Defining Your Digital Road to the Sale

The Road to the Sale has been the blueprint for sales success in the car biz since…well…forever. However, there’s one little problem with this process — it can’t start until you have a customer standing right there with you in your showroom. As we’re still dealing with uncertainty as it relates to COVID-19, more people than ever are looking to complete most of their car shopping process on your website, not in your showroom.

In order to meet your customer where they are, you’re going to need to harness your digital ecosystem to create a modern retail experience that seamlessly moves people further down the path to purchase. Having the right tools and tech on your website is just the first step. To truly turn your platform into a deal closing machine, you’ll need to define your Digital Road to the Sale.



Digital Road to the Sale: Step 1 the Meet & Greet

As you know, the first step to the in-store sales process is the Meet & Greet. This is pretty simple right? This is moment when a salesperson and customer meet for the first time on the lot or in the showroom and engage in some small talk (what brought you in today?).

What you may not realize however is the online version of the Meet & Greet begins with your advertising and digital marketing efforts, and continues on your website through your related content and tools that’ll help a shopper more effectively shop for a car.

You can even showcase your top-rated salespeople on your VDPs and let your shoppers choose who they want to work with at your dealership with Salesperson Connect from DealerRater®, increasing the likelihood that they’ll choose your dealership for their vehicle needs.



Digital Road to the Sale: Step 2 Needs Analysis

After the Meet & Greet, the next step is the Needs Analysis. But with the online version of this step, the customer isn’t answering a salesperson’s questions — instead they’re on your

website engaging with your inventory, selecting the options and features they need or would like to have. They can even start answering their own “Can I Afford It?” question with your digital retailing solution.

While all the steps to the sale are important, this one is crucial because if a visitor can’t quickly and easily answer their own most important questions about pricing, options and availability, then they’re just going to bounce and continue their search elsewhere.



Digital Road to the Sale: Step 3 The Walkaround

Next up is The Walkaround. Ok, I know what you’re thinking. How the heck can you do a proper walkaround if the customer isn’t there in your showroom?

While the digital version of the Road to the Sale isn’t necessarily in the same order as the in store version, there’s definitely a 1:1 offline to online correlation for each step.

The easiest way to do a walkaround is with a Live Video chat. Imagine a customer who finds a vehicle they like in your inventory and starts a chat to ask about availability. If someone at your dealership was handling that chat, they could invite the customer into a video conversation to show them in real-time their exact vehicle of interest on the lot.

If you have a lead that you can’t connect with in real-time, then you can certainly go out to the lot and record a personalized walkaround for them and text it to them. Or if you want to get really fancy, you can add a Request Virtual Walkaround CTA to your VDPs that will instantly launch a virtual appointment with someone from your team via Conversations™.



Digital Road to the Sale: Step 4 Test Drive

For the in-store process, The Walkaround is important because it’s meant to ensure that the salesperson has selected the proper vehicle for the customer that meets their stated needs, wants & desires, in addition to getting the customer excited about driving it.

But we’re online now, so how do you make this step happen? Test Drives or Review videos — especially if they’re dealer produced — are great assets to use in this stage.

Ever since COVID-19 hit, we’ve seen car shoppers watching more videos than ever. The average shopper now watches 19 videos prior to making a purchase — the vast majority of which are walkaround and review style videos.

So whether you’re sharing a video from your YouTube Channel via chat, or are sending a link to your prospect in a text or email message — you can give your customer that test drive feel right on their phone.

The great part is, just like if you were on an actual test drive with a customer, you can even go for a trial close by following up and asking a questions like “Did you like what you saw? Want to get behind the wheel for yourself?  How about I bring one over to your place so you can take it for a drive and see if it lives up to your expectations?”.



Digital Road to the Sale: Step 5 Trade-In Evaluation

The in-store Trade-In Evaluation step is a little fluid and can sometimes take place during the test drive, that way the Used Car Manager has ample time to appraise the customer’s current vehicle while your customer is out on the road falling in love with the car they’re test driving.

With the digital version of the Road to the Sale, this step is self-guided by the consumer on your website. Whether it’s through a 3rd party plugin on your website, through an automated Trade-In flow within Conversations™, or at the trade-in stage of Online Shopper™— there should ample opportunity for your website visitor to get a real idea of what their vehicle is worth and incorporate that into their deal.



Digital Road to the Sale: Step 6 Numbers Presentation

The digital equivalent of the Numbers Presentation — which normally follows the test drive during the in-store process — probably already happened on your website before you even connected with your customer via chat, text or email.

It’s important that we don’t understate how the vast majority of car shoppers need to understand if they can afford their vehicle of interest in a meaningful and relevant way prior to contacting a dealership.

Your Digital Retailing Solution is positioned to facilitate the Numbers Presentation in the online Road to the Sale process. Giving your customers the ability to be in control of the experience, and manipulate the terms and numbers to their liking will ultimately give them confidence to continue and finalize their shopping journey with your dealership.


STEP 7: F & I

Digital Road to the Sale: Step 7 F&I

When it comes to F&I product penetration, the most successful dealers at generating additional back end gross don’t wait until the customer is in the F&I office to present those products the first time. Quite the opposite! It’s a part of the sales process where the salesperson is mentioning and endorsing these things during walkarounds and test drives, that way when the customer is presented with your offerings, they’ve already heard about them and are aware of the general benefits.

You can accomplish the same thing online by making sure the benefits of your F&I product offerings are explained in detail on your website. Publish detailed content pieces explaining your extended warranties, wheel & tire packages, appearance protection, GAP insurance, and your other available products. Not only will these pages help educate customers already on your website, but it can also create organic entrances to your website for people who are searching on Google and Bing for related information.

You can also make your F&I products available as upgrades within your digital retailing tool, giving customers the ability to discover what those additional warranties and coverages are, why they’re important, and how much they cost.



Digital Road to the Sale: Step 8 Delivery

When it comes time to finalize purchase and take delivery, there are a there are going to be a few docs that require a wet signature, so the digital version of this step would be allowing your customers to schedule a convenient at-home delivery experience.

Remember, the goal of a modern retailing experience isn’t just to “get a lead”, it’s to make your entire digital platform more transactional. Recent consumer sentiment is also showing that this is exactly the type of experience they want when buying a car.

61% of recent car buyers said they would want their newly purchased car delivered at home from their local dealership.

DealerRater consumer survey Sept. 2020
Now I get it. Not every dealer may have embraced the idea of at-home delivery. That said, just imagine what a customer is going to tell their neighbors, friends, and co-workers. “I just bought a car totally online. Never had to visit the dealership, and they just made it so easy!” That’s the kind of word of mouth praise that’s priceless.



Digital Road to the Sale: Step 9 Follow Up

Of course, what happens after the sale is just as important as what happens during the sale because if you do this step right, you’ll eventually bring your customer all the way back to the very first step.

When it comes to Follow Up, you’re trying to accomplish multiple goals. First up, following up via text message is going to be much more effective for you over email or phone calls in terms of maintaining regular contact with your customer that can improve service retention and overall loyalty.

Why text? Well, I could throw you a stat here that says 80% of people won’t answer a phone call coming from a number they don’t recognize, but instead I’ll just ask you this: how many text messages did you send today? And how many phone calls did you take?

The more immediate goal of the Follow Up step is to check in on your customer, make sure they’re thrilled with their buying experience, and then ask them to leave a review for your dealership. It’s of the utmost importance that your dealership is receiving a steady stream of fresh, positive reviews because it’s only the most recent ones that make an impact with other in-market shoppers who are searching for a place to buy their next vehicle.



Want to learn more about creating your digital Road to the Sale process, along with tips to making the entire experience easy for both you and your customers? Check out our Online to the Sale Webinar where you’ll get all that and more.

Darren Haygood

Meet Darren Haygood

Darren brings 20+ years of automotive experience from vendor, OEM, and dealer levels to Dealer Inspire and is recognized as an industry leader who pushes for continuous progress in the digital marketplace. An avid speaker at automotive events across North America, Darren passionately advocates for innovation and real-world solutions in the automotive industry, aiming to enhance experiences for dealers and customers alike. Outside of the office he loves to run, golf, and spend time with his four children.

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