Challenges brought about by meeting pent-up demand can be quickly turned into opportunities.
That’s according to Ali May-Khalil, managing director of consultancy Sentience Automotive Solutions, after showrooms reopened in England, with those in the rest of the UK following suit soon.
He said Sentience’s clients had reported ‘a huge surge’ in sales and inquiries.
‘This is, of course, great news but it does bring about some challenges that can very quickly be turned into opportunities,’ he added.
He listed what he called Sentience’s ‘Big 5’: digital inquiries, sales management, the human touch, value not price, and website.
Dealerships needed to ensure that returning staff were ‘match-fit’ to handle inquiries and deal with a number of channels, such as Zoom and WhatsApp. ‘You have “one bite of the cherry” and so to deliver a slow response and process will cost you sales,’ said May-Khalil.
The sales manager role had evolved, he said, and it was very much a market requirement for them to be more of a ‘lead handler’ and ‘inquiry management animal’. They also needed support to make sure they could give the sales team a clear plan of how to manage the increase in leads, progress and close them. In addition, conversion rates must be measured.
Although dealerships will most likely be approached digitally, May-Khalil said they should take care not to get swept up in the narrative around it. ‘Customers, from what we have seen first-hand, want human interaction within their buying journey,’ he said, adding: ‘Customers want to deal with real people but at their pace and safely.’
May-Khalil said most of the ‘cheaper’ stock had been sold during lockdown, leaving vehicles that were correctly priced and difficult to replace.
‘It is imperative that you focus on value and not price. Discount is, on the whole, not needed if you manage the inquiry properly. Hold firm on price and look at the bigger picture, ie, “Do I want their part-exchange? Are they taking finance and products?”’
And he said that dealerships that had transactional websites – able to take reservation fees and process finance applications – could ‘filter’ leads and had a higher finance penetration.
‘Overall, some great news and significant positives in the industry. Now it is all about getting your people and processes developed so you can be in the best possible shape to take advantage,’ said May-Khalil, adding that one client Sentience worked with last week sold nine cars over the weekend when its normal rate was six. All were by appointment, pre-qualified and approved on finance.
‘It’s time to be positive, embrace a little bit of change but remember that it is you, the human, who still has the biggest influence in the sales process.’
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