The Experts Have Spoken: Friction Has No Place in the Sales Process

By Desiree Homer

Dealers are digging in and surging forward in the new year by embracing innovative ideas and strategies that improve operations. It’s time for the rebound and refresh of everything from online sales to at-home vehicle delivery. Our expert conversations as part of the Dealer News Today Podcast have been looking to explore how dealers have adapted over the last several months and highlight how the most successful are finding their paths forward.

One aspect that continues to be a topic of discussion is the sales process. As a dealer owner, you see just how much has changed, including your vendor communications and even software platforms. With all these new players at the table, Emil Banga, Associate Vice President of Operations for Dealertrack F&I Solutions, says the key to streamlining the sales process is removing the friction. He talks about digital contracts as one way to eliminate friction, in allowing customers to execute their car deals virtually. And expanding on these digital solutions and removing barriers, dealers can explore other ways to improve system integration, the customer buying journey and ultimately eliminate friction for the entire sales process.

What Does It Mean to Have a Frictionless Sales Process?

When the experts talk about frictionless selling, what do they mean? This new way of thinking is the latest trend in finding convenient experiences for both car buyers and the dealers selling. It’s connecting all the various players in a way that is entirely seamless. Imagine executing a vehicle sale, from initial online interest to the F&I process and delivery, with one fluid motion despite the various partners involved. For example, is there a way to reduce friction between your online listing software, trade-in valuation partners, lending colleagues, digital contracts, and warranty products? There is a way to achieve frictionless selling. Some experts suggest there are effectively three stages to getting there.

  1. Enable your sales professionals to spend more time doing what they do best – sell.

One of the first phases of your sales process lies with your team of sales professionals. Whether they’re in the office or responding to online leads from home, their job is to connect buyers with the cars they want and close the deal. Many times, there are roadblocks that keep those salespeople from connecting with those car-buying customers. Maybe it’s a slow-loading software that lags when your salesman tries to send a walkaround video. It could be that the buyer is ready to buy but wants a hands-free delivery process that you’re unable to accommodate. What sticking points are your sales teams facing that keeps them from selling cars? And what can you do to help reduce those friction areas? You can begin your frictionless sales efforts here and look for ways to give your teams everything they need to perform the job well. And then get out of their way.

2. Align your sales process with the ideal customer journey preference.

Don’t forget that while you’re looking for ways to make selling easier for your sales teams, you’ll also need to be meeting the needs and preferences of your car buying customers. Another significant friction point lies in dealers losing traction with customers because of operational setbacks. Customers may not want to come into the dealership anymore. To sell a car to that buyer, you’ll need to have a digital process for trade-in valuation, test-drive delivery, contract execution, and vehicle delivery.

3. Transform the results through an ongoing culture of adapting and learning.

When you try to move toward a frictionless framework, it’s equally imperative to remember that this process is ongoing. Dealers can improve their overall operational culture without continuous learning and adaptation to new methods. The pandemic taught everyone how to transition to digital operations and virtual sales delivery practically overnight. It made the industry sharper in that regard. But the lesson is seeing how dealer owners have been able to predict and adjust to keep their funnels seamless and their networks frictionless.

In Episode Four of the Dealer News Today Podcast, Cox Automotive’s Randy Kobat sits down with Jake Sodikoff of Steven Nissan in Harrisburg, VA. It’s a must-listen if you missed the conversation. Jake Sodikoff first talked with Randy Kobat when the pandemic shuttering first began last March. Sodikoff predicted the significance of property used inventory management and advised dealers to buy up inventory and start offering at-home deliveries. Sodikiff talks now about predictions for 2021 and what dealers should be doing to prepare for the most enhanced customer experience. Right now, that customer experience demands digital engagement, effortless transactions, and at-home delivery options.

The Digital Movement Continues

Digital retailing continues to evolve, and more dealers are adopting virtual services. Websites and listing services aren’t just selling cars, either. Dealers are finding ways to digitally guide and assist consumers through the entire car-buying process. Assisting the customer in real-time and through every step means merging conversational commerce and retailing into the same experience.

The Hybrid Sales Journey & Buying Process

While there are car buyers who want either an entirely remote experience or an in-person one, most customers will fall in between the two extremes. The hybrid shopping journey involves shopping online, getting a trade-in value online, and then coming into test drive the car or take delivery. Dealers might notice friction that needs improvement during the journey for these hybrid buyers. For example, when customers like these come in to meet with a salesperson, do they have to start all over with the process, or can they seamlessly move forward with the test drive and car purchase? Merging into a hybrid operation might mean finding a way to connect your salespeople to the customer’s already established online journey. Sales can then take the baton from the online journey, where the car buyer leaves off before coming into the showroom and meet the customer precisely where need be in the process.

Friction at the Trade-In Payoff Level

Your customer comes in, ready to put his hands on the car he’s already priced online. He knows what he’s trading in and tells your salesperson that he’s prepared to negotiate. But now, before moving forward with number crunching, your team needs to find out if there’s a payoff amount for the trade-in and try to secure financing options and interest rates. A call to the bank and a reconfiguring of the numbers can sometimes take hours. And now you have to figure out how to close the deal knowing the customer is upside down more than $5,000. Is there a more efficient way to reduce this friction in the sales process?

Automotive News recently shared an example provided by Asbury Automotive Group, Inc. This dealer group partnered with Gubagoo to develop what they call “Clicklane” for online car buyers. There is a tool that allows customers to plug in either their trade-in VIN or license plate and, within seconds, learn the payoff amount entirely online. A digital price and deal are then calculated, precise, and to the penny, so the customer knows all the numbers before making the next move. This innovative retailing tool takes more than an hour of time and frustration out the sales process. And the customers aren’t frustrated with the dealership when they see the upside-down numbers online before visiting the retailer.

Who Benefits from a Frictionless Sales Environment?

Your ability to reduce friction in the sales process will yield immediate results and benefits. Your sales teams will be empowered to close more deals with fewer issues. Your managers will find desking deals to be more efficient, making funnels and goals more accurate to predict. Communications between lender partners and F&I are streamlined for quick decisions and contract execution. And, of course, your car buying customers will appreciate the effortless and thoughtful engagement that puts them in control and the driver’s seat.

With the various new processes that you adopted over the last year, consider targeting friction areas that might still be holding back your sales. Dealers are quickly recognizing that there is no place for friction in sales operations. Not addressing your friction areas could be costing your dealership car deals.