In mid-2021, when it became apparent that inventory shortages would be a long-term problem, how many people predicted that auto dealers would have one of their most profitable years ever? To their credit, dealers quickly adapted to market conditions; in addition to raising margins, they cut back on staffing, marketing and other operational expenses.
But what happens when inventory levels return to normal? Dealers everywhere will be asking the same questions. Do we staff up and ramp up marketing spend? Or, is there a way to do more with less?
The reality is, staffing will remain an issue for many auto dealers. Continued inventory shortages combined with a labor shortage won’t make things any easier in 2022. But dealerships that can leverage technology may not need to return to pre-pandemic staffing levels. Here are a few ways that technology can help to increase your sales team’s productivity.
The Neverending Workplan!
How productive are your salespeople when they log into the CRM every morning and the first thing they see is a list of 100+ tasks to complete? The average BDC user knows many of those tasks are not effective, and they will have wasted a large portion of their day fishing in a pond where they know the fish are not biting. Then, tomorrow they will see a new list of the same tasks piled on top of the current list. Things haven’t changed much in 30 years of CRM.
Eventually, nature takes its course, and your sales team is likely to procrastinate and cherry-pick tasks they know they need to prioritize. Salespeople eventually burn out and we’re left hiring another round of great talent to take them through the workplan gauntlet. And the insanity continues.
Isn’t there a better way?
The Power of the Pipeline.
Think differently! THROW OUT your WORKPLAN. And instead, focus on a solution that places all your biting fish right in front of your net each and every day. Today’s car shoppers are spending fewer days in the market. So, what’s the point of a workplan that does not help move the customer along your sales pipeline quickly?
Changing from a workplan task-based management system to a deal-focused pipeline approach improves how you look at your customers and prioritize your sales staff’s precious time. With the pipeline, you’re able to keep your entire sales team organized, on the same page and working from the same sheet of music. This saves time, makes your team more efficient, improves visibility and accountability, but most importantly, increases deliveries!
Pipeline data is all on one screen, so you don’t have to dig elsewhere. In addition, it helps sales staff understand what the top priorities should be. For example, if you have 20 opportunities but only 12 of those opportunities are actively engaged in productive conversations, appointments or sales, then why bother with the other 8? An artificial intelligence (AI) assistant can warm up those opportunities and notify you they’re ready for human outreach.
Pipeline data gives you quick visibility of sales activities and essential details such as how each opportunity wants to communicate. It identifies where they are in the sales cycle and what actions are needed to move along the car buying process – all in one central screen. And when store leaders and managers have at-a-glance access to sales activities and conversations, they are able to coach in real-time as deals are happening, instead of learning about an issue after it’s too late.
Focusing on your sales pipeline not only increases productivity, but your salespeople will be forever grateful for not having to start every day feeling stressed because they know they can’t get through their task list.
Conversational Artificial Intelligence (AI)
We all know automotive retail can’t happen without conversations. And, today’s digital shoppers expect fast communication using the same channels they use to connect with friends and family. So how can you increase outreach and productivity, while reducing response times without the expense of additional staff? Conversational artificial intelligence (AI) gives dealerships a cost-effective resource to manage repetitive communications that can hamper salesperson productivity.
How does it work? Powerful, human-like virtual assistants expand sales force capacity to engage in real-time conversations 24/7, day or night. So that dealers can automate and scale interactions without the expense of adding staff.
Conversational AI technology is not a simple robotic butler. But instead, a one-stop-shop for an intelligent digital workforce that follows up automatically and nurtures leads, helping to bring customers down the funnel faster than a typical sales staff can accomplish – best of all, it requires no sleep, breaks or time off.
Continuing to invest in old-fashion business models that hire live persons to handle these repetitive daily tasks doesn't scale. Instead, conversational AI with human-like agents holds automated, contextual conversations for a fraction of the cost.
Think about it. On average, a BDC agent can handle 150 leads per month. With an army of AI assistants, your capacity to handle leads is unlimited, boosting BDC production and efficiency. In addition, an AI-enhanced journey lets you compete against emerging companies like Carvana and win more customers by avoiding fragmented experiences.
As inventory levels normalize, dealers will be faced with a difficult question. Do they hire more salespeople, or can their current sales team do more with less? Leveraging technology can go a long way towards increasing productivity without having to shortchange the customer experience.