Once you have a customer showing interest, speed thrills. Going slow is the quickest thing to dull an otherwise enthusiastic buyer. When someone is ready to buy, your job is to create the lowest possible barriers to actually accomplishing the purchase.
Lack of speed kills the sales process. Your job is to make sure that you have “greased the skids” of every process and step in the buying process for your store so that every potential buyer turns quickly into a happily sold customer.
There are four possible points of “first contact” where you have the ability and the requirement to influence the speed of the process.
1) The Phone Rings In The Store – There is nothing that will put a potential buyer off more quickly than an unanswered phone call. They were calling with a specific question or purpose. If no one was there to deal with the question, this is an opportunity lost and there is a very high probability that the customer will move on to the next store.
Phone calls need to be answered by a human and with a very few rings. The second most frustrating experience for a customer is the endless automated phone trees. “Dial 1 for sales, dial 2 for service, dial 3 if you want to get trapped in a never ending series of dial instructions.” This gets worse when there are two of three steps and the outcome is Voicemail.
Inbound calls are pure gold. Make sure that during business hours a pleasant human being is available to handle those calls.
2) You receive an email query – As with inbound calls, serious inbound email inquiries represent very serious potential buyers and should be treated efficiently and professionally. There is no reason that every inbound email cannot be answered within one business hour.
The response should be complete, literate and should never demand more personal information or an in-store visit as the “price” for getting an answer.
3) The customer walks in to your store – You should be able to make a sale to more than 80% of walk-ins (provided that they are financially capable of completing the transaction.) Walks –ins should be personally and professionally greeted within one to five minutes.
4) The customer is on your website – Just as slow or no response to phone calls is frustrating, poorly designed and poorly performing websites are quick to turn off your potential buyers. Make sure that your website is fast – meaning that clicking links results in the new page instantly, or at least very quickly and that the site is easy to navigate.
If you elect to offer chat (and it is recommended that you do), make sure chat agents are always available whenever the chat option is visible. Like unanswered calls, chats that receive no response, or which have very long delays between questions and answers will drive customers off of your site.
During the recent “Boating Industry State of the Industry 2014” webinar (which you should take a look at here), John Burnham, of Dominion Marine Media pointed out, “New boat shoppers and used boat shoppers are online in force.” Your website must provide a suitable experience to capture and hold these shoppers.
The Most Common Question
Once you have established contact with a potential buyer quickly and professionally, you have to be prepared to answer their questions. Besides the common inventory and vehicle specific questions, the single most common question is something around “Can I afford this vehicle?”
You must be prepared to help the customer understand just how much vehicle they can afford. The best, least intrusive, and fastest way to help customers out is with a soft credit pull pre-approval process. This can be done online, over the phone, through an email query or in your store. With just the customers name, address, phone and email, you can get a real-time credit score so that you are equipped to guide them in the right direction. It takes just a few interactive minutes to capture the basic information and the result is instantaneous.
Within minutes of first contact, you are now able to assure the customer that they can get the vehicle of their dreams.
The Sales Process
Your potential buyer is hooked. Their initial experience was fast and awesome. They know what they can buy.
If they were online or on the phone, now is the time to set an appointment to have them come in for a test drive. If they are in your store, do the test drive now.
Once the test drive is complete, you are ready to help the buyer complete their purchase. If they are paying cash, just do the appropriate OFAC compliance checks and send them on their way with their new vehicle.
If the customer is financing, and 65%-80% of all buyers finance some or all of their purchase, you need to complete a credit application and find them a loan. With the pre-approval, you already have a pretty solid idea of how this will proceed, depending on which lending sources you have available to you. Once you actually pull credit, you can know with a very high degree of certainty how likely they are to be approved, and how quickly they will know.
If the process is going to be quick, because they have a strong credit profile, have them wait a little bit, or visit your Pro Shop. If they have some credit challenges, you might suggest that they go have a cup of coffee, because you may need to work with a few lenders and it may take a little longer. In any case, you should be able to let them know the likely outcome and the time it may take in less than one minute after you run their credit application through the appropriate bureau. (Check out First Approval Source’s “First Glance” program.)
Finishing The Sale
You have the approval and you know the finance terms. The concepts of extended service agreements, GAP, and other protection programs should have been gently introduced during the sales process. Now is the time to sit down with the customer and review the loan terms and discuss the value of all of the backend product offerings. This should take just a few minutes and the customer should quickly see the value of the “peace of mind” that these additional products offer for just a few added dollars per month.
There you are, ready to contract. In general, it should take 15 – 30 minutes or less to prepare contracts. There may be exceptions for certain lenders, but once again, you can set the appropriate expectation with you customer and make the process as efficient as possible.
Sign, smile, shake hands and take pictures for your social media sites. The buyer is delighted. The process was fast and painless with no surprises. They become a walking billboard for your business.
Speed, speed, speed. Speed thrills! Speed makes sales!