Pro Tips From the Field: Retail Sales Transformation

Dealers have done a great job transforming their sales model from the traditional, in-person environment to a fully immersive, digital retail experience in an extremely short amount of time. Savvy dealers lead the way in reimagining retail automotive with a total transformation of new initiatives for their sales teams, even launching new technologies for the entire business virtually along the way. In short, it’s been one heck of a year! In partnership with CBT News, our Dealer Forward Series explores how real dealers have used best-practices to not only make the transition into digital retailing for their sales teams, but how they’ve built the best customer experience using tools, processes, and teamwork. When Cox Automotive’s Sr. VP of Dealer Software, Lori Wittman, and Sr. VP of Product Development, James Maynard, kicked off the series, they met with two dealerships who offered their take on the process. Below are the best-practice tips for sales teams from Tully Williams, director of parts and service for the Niello Company, and Andy Guelcher, general manager at Mohawk Honda and dealer principal at Mohawk Chevrolet.


Pro Tip: Your Message Matters, But Only If People Hear It.

For the first six to eight weeks of the country’s shelter-in-place restrictions, many consumers and businesses faced varying degrees of confusion. For Tully Williams and his team, “We’re here to help!” became the rallying cry for the business. Williams’ storefront was closed, but the sales team was working hard behind the scenes to allow buyers to shop online and schedule service appointments. Yet, simply making sure people were aware of exactly how his sales team was available, and what they were doing to make it easier to do business at the dealership, was equally as important. For all the time and energy your sales team invests in building a practice that enables a digital retailing operation, your buyers need to be aware of their options.


Pro Tip: Pick-up and Delivery is Essential

According to a Cox Automotive COVID-19 Consumer Impact Report, the number of in-market car buyers has dropped by one-quarter since the start of the pandemic. With the total number of active buyers reduced, your sales team has to find new ways to bring your customers back. According to Williams, the key to bringing business back into his dealership was through offering service pick-up and delivery. “When it comes to servicing vehicles,” Williams explains, “pickup and delivery is a must. It wasn’t a ‘nice-to-have,’ it was essential to maintaining business continuity.”


Pro Tip: Reimagine Your Sales Roles

Many dealerships have seen a reduction in their teams over the course of a very difficult transition. Furloughs, layoffs, and reduced hours to accommodate for lower foot traffic and lost sales can deeply impact the culture and morale at your business. Williams discovered that reimagining current roles and utilizing personnel for new services—such as pick-up and delivery—allowed his dealership to keep more people working while many dealerships were cutting back. He explains, “We’re in the people-business. When we did pick up and delivery (for service), it was a great way of keeping a lot of our support staff.” For Andy Guelcher, having the right staff available to help his dealership transition into a digital dealership “was a game-changer…We’re keeping people employed and I think that’s a big, big deal.”


Pro Tip: Take Time to Master Your Sales Technology

The rapid adoption of new tools and technology has dramatically changed the sales strategy at dealerships. “We got to a point in our industry where we were going so fast…” Guelcher explains. But faster didn’t always mean better. While all of these amazing tools are great for the dealership, in order to maintain a connection with buyers, his salespeople leaned on solid processes and workflows to truly understand their customers. “These tools require a granular-type of focus to really make them work well…” he explains. Tools like Automotive Intelligence, through VinSolutions, allow his sales team to dig deep into the shopping habits of his buyers which provides keen insights into how they shop, what their unique needs are, and where they’re at in the decision-making process. “Every step of every process is brand new…I think that’s causing us to learn a lot more than we otherwise would have. These tools that are being used correctly now—and we’re using them better now because we’re slowing down—is a very positive thing that’s coming out of this.”

Through leveraging these best-practices both dealerships have seen an amazing transition over the course of the past six months that may have otherwise taken years to reach. Discover more of the conversation in the full video interview.