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Alistair Horsburgh: Getting video right means you really can still wow your customers

Sponsored: Symco Training’s Simon Bowkett interviews CitNOW’s chief strategy officer Alistair Horsburgh, who explains how video has brought the car showroom firmly into the customer’s front room

Time 2:43 pm, August 2, 2023

Top CitNOW executive Alistair Horsburgh has been interviewed for the Selling in the Motor Trade podcast, where Simon Bowkett of Symco Training found out just how important a part video plays in the car sales process.

The group chief strategy officer discussed how a dealer’s digital presence is key but also presented challenges in differentiating a business.

However, he made the point that even though he was there to talk about technology, people still bought from people and the personal approach made a big difference – something that video can really help dealers capitalise on.

‘If you can have that personality, you know, we all smile, stand up when we answer the phone, all those kind of old-school messages, I believe that if we did more of that today I do think we would sell more vehicles.’

Horsburgh discussed CitNOW’s path to success, defying the naysayers, and he gave a hat tip to BMW for being the first to truly recognise the potential of the new retail model.

He commented on how digital presence such as social media and websites had grown in importance for dealers over the past 10 years and, as such, how challenging it was to try to stand out from the crowd.

‘We still have this challenge where customers make inquiries but a proportion of these inquiries don’t get responded to, and that’s really frustrating,’ he said.

Bowkett commented that when used cars were particularly hard to come by, some places would ignore customers who were inquiring about a vehicle that had gone.

‘I see sales people all the time thinking, “Well, that car’s sold. Well, anyway, too hard.” They don’t even bother getting back to the customer! It’s criminal in 2023, but it’s still happening.’

Horsburgh said: ‘The way consumers make their decisions about where they buy their vehicles from is constantly evolving, constantly changing.

‘They make recommendations, they don’t necessarily look for the cheapest vehicles. They want reassurance they’re buying something that’s good quality and a reasonable price.

‘People will definitely pay more for better quality and better service. I absolutely, fully believe that.’

He added: ‘When we started putting video in the showroom, one of the biggest things that made an impact was there was always a challenge [regarding] adoption of video because the sales managers wanted the customers in the showroom.

‘They felt they had more control, they could make more deals, so to speak, and they feared that if all they did was send their video to the customer, the customer would have all the information they wanted and wouldn’t be interested.’

Horsburgh added that he was in the process of selling his house but when he asked the estate agent to put a video of his house online they said they didn’t do that as they wanted customers to walk through his door to experience his house.

‘And I thought it’s still happening! Are you serious?! And they said yes, so I said can I pay for it to be done and they said no. So it’s not just a car industry thing.

‘But having said that, one of the salespeople who were adopting video at the time really understood the value.’

Bowkett had said earlier that he couldn’t understand why some sales people could be shy when it came to video, not wanting to show their face, even though the customer was going to see them when they turned up to buy the car, and Horsburgh commented: ‘We saw a big change in the way sales people utilised video.

‘Your point about hair and make-up, what they sound like. This was not a male or female thing. This was all about vanity.

‘I said it didn’t make any difference whether you were northern, southern, or wherever you came from.

‘What made the difference was those salespeople who understood the value of their personality on camera in front of a customer were the ones that won!

‘If you can pass control at the right time to the consumer to make a decision on their own or with the information that you provided to them, then I think that really helps. And that was definitely one of the big lightbulb moments for a lot of sales managers.’

He added: ‘Whilst we didn’t necessarily say that a video actually sold a car, we just knew that the more videos you did, the more cars you sold.’

Horsburgh pointed out that video gave salespeople a platform to be different. ‘If you can do a monologue on a vehicle and you can do it passionately and you can talk about the features that the customer is really interested in, then you’ll have a winner. And that’s what happened.

‘I do believe that video has opened the showroom up to the customer in his front room.’

He acknowledged that the use of video in today’s society may be slightly different to when it first came out, but he added: ‘If you get it right, your consumer will still be wowed.’

Topics also covered in the podcast include:

  • Valuable Lessons Learnt
  • How Did Video Sneak Up On Us?
  • Digital Presence
  • Consumer Decision Making

You can listen to the interview with Horsburgh in full by clicking here.

Find out more about the Selling in the Motor Trade podcast at

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Car Dealer has been covering the motor trade since 2008 as both a print and digital publication. In 2020 the title went fully digital and now provides daily motoring updates on this website for the car industry. A digital magazine is published once a month.

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