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Lessons in Online Engagement from Car Salespeople

May 3, 2010

Recently I went through one of the most joyous experiences a person will survive–buying a new car. It was a sad day, but it was time for the Silver Bullet our 01 VW Beetle to go. So, enter the wonderful world of car dealers…yeah.

Being a techno-geek I turned to the venerable Internet for guidance. In my searching I ran across a sweet sited called True Car. Nice interface. Simple with a lot of easy-to-digest information. True Car told me there are three dealers in my area with the car we’re looking for. Let the fun begin.

Lesson 1: Surprise. In a good way.

Having bought three cars from dealers I was a bit cynical going into this process. The Dealer #3’s response lived up to my lowered expectations. He wouldn’t honor the online price, so I guess the low price was just to fish for leads. Dealer #3 was out of the story before it began. The next two (Dealer #1 & 2) were nice and easy to work with. They were very personable and put me at ease during what is typically a stressful situation–basically the opposite of my expecations.

Lesson 2: Never forget you’re courting them. Not the other way around.

Your customer may have sought you out, but the onus is still on you, the brand representative, to follow through. Make their concerns yours. Create action to keep moving forward all the while being a real person from the first lesson. In my car buying experience Dealer #1 fell off the map. I couldn’t get her to respond to phone calls or emails for nearly two weeks. So I wrote her off and dealt with car dealer #2.

Lesson 3:  Remember you’re dealing with the online world.

Look, be honest with your business. Chances are there’s a reason why this person isn’t coming in to a physical location (assuming you have one.) It may be something as simple as saving time, but you need to be aware of these concerns and address them. In this case it’s because they don’t enjoy going to car dealerships so don’t start acting like a car dealer. After negotiating the price that’s exactly what car dealer #2 did–he started playing games with low-balling us on the trade-in.

So, when Dealer #1, who had previously gone AWOL, showed up with the exact car for the perfect price + good price for our trade-in it was a no-brainer to go with her. Just as the Internet makes it easy for your consumers to contact you, it’s just as easy for them to contact your competitors, too.

In the end, we got Bruce, a 2010 Hyundai Tucson and a lesson in online engagement.

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