Our pals over at Hubspot, have released their long-anticipated Inbound Sales Methodology along with amazing (and free) training. But before you take off to learn everything about Inbound Sales, let’s take a quick look at what it is, and how it can help your dealership sell more!
What Is Inbound Sales?
In its simplest form, Inbound Sales is all about talking to customers who are “in-market”. The official marketing description would be something like “engaging with potential customers in a personalized way and to those who are actively involved in a defined stage of the buying funnel.”
In practice what this means is that rather than ‘cold calling’ prospects and trying to sell them a car whether they need it or not, because you notice that it’s been 5 years since they last bought and you have a gut feeling they want to hear from you. Instead attention is shifted towards customers who are actively looking for a vehicle, and who perhaps just need to be made aware that you have a vehicle that’s perfect for their needs.
Today, automotive research is so easily done that most car buyers are empowered with information about the various aspects of a vehicle, (what they consider it to be worth, the body type, and more) long before they set foot on the showroom floor. I mean think about it, your entire inventory is available for all the world to see on the web so the chances are the buyer will already have narrowed down their selection prior to getting to you.
Inbound Sales recognizes that there has been this shift in power between the buyer and seller. As the buyer now has control of the purchasing relationship thanks to their research, it is the dealer’s role to convince the buyer that their dealership is the one worth buying from.
The focus of Inbound Sales is about matching your proposition, not just the car, to the needs of the buyer. This involves building up a personal relationship with them and talking to them how they want and when they want.
The Inbound Selling Philosophy
There are 2 philosophies that are at the heart of Inbound Sales and they are;
- Inbound sales teams base their entire sales strategy on the buyer rather than the seller.
- Inbound sales teams personalize the entire sales experience to the buyer’s context.
These seem relatively straightforward and a common sense approach to car sales but what it requires is a move away from traditional sales tactics towards a more empathy driven organic approach.
If we look at this in more detail, the traditional sales model is focussed around processes, for example.
- Potential buyer enters the showroom
- You qualify with a series of canned questions
- Take the car for a test drive
- Close the deal
In some scenarios this model may still work but an Inbound Sales technique places greater emphasis on understanding the buying behaviour, what the customers expectations and perceptions are and the decisions they need to make
This involves salespeople being trained to approach sales from the buyer’s perspective rather than as a tick box exercise. One way of doing this is to ask yourself the following questions.
- What criteria do buyers use to evaluate the available offerings?
- When buyers investigate your dealership, what do they like about it compared to alternatives? What concerns do they have with your offering?
- Who needs to be involved in the decision? For each person involved, how does their perspective on the decision differ?
- Outside of purchasing, do buyers need to make additional preparations, such as insurance?
This may sound counterintuitive to producing a cost and time efficient sales model but studies have shown that those companies which embrace Inbound Sales realize significant savings on their cost per acquisition.
Put simply, if the salesperson cannot add value beyond the information the buyer can find for themselves then the buyer has no reason to engage with your car dealership.
If they are not engaging with you then they will not buy from you. An Inbound Sales strategy allows your salespeople to add that value.
How Inbound Sales supports the Buyer’s Journey
An Inbound Sales strategy looks to create a supportive sales journey whereby the buyer and the seller feel aligned. In the case of car sales, it’s that both parties want the buyer to purchase a new car, and it’s the seller’s role to provide the opportunity for the buyer to make the purchase in the manner in which they feel most comfortable.
Adapting the journey is fundamental for an Inbound Sales strategy to work. For example. Some buyers will know exactly what they want and the price they are willing to pay, so they are looking for a very transactional journey. Whereas, others may need more support and guidance depending on their needs so it’s more an emotional purchase.
That said, the basic journey is still very much the same and comprises of.
Awareness – With Inbound Sales, the buyer is already aware of the need they have compared with traditional sales techniques where it was the role of the salesperson to tell them of their need. Awareness can be raised through you providing videos, blogs and thought leadership pieces around the car industry as a whole.
Consideration – A buyer will research and look at all the variables and what is available to them. It is at this stage that they start to think about the added value that your dealership provides versus another. This could be a physical attribute such as your location or amount of stock you hold, but more likely it is going to be something intangible such as your customer service ratings and social proof.
Decision – Finally a buyer will reach a decision and within Inbound Sales it is the role of the salesperson to nurture the decision that is right for the buyer.
The Inbound Sales Methodology
The Inbound Sales model is linked directly to the buyer’s journey and is focussed around providing the right type of marketing content at the most appropriate time. The model will be predominantly digitally orientated in the early stages and the first step is to attract the customer.
Attract – During the awareness phase of the journey you need to make your dealership stand out from the crowd. This is achieved by providing content that the buyer needs and which can only be delivered if you fully understand their needs. Content has to be relevant and insightful for otherwise it will not add the value the buyer needs.
Convert – Bridging the awareness and consideration phases you should look to build a stronger relationship with the buyer. It’s all about increasing the trust levels between both parties and has the added bonus of helping to identify customers that are most likely to turn into buyers.
Closing – This has to be done when the buyer is ready and not when a salesperson has a month end target to hit. Pushing a buyer to this stage too early will lose the deal, and going back to what was mentioned earlier, the buyer has to feel comfortable with their decision. It is at this stage that the salesperson can add the greatest value to the buyer.
Legacy Vs. Inbound Sales
Perhaps the easiest way to compare these 2 models is in a table.
|Attract||Try to pull in as many potential buyers as possible and then sell them any car.||Focuses on the buyers’ needs and how you can service them.|
|Convert||Uses a generic elevator pitch to entice the buyer in. Often done through untailored marketing practices.||Tailored messaging around the buyer’s needs to build trust and understanding.|
|Close||Go through the same ‘tick-box’ sales model for each buyer.||Provide a tailored closing programme based on information gathered in the previous phases.|
Moving to an Inbound Sales approach will require a fundamental change in a dealership’s culture but indications from all other industries point towards it being a much more profitable way to approach sales and despite what some vendors would have you believe, there’s no reason that the automotive industry would be any different.
In a world where more and more power is being shifted toward the consumer, where choice for them is everywhere and research is widely available- the old approach of unsolicited, un-targeted and generic marketing practices are no longer suitable. People expect personalized service in almost all their dealings. Inbound Sales is the best way that dealerships can deliver.