Car-Buyers Want To Spend More Time With Salespeople, Study Says – Forbes


Technology is changing the way car salespeople and car buyers interact.Getty

Forget about the commonly held belief that consumers can’t stand car salesmen. A new study shows typical car buyers want to spend more time with their salespeople, and it demonstrates that prolonged absences by those salespeople during the purchase process lead to poorer satisfaction with the overall car-buying experience.

The study, sponsored by digital retail solutions provider Roadster, examined the in-store car buying experience from both the dealer and consumer side of the equation. Among the key findings was the fact that car salespeople leave their customer every 20 minutes during a typical car-buying transaction.

“When they do leave satisfaction drops significantly – up to 30%,” Roadster’s chief marketing officer Michelle Denogean said. “And an important thing is what customers are doing when they are left alone. They’re texting back and forth to their spouses, looking at third-party sites, and maybe talking themselves out of the deal.”

Contrary to the popular notion that car salespeople alienate their customers, the study found that salespeople often develop a genuine level of trust with their customers.

“Satisfaction with the salesperson is really pretty good,” Denogean said. But the level of satisfaction “gets worse with time spent; after 90 minutes satisfaction significantly drops.”

One of the major reasons for the drop — repeated absences by the salesperson. And those absences are often prompted by the conventional car sales process. Typically, salespeople must leave their customers to get answers to questions they are unauthorized to answer on their own — things like the value of the customer’s trade-in or the finance/lease terms. Whatever the reasons, the absences, often unexplained, create confusion and distrust around the entire car-buying process. In fact, over 25 percent of consumers surveyed stated they had no idea what the salesperson was doing in the time they were away.

Technology can help provide salespeople with the answers they need to maintain contact to assure that valuable level of trust they establish with their customers. Roadster began with the idea of helping consumers purchase cars online, but in doing so the company discovered that its technology solutions could also give dealer personnel the information and guidelines they need to sell more effectively and efficiently.

“One of the benefits of the technology is giving the dealer ability to empower their salespeople,” said Roadster CEO Andy Moss. “There are four or five people touching each deal, and the salesperson has limited authority. A lot of what we’re doing is focusing on a trend toward one-person selling.”

The trend doesn’t simply have consumer benefits; it also has significant benefits to the dealer.

“If it takes six hours to buy a car, then it takes six hours to sell a car, and that is incredibly expensive when margins are compressed and you have four or five people touching a deal,” Moss told us. “We see a huge level of interest to change the way cars are sold.”

One big change is the elimination of redundancies and wasted time involved in basic information-gathering. The study noted almost a quarter of consumers said they were asked to provide information they already had completed online. Of these, 41 percent said they were asked to re-submit basic contact information; 43 percent were asked to re-fill out their credit applications; 33 percent were asked to re-state their desired payment terms, and 25 percent were asked to re-state their vehicle of choice.

“When the customer has done a lot of work from home and then they have to start over like ‘Groundhog Day’ when they get to the dealership, it is just incredibly frustrating,” Moss said. “Our efforts are around making that transition seamless.”

The change is coming, and Moss says the change is not the result of big, bold initiatives nearly so much as a groundswell from the grassroots.

“I have no doubt that this is where the industry is heading because consumers want to shop when, where and how they want,” Moss said. “It is the dealer down the street who is figuring it out. They are deciding to go to where the customer is going to be.”

It seems that as automotive retailing adds more technology and transparency to the car-buying/selling process, the goals of customer and dealer become much more closely aligned. Both want to take friction out of the process and speed it up.

“More efficiency at the dealership, that is top of mind for the dealer,” Moss said.

To the customer, a faster, more transparent process is at the head of the list of desired results.

The Roadster-sponsored study was conducted in partnership with Survata and Talk Shoppe and polled over 1,500 consumers and eight dealers across six brands.

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