I’m not here to tell you your dealership needs to embrace social media. Every dealer’s heard it; most dealers have come to believe it; and many are already actively engaging customers in a variety of social channels. I’m here because out there, it’s getting more and more competitive by the day.
Customers are gaining more control and more transparency, and above all, they know exactly what kind of dealer they want to do business with. Gone are the days when you could rely on your best interpersonal skills to make shoppers glad they walked into your showroom. They like you — or don’t — before you even know they exist.
Understandably, this environment leaves many dealers feeling like they’re scrambling every day. Which brings me again to why I’m here: There’s a simple way for dealers to regain control over sales and overall success, store-wide, and that’s by becoming the exact kind of dealer your customers want to buy from. It’s something that’s always been at the heart of this business, and now, in the most pressured and fast-paced era of automotive sales, we have tools at our disposal that we’ve never had before.
That’s right. Your social channels are your superpowers. And I want to help you use them to their full advantage. I want to see more dealers rip off their Clark Kent glasses and become all-seeing, all-selling, all-succeeding superheroes. You just have to master these five social skills:
It’s not about your favorite time, place and way to have a conversation. Your customers have control of that. And be ready for them to change it up on you — often. They’re on a one-way street to the best purchase they can find. If you can find them early in their search, make a connection and take full advantage of their frequent use of social channels, you’re in.
Use your CRM to log your customers’ preferences, and target them accordingly. Don’t assume everyone’s using Facebook or Twitter exclusively; segment your database according to actual activity, and go from there.
Remember, you have 24/7 access to your customers’ attention span. Be direct, purposeful and personal — no blanket messaging. Catch their attention, and get ready to show them how much you know about the things they care about.
Be a know-it-all
Your customers never need just one thing from you, no matter what they’re coming out and asking for. Every shopper needs to make a purchase at some point, and every buyer will need service on their vehicle. But none of them will want to do business of any kind with any dealer who doesn’t know what they truly need, and talk to them accordingly.
Being a know-it-all isn’t just about knowing cars. It’s about knowing customer wants and needs, and knowing how and when to capitalize on them. All of your outbound content should be targeted and relevant. And all of their comments and clicks should be captured, and quickly. So, use your channels to know what buyers want before they do. Offer the best solution before they ask for it. And give them a seamless experience through every point in the lifecycle.
Win the popularity contest
Yes, welcome back to high school. Your job now is to be a buyer magnet. And step one is to start seeing what many dealers consider a disadvantage as a huge bonus: Your customers are all talking to each other — directly and indirectly. They’re reviewing your team and your services in every part of your store because they’re encouraged to and because they can, easily. You’ll never again talk to a customer who hasn’t done their research and read all the reviews out there.
So stay on top of it. This is not the time to hide under your blanket out of fear of hearing the worst. You have to look your reviews dead in the face and take advantage of the fact that they’re there. And really, it’s easier than you’d think.
Here’s a secret we didn’t have in high school: Popularity is all about listening. Listening to the feedback. Listening to the buzz. Listening and learning and realigning your efforts with what will make you more popular, not less. Remember that social media is a two-way street; it doesn’t stop with sending information outward to customers. Give your best attention to what’s coming back in, and be ready to make changes.
Don’t be an overachiever
Spreading yourself too thin across too many social outlets won’t work. You have to be the best at something, and that has to be something buyers care about. Not every conversation out there is worth your time and effort because not every conversation will affect an ultimate purchase decision. Be choosy, be in control and be ready to catch the conversation threads you need most.
This is where it all comes together. Social selling doesn’t end with making friends. It’s about making deals. No one will buy from you if you don’t listen, aren’t connected and don’t care about what they do. And no one will buy from you if they don’t like what they see and hear in your reviews.
I’m urging you to be a winner in your social channels because that’s what gets you the wins you want. And because you can develop winning social skills without adding new tools or undue expense. Simply leverage what you have available to you now in a new and more targeted way, and watch the new success roll in.
Sean Stapleton is the vice president of sales and marketing for VinSolutions.