Customer Intimacy; A Step Closer to A Tailored Experience
In a recent article I read in Automotive News Lincoln; Home Visits Revealed Customer’s Passions, Lincoln revealed the importance of getting to know their customers at a very intimate level. Lincoln has seen an impressive four consecutive years of global sales gains, what do they attribute this growth to? Getting to know their customers!
To understand your customers, you have to know what they think and what they want!
The Golden Rule grandma use to preach; treat others the way you want to be treated is a thing of the past! The new rule in town is the Platinum Rule; treat others the way they want or need to be addressed. The only way to live this is to get to know your customers at a personal level.
To do just that, Lincoln got intimate with their would-be consumers by doing interviews in their homes. The Mission, as stated by Parker, was to “Find out whether they drink 2% milk or almond milk. Potato chips, or Kale chips. Do they have an Alexa or a Google Home? How are they living?”
These home tours gave Lincoln a unique perspective on the wants and needs of their customers, allowing them to craft tailored experiences in marketing and retail stores.
Now, I’m not suggesting that every brand start knocking on their customer’s doors and have a tour of their home, although you would learn a lot about your customers if you could! What I am suggesting is that you bring this mentality into your dealership. Get to know your customer, personally, when they are interacting with you.
Building Real Relationships
We must build real relationships with our customers before we ask for the sale. Customers buy from who they trust. Unfortunately, customers don’t usually ‘trust’ dealerships to have their best interest at heart. I have developed a formula that helps dealerships do just that, create real relationships with their customers.
The Connection Formula- CREATE was developed with the female customer in mind. After a lot of research of what The Decision Maker; The Woman wants in her shopping experience, I realized this formula is as effective with women as it is with men. Here is a simple tool your sales team can use when connecting with your customers and getting to know them at a personal level while earning their trust and their sale.
Compassion & Empathy
Showing compassion & empathy is the most overlooked, yet most powerful skill a salesperson can have in their tool belt. Having and showing compassion for their customers and their stories will help you to take a step back and listen to what they need or want at that moment.
You are human too, right? When you can, connect with your customers over common ground. Reveal something about yourself that makes you believable and trustworthy. For example; your customer gets to talking to you about their son who is playing in a soccer tournament and how much time it takes to get him back and forth from practice. You happen to have a son that also plays soccer (or any other sport) can reveal that you to have the same frustrations. By doing this, you have created a connection outside of purchasing a vehicle.
Nothing is worse than a ‘fake’ interaction with a Sales Associate. Customers know who you are and will not engage with you. Find something out about your customer, so you can genuinely engage with them.
What is our favourite thing to talk about? Ourselves! Customers will tell you EVERYTHING you need to know to tailor his/her experience if you actively listen for it! Recent studies show that when we are having a conversation with someone else, we are already formulating our response 1/3 of the way through what the other person is saying. What does this mean? We don’t actually hear what people have to say to us; and if we don’t hear it, how can we use the information our customers are giving us to make an above average experience come to life?
If you actively listen, all those details that Lincoln found while doing home interviews will come to the surface in your interactions with your customers. Make the conversation less about you, and more about what personal details you can uncover about your customers.
Relationships take time to develop. I know, time is money. If you take the time to get to know your customer, create a real relationship, build trust, and provide a tailored experience, you will spend less time on getting them to sign on the dotted line! Put the time up front in building a real relationship, and it will be paid back in spades. Not only will they buy from you, but they will also refer you!
A relationship is ever evolving, as a customer’s life is a constant evolution, and you must continue to work on and develop the relationships with your customers. People go through life changes, and if you want a customer for life, you will need to continually evolve the relationship you have with them so you can keep a pulse on their ever-changing wants and needs.
The Change is not Easy, but Necessary
Breaking the stigma of automotive retail is the key to its future success. Customers want and need to feel understood by the Sales Associate, they need to trust their dealership, and the experience they receive must compete with the Starbucks of the world. It will be an uphill battle to break this current stigma. However, it can be done.
Robert Parker explains the challenge with this new way of thinking “it’s like teaching a pitcher to throw left-handed after they have thrown right-handed their whole life.” He continued to say “Dealerships are used to a certain way.” This new thought process “was about getting the customers settled and comfortable. It has to be a courtship.”
Get to know your customers on a personal level. Create a real relationship with them, and use the beautiful details you uncover to tailor the experience you provide them in your dealership.