Auto focus

How auto dealerships can win over millennials

RL Ravichandran | Updated on October 04, 2019 Published on October 04, 2019

More often, prospects know a lot more about the product than the sales facilitator. The most successful sales person is always the one who helps the customer choose the product that suits his/her needs.   -  The Hindu

The traditional practices of yesteryear will not do the trick any longer

Auto dealerships in India have been in the news lately thanks to the current slowdown which has apparently seen quite a number of them closing down.

However, there is a bigger issue ahead which needs to be considered. Are dealerships comfortably insulated from the emerging trends of Indian millennials?

Most of the online data shows that every prospective buyer has a clear idea of what he/she wants before entering a dealership. Eventually, as to what they want and what really happens there is what is termed the ‘moment of truth’!

More often, prospects know a lot more about the product than the sales facilitator. The most successful sales person is always the one who helps the customer choose the right product that suits his/her driving needs.

Mostly customers pre-decide the brand, but due to hundreds of SKUs (stock keeping units) in each model, its critical for frontline staff to clearly demonstrate features such as convenience, comfort, space and mileage based on the budget or the target price the customer is evaluating at that point in time.

Surely one can up-sell, but most customers want honest answers. There is no point in retailing a vehicle which is meant to be faster or speed-friendly, to a customer who needs adequate power but may not be necessarily inclined to getting better fuel efficiency or vice-versa.

If you are a dealer for a brand that has multiple models with maximum SKUs, more often than not, the sales team tends to push the high inventory model aggressively. However, this may not get long-term customers for your dealership.

On the contrary, the more important task on and in today’s times is this: how do you deal with more informed customers and family members for all auto-related purchasing decisions.

Dealers are feeling the pinch and pressure from manufacturers’ month-ending sales despatch compulsions. After this follows the cycle of competitive pricing and margins pressure. And then comes pressure on payment to principals, inventory pileup, funding and bank pressure besides heavy interest outflow.

Rising attrition

Today’s network is facing more attrition of staff and retention demands more than auto street compensation levels. The frontline staff is expected to be well groomed and trained in products coupled with possessing soft skills.

They also need to be well versed in various aspects of ‘concluding the sale’ with trade-in offers, loyalty bonus, EMI calculations, faster finance tie-ups and delivery on the promised time and date.

The brands also have a larger role to equip the dealers in handling the walk-in prospects. From successful dealership practices in the auto world there are many insights available to facilitate a higher degree of these walk ins to showrooms. Some of the leading ones are:

Show product build, intricate mechanisms and materials geometry of perfection in videos based on the product development and engineering diagrams. A good example is to display ‘how the suspension behaves and works in different road conditions’, how the steering feels and how the brakes perform. The efficiency of turning, reverse parking and overall vehicle dynamics are all well captured and presented to the prospects when he is in your store.

Show actual buyers ‘voice & face’ and their experience of similar products. Invariably, a customer believes another customer more than the sales staff

Show the brands and models sales number over a year of growth in a graph

Top line expert comments by leading auto critics need to be captured well.

Show your dealership/products compulsory pre-sales checklist for each delivery.

If you have any positive quote from your dealership from an earlier customer, have it captured and show it.

Show the annual services and maintenance costs of your products and see how easily a customer can navigate a service schedule by phone for regular visits.

It is important to keep in mind that the current lot of buyers are not comparing your sales process or service process with another auto brand or dealer. They are already adapting themselves to the Amazon way of E-Life purchase and E-Settlement. By the end of the day, they virtually operate and lead their lives only with a smartphone.

Speed of information

Retailing is undergoing a sea change aided by IoT and the speed of information. Regulatory needs and certification of vehicles are also performed by dealers and, at least for now, customers still want to be able to touch and feel them.

However, while there are not two ways but the fact that today’s buyers will certainly visit dealerships for their prized possessions, what they also seek is more convenience.

After all, they are tech-savvy and what they do not understand in their search digitally, the dealership must offer in real time in store.

To put it in a nutshell. this is the critical enabler to close the sale. Actually, price is less of an issue but what tilts the scales is a hassle-free experience at the dealership. This is critical to increase your order book.

While your prospects are hyper digital, can you be still in analogue mode? The time has come to reboot your thinking process!

The writer is a former CEO of Royal Enfield and has held senior-level positions at Bajaj Auto and TVS Motor

Published on October 04, 2019
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