A fact that does not get enough attention is that the reputation of your employees is every bit as important as the reputation of the dealership. It is common knowledge that all things being equal, people buy from people that they like and trust. Along with your web presence and marketing materials, your employees can dramatically impact your brand messaging. Your sales people, for example, are your representatives and have a huge impact on the customer experience.
Some third-party review sites (like DealerRater, for example) offer employee-specific review pages where dealer sales staff can truly set themselves apart from other sales professionals that a consumer may be considering. For a dealership to be truly competitive in the research phase of the buying cycle and improve its lead-to-appointment ratio, the salesperson’s online greeting needs to be as polished as their lot greeting. Sadly, few automotive sales professionals are leveraging highly trusted third-party review content to establish a trust bridge early in the sales cycle when it matters most.
The fact is, if you are waiting for your unsold prospects to stumble upon your reviews on Google, you are losing customers to other dealership sales professionals that are leveraging their personal online reputation. Consumers do a surprising amount of research before making a vehicle purchase. They research the vehicle they are interested in, they research the dealer they are interested in purchasing from, and increasingly they also now research the sales team member that they want to work with before coming to the dealership.
I was recently privileged to talk about this subject at length with Ben Webster, Sales Manager at Jeff Wyler Springfield Auto Mall, part of the highly successful multiple Dealer of the Year winning group in OH.
I know that sometimes hearing about a successful strategy from a dealer that is implementing it on a daily basis can be a terrific asset. Ben has been gracious enough to allow me to share the information from the interview as follows. Here is Ben Webster, in his own words:
1. How do your sales team members use and leverage their reviews?
Several of our salespeople actually encourage prospects to view their DealerRater Reviews. They use this as a way to be transparent to future clients, inviting them to see what other customers have said about their dealings with our dealership. I have one salesperson in particular who encourages prospective clients to “Google” his name to see what others have said about him.
2. Have you any particular success stories that you’d be willing to share?
Our review process is such a constant success that it’s hard to pinpoint just one success story! Recently one of my Internet sales people received a lead, sent the customer a price quote, and later that day the customer was in the store sitting with that salesperson. The customer stated that upon receiving his quote, he checked out the salesperson online and read several online reviews. What had impressed the customer the most was the amount of positive reviews he read in regards to the salesperson. He stated that after reading the reviews, he had decided that this is the dealership he was going to buy from, and that was the salesperson who was going to get his business.
3. Have any customers expressed that your reviews are the reason they came to you as opposed to a competitor?
Absolutely! As a dealership we work hard to promote our virtual dealership, and were one of the first in our region to ask customers to post a review of our dealership and their experiences on DealerRater. We haven’t just asked for reviews from customers who purchased a car, but also from those who service their car here. Granted, not every review has been positive, but they have offered us an opportunity to address and resolve issues with customers that we otherwise would not have been aware of. As a result, we have gained business from our competitors and have increased our market share in some competing areas. It’s no secret that customers have access to a lot of information, and we have chosen the route of transparency in helping our customers to obtain that information. This has been one of the biggest reasons for the increase we have seen in our online business, and why customers choose us over our competitors.
4. If you could offer advice to a salesperson that isn’t yet using reviews to win appointments or sales what would you tell them?
Customers want to work with someone that they know. It doesn’t matter if you are selling cars, houses, or washing machines. Having an online reputation is extremely important, and future clients want a connection. Don’t be afraid to throw yourself out there and encourage folks to read reviews about you. By reading a little about you, they will most likely feel a “connection” to you and be more willing to come in to the dealership and work with you.