It’s car sales, Jim, but not as we know it!

It’s car sales, Jim, but not as we know it!

When Star Trek first hit our screens in 1966, the space-age vision of the 23rd Century seemed light-years away. Fast forward 50 years, and it’s frighteningly conceivable. The digital world is now the norm and it’s driving change in every area of our lives – including the dealership forecourt.

Once upon a time, customers travelled from dealership to dealership, spending hours with a sales guy who would try to convince them that not only did they need a particular car, but that there was a queue of people waiting to buy it. Meanwhile, the customer declared they were ‘just looking’, before kicking a few tyres and then finally getting behind the wheel.

Oh how things change! According to research from Millward Brown Digital, shoppers now spend four months researching cars online; hardly surprising considering the abundance of information at their fingertips… manufacturers’ sites, reviews, comparison sites, and social media accounts. They know the engine size, average fuel consumption, power and performance statistics and they are ready to hit the road for a test-drive the minute they walk through the showroom door.

So how is a sales guy (or woman) supposed to compete?

You’re not! Seriously. In the words of the Borg – ‘Resistance is futile’. Technology is only going to advance, so the best thing that you can do is embrace it.

Hopefully your dealership is already exploiting technology to get prospects through the door, for example, using apps to alert potential customers to new cars or special deals, targeting specific audiences with highly personalised adverts, and ensuring that the dealership website is fully optimised to capture basic contact details, vehicle interest, and purchase/service history, but the onus is still largely on you as the salesperson to complete the sale.

Revolutionary brand ‘Rockar’ has digitalised a lot of the car buying journey but they still recognise the value that the personal touch can deliver. Step forward the ‘angels’ – akin to Apple’s ‘product geniuses’ – on hand to provide customers with as little or as much help as needed… leaving the customer to make the best decision. Mercedes has launched a similar ‘product concierge’ service; again providing help for customers, rather than focusing on the sale.

People buy from people

Fortunately, some things never change. People still buy from people they like and trust – but how do you build that level of rapport when the time spent in the dealership continues to shrink?

  1. Listen – discover what it is that customers really want to buy. Be warned, it may not be what you want to sell them, or make you the most money, but getting them onside now opens the door to a lifetime of aftersales, warranties and service bills!


  1. Ask intelligent questions… How much time do you spend driving? If it’s anything longer than 15 minutes at a time, ask if they’ve considered the car’s comfort levels. Better still – would they like to try it out? If you’ve ever purchased a mattress, you will know how important is it to experience the different degrees of firmness before making your decision. Why wouldn’t you give the same consideration to a driver’s seat?


Customers buy on emotion, and the virtual shop window is no competition for the real thing – where shoppers are immersed in a sensory experience that a digital world can’t replicate. Imagine Oxford Street at Christmas time. You could probably buy the same products on line, but would you remember anything about the buying experience a month, 6 months down the line? Probably not. The same can definitely be said about cars – smell the leather interior, listen to the sporty engine as you rev the accelerator, notice the smoothness of the gear change and the comfort of the driver’s seat with its backrest angle adjustment…

  1. Be there to reassure – website recommendations are only as good as the algorithms they are built on, and the data that the user enters!

Research by indicates that a third of consumers visit three dealerships before making a purchase, so it’s important to combine all your resources – on and offline – to deliver a first-rate customer experience; not only to secure this sale, but to set the wheels in motion for a lifetime of aftersales, repeat and referral business.


About Symco Training:

Symco Training Limited is a hands-on training organisation for the motor industry, offering IMI-accredited ‘real-world’ sales training programs based on techniques that have been tried and tested by major dealerships.

If you would like to maximise your dealership’s potential, try our 10-day free trial of ‘The First 90 Days’ program – a structured online training resource for an effective sales team.