Take It From the Dealers: Creative Strategies for Remote Selling as a Non-Essential Business
Tips to jump-start your digital auto sales and increase profits
If you’re suffering from a bad case of FUD (fear, uncertainty, and doubt) these days, you’re not alone. We’re all in this emotional rollercoaster together. In our line of business, flux is the new normal. Rules about how auto dealerships are allowed to operate during this time of crisis are constantly changing. But take heart, there are lots of creative ways to engage with your customers, even where auto sales may be currently restricted.*
In my recent webinar, I talked with two dealers in different parts of the country who have developed mature and highly successful remote selling models. While they each put their unique spin on the process, they are both early adopters of AutoFi. Rick Ricart, President and Dealer of Ricart Automotive in Columbus, Ohio, was AutoFi customer #1 and has been doing remote sales for three years. Dave Tedder, Internet Director at Sanderson Ford, Phoenix, leads an extensive expert team that has leveraged AutoFi for more than two years.
To boldly go where no dealership has gone before
Ricart Automotive believes in experimentation and is unafraid of making bold moves as the economic and social climate changes and the business evolves. Here are some things that sets Ricart apart and enables the dealership to weather current circumstances:
- A strong company culture rooted in mutual respect, inclusivity, and adaptability. Ricart makes sure his people are given leeway to try out new ways of doing things. While Ricart has made some adjustments during the COVID-19 crisis, like cutting back hours and closing on Sundays, everyone continues to pull their weight. Salespeople now work from home, communicating with customers over digital channels and leveraging AutoFi to streamline transactions. And F&I managers are going out to meet with customers in person in neutral locations to finalize contracts.
- Adopting a hospitality industry mindset: Ricart has made a point of recruiting people from the hospitality industry—people who have previously worked as restaurant waitstaff, hotel front-desk personnel, and other service-oriented jobs. The sales staff at Ricart is paid an hourly wage and is non-commissioned. This non-traditional form of compensation for this type of work eliminates the pressure and fosters a culture of teamwork and mutual support, where everyone pitches in. With three or four people working together, Ricart has been able to reduce the time a customer spends on purchasing a vehicle to less than an hour.
- Keeping it personal for customers. From day one, when a lead comes in, Ricart team members nurture their engagement with the customer. At every touchpoint, they provide a link to AutoFi, and this has proved fruitful in nearly every deal. In its marketing efforts, Ricart Automotive has also made a point of educating the public on the dealership’s branded express checkout process through television and online ads.
- Belief in the strong community spirit that defines Columbus. During the shelter in place order, Ricart is providing live curbside concerts in their branded truck for elder care facilities and people nominated by their loved ones. In addition, the service department has been maintaining and repairing vehicles for the police department and other essential services.
Dave Tedder at Sanderson Ford has taken a thoughtful and methodical approach to remote selling. He is a big believer in digital retail and has fully integrated it into the business, creating a seamless experience for customers. Sanderson Ford has accomplished this with:
- An eight-person Internet sales team that is fully empowered and highly knowledgeable. The tech-savvy team is well trained in every aspect of the sales process—from promoting F&I products to structuring the entire deal—and actively uses technology tools like video-conferencing and the AutoFi platform to generate quality leads and to finalize sales.
- “Read the lead and proceed.” This philosophy is the foundation of the sales process at Sanderson Ford. When a lead comes in from the Internet, the customer automatically receives a reply from “Haley,” the female virtual assistant. The Internet salesperson then follows up with a text, email, or phone call and discusses the customer’s needs and preferences. The salesperson also sends the customer the AutoFi link so they can interact with it. As Tedder acknowledges, when customers are given the power to work up their own deal, they love it. The salesperson then locates the desired vehicle—whether in stock, through ordering it from the manufacturer, or working with another dealer—helps finalize the paperwork, and arranges for delivery or pick-up.
- Post-sales engagement with the “Start Team.” Sanderson Ford has a team of four full-time college-age individuals who are patient, adept at technology, and trained on all aspects of the vehicle. In person (when allowed) or via digital face time, they familiarize customers with their new vehicles, showing them how to sync up their phones, the finer points of their navigation system, and more. They even work with people who haven’t bought their vehicles at Sanderson.
I hope these real-world examples of dealerships that have successfully implemented remote selling will inspire you to get creative and shift your business in a new direction that will serve you now and into the future.
Find out how AutoFi can help your business thrive.
* Caveat: As always, I urge you to check with your local and state Dealer’s Association to ensure you are operating within current guidelines.
View the Take It From the Dealers: Creative Strategies for Remote Selling as a Non-Essential Businesswebinar on demand, and join us for the AutoFi Remote Selling & Social Distancing Series, every Tuesday, 9:00 AM Pacific through May 5, 2020.