Grow your portfolio sales with a new “helping” approach
Too often, retail auto dealers approach their database with a transactional mindset, not reaching out to customers until they think they are ready to buy a new vehicle. Data mining or equity mining tools have further narrowed many dealer’s perspectives. In the hopes of harvesting the “low hanging fruit” in their database, dealerships’ sales teams often only target customers who have paid off more than 50 per cent of their contract, or who appear to be in an equity position. The result is that the wrong customers—those who have no desire to trade—regularly receive excessive amounts of marketing, while those who are likely to trade are often overlooked.
The solution isn’t a new program or another marketing campaign; it’s a different mindset. It’s about shifting from transactional to portfolio thinking. Portfolio thinkers look at each customer and each vehicle’s future sales potential, with the goal of selling each customer three vehicles, and selling each vehicle three times.
Dealers with the portfolio mindset replace data mining strategies with data farming strategies, seeing every customer as valuable and as worthy of communication throughout their ownership cycle. They understand that it’s necessary to maintain a regular cadence of communication with every customer, whether with sales offers, service offers, or with valuable information updates about the product and the market. These information updates are especially important and should have no overt selling agenda—they should be solely focused adding value to the customer.
Traditional sales offers are easy to create: any competent dealer or marketing company can develop a trade-in, buy-back, or exclusive event offer. Service offers are also easy to create, through a suite of templates provided by most OEMs.
But how can a dealer create a message that’s focused on adding value to the customer without blatantly looking like they’re trying to sell their products or services? How would those interactions look? What is the best way to deliver them? And how do they benefit dealers in the short term and long term?
In April of 2020, 30 days into the COVID-19 pandemic, Absolute Results created a “goodwill message” campaign for dealers. This “helping” message consisted of reaching out to customers to find out how they were dealing with the pandemic, if their vehicle needed service, and to find out if their driving needs had changed.
Over the next six months, this helping message was leveraged by hundreds of dealers globally. With the assistance of Absolute Results, they reached out to over one million database customers, and the response was overwhelmingly positive. The message created more than double the engagement rate of a traditional “selling message.” Most importantly, these campaigns consistently resulted in more appointments and more cars sold—even during the pandemic.
Sixteen months later, many dealers still find this strategy valuable and effective. Some Absolute Results Appointment Culture dealers have adopted an “annual Goodwill Call” as a foundational part of their portfolio business plan.
During the third wave of the pandemic, some dealers adapted the Absolute Results goodwill-message strategy even further. Their sales teams called their portfolio customers to tell them not to come into the dealership. They offered each customer a virtual review of their finance contract, and only recommend showroom appointments if a customer’s needs had clearly changed or if they were eligible for a substantially valuable upgrade.
A few months ago, Absolute Results began recommending that dealers reach out to their customers with a new “helping message” and early indicators show that this is really resonating with customers. We call it the “What’s Changed in the market” message, and it starts something like this:
“Hey, I’m calling to talk to you about something that all over the news, it’s called the microchip shortage. I’d like to share how it could affect you, the value of your current vehicle, and your next vehicle purchase. Even if you don’t plan to trade for 12 to 18 months, we should take a few minutes to chat.”
This approach, in which the sales professional informs the customers about What’s Changed in the market and then asks how their driving needs have changed is producing exceptional results. Several dealers we work with are referring to these campaigns as “the Un-Sale.” Because of current inventory shortages, dealers know they might not have a vehicle to sell on the spot, but if they can secure a factory order with a trade, they’ve got a future deal and a future trade-in “in the bank.” Some dealers are even offering customers a “no commitment” factory order, because they are confident that for the next 12 months, they’ll sell every unit that they can get.
While a call reaching out to customers informing them about the market changes may seem innovative, isn’t it similar to the calls we all appreciate from trusted investment advisors or real-estate brokers?
Maybe it’s time for the auto industry to elevate the quality of conversation with each and every customer, especially if the goal is to sell each customer and each vehicle three times.