Death of the car salesman? – Customers become brand experts

Are car sales staff turning into glorified till operators?

The internet has turned car-buying customers into brand experts who already know what they’re buying before they even set foot on the forecourt.

That’s the opinion of one of the England’s leading lease car specialists which has found increasing numbers of buyers are doing their own research right down to optional extras, with the trip to the garage for a test drive being their last step in the purchasing process, or even in somecases no test drive been undertaken at all..

Flexed.co.uk finds that customers are visiting far fewer dealerships before making their purchases, and often know the exact model and deal they want when they arrive.

“Does this mean that the days of the car salesman are numbered?” asks Flexed.co.uk ‘s Johnny Ratcliffe. “Not necessarily so – they still fill an important function for many potential buyers.”

Flexed.co.uk says that almost universal internet access means that more potential car buyers are making up their minds at home and only head out to make a purchase after thorough research.

Research by US company Homestead shows that 44% of customers always research major purchases online before buying from a physical store; while German analytical company Interone says that “Research online, bought offline” is significantly widespread in the retail world.

“Big data, review websites, downloadable brochures and price comparisons mean that a lot of people come armed with not only the exact car they want, but also expecting a deal they’ve seen on the internet,” says Robin.

“It looks at first glance that the expert salesperson is out of a job, but that’s not the case,” he says.

With studies showing that multiple visits to car dealerships are declining, Flexed.co.uk says it’s important to a great web presence, without it your brand wont even be on the customers radar.

Research company McKinsey found that buyers now only visit an average of 1.6 dealerships before making a decision, compared with five dealerships a decade ago.

“What these new habits are doing is making sales people better at selling,” Johnny Ratcliffe said. “People who talk to us having already researched their new car can have their purchase refined by sales staff with extensive knowledge, pointing them towards a model or options that are a better fit for their budget and lifestyle.”

Flexed.co.uk says that sales staff still have to be expert at dealing with ‘cold’ customers coming in from the street, using skills and experience to make a sale. Despite the trend for online research, more than half of sales are still initiated from initial contact made “in real life”.

“Buying a new car is a major investment for most customers,” says Johnny, “You have to build a trusting relationship to convince buyers that your money is safe with our product line.

“We still need the skills to sell the right car based on age, gender and financial background, and then retain their trust through premier after-sales care.”

Flexed.co.uk says this new age of the more informed customer can only be a good thing. The company is the UK’s number one short term car lease company, and online reputation is a major driver of this success.

“New buying habits mean we have to be the best at what we do. That means the best deals and the best after-sales for every single Flexed.co.uk customer.”