehicle. Once I know that, we will select a vehicle that closely fits your needs and we will drive it so you can experience the vehicle for yourself. Does that make sense?" Assuming the customer says "yes", this is the 1st commitment.

If you get any push back on the above statement, say, "I would prefer to make your visit today about getting you all the information you will need in order to make an informed decision so that when it is time to make that decision, you will know you are making a wise one. Sound fair?" Get agreement that this approach makes sense. This is the 2nd commitment. You will ask for the business later in the process, but first, let's move the customer further through the process and orchestrate additional small commitments.

Notice that you have taken off the pressure by agreeing that the immediate concern is to gather information and evaluate options. The prospect, for now, does not feel pressured to make a decision. In fact, the prospect will appreciate your concern for his need to have "a little space" to consider your upcoming proposal and will permit him to start to become excited about the new vehicle.

In future blog posts, we will cover all aspects of the sales process as it applies to selling cars and similar big ticket items. In the sales methodology I will be teaching, the process starts with the Meet & Greet phase and is followed by the How-We-Operate Benefit Statement and then the Discovery phase. Stay tuned as we explore a New Way to Sell Cars (or simply SUBSCRIBE to this blog so you don't miss any updates).