The role of the automotive advertising agency has changed to follow the new rules of the road on the Internet Super Highway. Newly empowered consumers are no longer limited to shopping for a vehicle using information provided by self serving auto dealers pushing information to them using conventional media like radio, T.V. or newspaper. Social media has allowed car shoppers to gather information from like minded customers before, during and after their shopping and/or buying experience. These online friends are playing an increasing role in the car shopping process and automotive advertising agencies are using them to influence buyers.
The new pull / push nature of the market powered by the Internet requires automotive advertising agencies to focus on people vs. product or price. Car shoppers are following their own agendas when pulling information from the world wide web that no longer requires them to rely on an auto dealer as the source. Today’s online shoppers prioritize people when selecting a dealership they are willing to do business with. That is not to suggest that product and price aren’t important. It simply suggests that all systems start and end with people and that people are the true asset of any auto dealer, automotive advertising agency or vendor!
The most obvious evidence of the priority that people play in the auto shopping/buying/service experience is the explosive growth that social media has enjoyed as a marketing media vs. conventional radio, T.V. and print that used to dominate the automotive advertising landscape. Automotive advertising agencies recognize that people have always preferred to do business with people that they like and social networking has expanded the spheres of influence of car shoppers/buyers to include their online friends.
The market is a conversation amongst friends before, during and after the car shopping/buying/ service cycle. Auto dealers that have friends in the social networking communities are more likely to be invited to participate in the dialogue. More specifically, automotive advertising agencies realize that it is difficult to befriend a building or a website! It is the people that work at the dealership to support their families that have the story to tell to their friends and who will earn the sale — not the Chevrolet, Toyota, Mercedes, etc. — or the extended service hours and weekly specials. Saturday service hours have no appeal if the customers don’t like or trust the people that they are handing their keys to. Having a friend in the car business is a relief that trumps the best process, product or price for the average car buyer.
Automotive advertising agencies also recognize that people play a role in both the real and virtual world showroom experience which will be reflected in the number of units sold and their job performance at the end of the month. First impressions are irretrievable and they are not limited to a large inventory, clean showroom or a dealer centric selling system that processes customers in sales and/or service. The atmosphere in a well run dealership reflects the morale of the staff in sales and service which directly impacts the customers that an automotive advertising agency drives to the dealership.
A smiling sales person, service writer, operator and cashier can’t be forced as a part of policy — much like customer satisfaction can’t be bought or taken for granted by simply offering the best price; it must be earned. It is earned when a dealer or manager appreciates the individual and team contributions of his staff — and tells them so on a regular basis! It is maintained by HR departments and hiring practices that select personality over prior auto sales experience with compensation plans that reflect individual contributions along with job descriptions and defined areas of responsibility that are managed and monitored by a caring management team.
Employee retention is directly linked to customer satisfaction and customer retention and neither can be taken for granted. Automotive advertising agencies are counseling their auto dealer clients to invest in their people before, during and after they are hired to compliment their investments in automotive advertising. It is their people that will represent their dealership and it is their people who will sell their cars and service to a growing list of friends and customers.
Automotive advertising agencies have extended their areas of responsibility to include their involvement in all aspects of day to day operations at an auto dealership. Most selling systems and related processes include a meeting and greeting, an initial manager T.O. to qualify the customer’s needs, an inventory and facility walk, a test drive, a feature benefit presentation, a desking procedure, a manager T.O., negotiations, an F&I introduction, a delivery procedure and service introduction. All of these steps are then supported by a state of the art CRM/ILM, DMS and follow up system. Unfortunately, all of these well thought out procedures are only as good as the sales person who entered the customer into the system and/or who is expected to follow up if not sold or who is relied on to solicit future service and referrals.
All of these actions reflect on the job performance of the automotive advertising agency and they must be addressed as part of their areas of responsibility. Automotive advertising agencies recognize that sales training is all too often limited to a few weeks immediately after the hire and/or some outsourced trainer hired to pump up the staff. Given the complexity of a well planned selling system — as described above — how can a new hire be expected to retain everything that they need to know? Add product information and an understanding of how human nature impacts the negotiation process and — once again — the investment in the people becomes self evident.
There is a paradigm shift taking place in the way that sales and service training should be applied at a dealership and it is up to the automotive advertising agency to insure that it is understood and applied. Forward thinking automotive advertising agencies have discovered that sales and service training can’t be limited to the new hires and or as needed to motivate the staff. It must start in the hiring process by selecting trainable personalities and then integrated into the selling system in such a way that the processes teach the sales person as much as the customer. Buyers and sellers must form a habit to listen and learn from each other before they can presume to sell or buy anything. A sales person does not need to know everything — they simply need to know where to find the answers that are relevant to the customer to move them through their buying decision.
Automotive advertising agencies often rely on new technologies to provide efficiencies applied to proven old world wisdom. New mobile sales applications are being developed that promise to provide a salesperson with the right information at the right place and the right time which will integrate training into the sales process. The key is to focus on the people part of the presentation supported by the processes, products and the price rather than the other way around.