TGI Saturday!

We are always talking about the ebb and flow of the motor trade and how seasonal adjustments can directly affect people’s buying habits. We also know that these same seasonalities drive how much car buyers are likely to have to pay as a result of making a buying decision at the right or indeed the wrong time.

It is interesting to note that in these days of businesses competing to give customers more, the motor trade finds itself in a place which affects how they engage with potential customers and in a way that is completely different than it was not so long ago.

For example, without going back to all our yesterdays, “less is more” was probably the mantra preached to sales execs. The idea being that you only gave prospective buyers as much information that was needed to hook them into visiting the showroom, where the magic would be spun and the customer captive in the sales execs house.

Today however customers want, and indeed can get, much more information regarding any car they are interested in, from any dealer and any price comparison with any monthly payment at the click of a mouse, whereby in the past the same exercise could end up taking several days and then only for the truly committed.

The conundrum for the car dealer is that in order to sell cars they still need customers in the showroom yet if they don’t give enough information they might never see the customer. However if they do provide every last detail about a car the buyer can use it to leverage a deal with a competitor. This partly explains why unique cars are fetching such a premium price as there is much less to compare with and gives the dealer an edge in terms of retaining the control, so long as the uniqueness of the car is also aligned to its desirability.

We now see even the smallest car dealers having fantastic websites and the marketing and presentation of car stock has become more important than ever and, ironically, often costing only a fraction of the money spent on old fashioned print advertising. Having cars with 10 images and a description detailing every last item of spec down to the coat hooks is what customers require in order to accelerate the buying process. Having access to all this info before they need to visit the showroom is certainly changing the dynamics of the used car business. In fact it could still go further as in the US many dealers provide scanned images of a cars service record which is viewable, again, at the click of the mouse.

Since I can remember the weekends and especially Saturdays, have always been THE days to sell cars and sales execs target Saturdays to ensure that they achieve their overall objectives and earn the big commission cheques. The sales managers will always be heard saying “big weekend needed guys” or “last big push this weekend”. Indeed I vividly remember sitting in the sales office until 9pm on a Friday night trying to ensure that i had a minimum of 5 qualified appointments for the weekend or my boss would just say “don’t bother coming in this weekend and leave your car keys on the table it’s a bus ride home for you”. Such was the importance placed on weekend dealing it hardly seemed worth being there the rest of the week except to build traffic for the weekend.

This for many of the reasons I’ve already alluded to, is changing. Greater access to better quality information both in description, detail and financial comparisons means that, even in the busy lives of customers, car buyers no longer have to use their weekend leisure time sitting in a showroom buying a car. They can do it via the internet and email and with greater flexibility of opening hours can visit the showroom after work or during a lunch break to complete the formalities.

Although the weekend trade has not completely flat lined it is interesting that more car dealers look at the weekly picture in terms of sales and far less reliant on weekends to achieve targets.

Having said all that no sales exec in the land would ever be allowed to take Saturday as a day off unless they had died and as a result with all sales execs having to cram in days off from Monday to Friday we often see showrooms understaffed during the week and lost sales a result and 2 sales execs for every customer at the weekend.

It is likely that, in the interests of the business, the customers and also the sales execs, weekends will increasingly be seen as normal working days and therefore dealers will adopt a far more reasonable process to allow days off and have happier staff who are more engaged and refreshed by doing normal weekend activities.

Businesses will be more able to cope by having more staff in the premises to look after customers who are likely to come into showrooms at far more random times as a result of the changing world.

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