Turn your dealership’s sales process upside down… literally

As vehicle inventories slowly return to a new normal over the course of this year, dealership competition will again intensify.  The focus over the past two years of pandemic has been the creation of e-lead/digital sales processes.  However, not as many customers shifted to an end-to-end digital experience as was anticipated at the early beginning of the pandemic.  The showroom experience is still in vogue and many dealerships are experiencing robust “walk-in” customer traffic as customers are excited to be out and about and experiencing human interaction – even with a dose of gratitude.  The showroom sales experience is far from dead, but its current look needs to be re-examined, if not turned upside down.

For the past 40 years the showroom sales process has looked something like this (or a close proximity):


  1. Meet & Greet
  2. Counsel & Qualify
  3. Vehicle Selection
  4. Vehicle Presentation
  5. Vehicle Demonstration Drive
  6. Trade-In Appraisal
  7. Dealership Tour
  8. Close the Sale
  9. F&I Office

Consider the following upending…

Move the Trade-In Appraisal to STEP #1 as part of the Meet & Greet.

Offer a trade-in appraisal minutes into your dealership’s sales process; “Matt, Laura, I will have your vehicle professionally appraised. It’s FREE and there’s no obligation. I’m sure that you want a firm value on your vehicle before you leave. We would also like the opportunity to buy your vehicle even if you don’t buy one of ours.”  Now, please don’t jump to conclusions and paint me as a naive school teacher – far from it. I am not advocating simply dedicating resources to a full appraisal and then handing the customer a valuation like a DQ Dilly Bar coupon.  No, I am suggesting that we begin the trade-in appraisal process as early as possible so the appraiser has the time to do a proper physical examination and road test as well as the time to utilize the technology tools provided by the dealership such as v-Auto, Trade Rev, etc.  The trade-in value can be dispensed to the customer later in the sale as part of a proposal, complete with multiple payment options.  Both customers and sales consultants alike are frustrated with sales processes where appraisals are completed 30 – 45 minutes AFTER a demonstration drive – enthusiasm and momentum are lost on all sides.

Also consider offering a Finance Pre-Approval Service as part of your STEP #2.  Since 92% of all transactions are payment-based, why not offer a service to address this early in the sale as opposed to at the end of the sale?  You offer it to customer on your website before they arrive at the dealership, so why not consider offering it once at the dealership early in their visit.  This would entail having the customer complete a mini or “fast track” credit application (either paper or tablet) when they first sit down with the sales consultant at their work station.  Finance Pre-Approval Services are welcomed and appreciated by so many customers; it is a chance for credit-challenged customers to discuss their situation and be handed over to a specialist.  Moreover, there are significant numbers of customers that have excellent credit that are very nervous about the entire credit-decisioning process and have many questions.  Most people today wouldn’t even consider shopping for a home unless they had a mortgage pre-approval in place.

Consider moving the Vehicle Demonstration Drive before the Vehicle Presentation.  Today’s new vehicles have become iPhones on wheels and customers are hungry for all of the new, cool tech, luxurious interiors and incredible ride quality and driving dynamics.  Don’t hold your customers back!  Following a beneficial Discovery session (and Finance Pre-Approval Service?), transition them into a sales consultant-accompanied Demonstration Drive and build the anticipation and excitement!  A modernized 8 – 10-minute Express Vehicle Presentation can be completed at a quiet, scenic driver change point during the Vehicle Demonstration Drive, or following the drive once back at the dealership.  A well practiced, choreographed Express Vehicle Presentation is the icing on the cake and will have sales consultants truly stand out from the crowd (most dealerships and sales consultants do NOT facilitate any kind of vehicle presentation).

Consider moving the Dealership Tour to being part of the Vehicle Delivery process.  Most sales consultants don’t want to do this anyway and pay lip service to actually doing it.  It slows the momentum of a sale.  There is certainly value in familiarizing customers with the facilities, amenities and services offered, but the timing during traditional sales processes is simply awkward and outdated.

Hence, an updated (express-style, condensed), upside down sales process may look a little bit like this:

  1. Guest Welcome & Trade-In Appraisal
  2. Discovery (Needs Assessment & Relationship)

2b. Finance Pre-Approval Service

  • Vehicle Demonstration Drive
  • Vehicle Presentation
  • Payment Solutions

I have merely grazed the surface of an enormous piece of subject matter to whet the appetite and hopefully stimulate some critical thinking.  If you would like to discuss or debate this subject in more depth, I would love to connect with you.

Chris Schulthies is the president of Toronto-based Wye Management. Wye Management provides sales and management training (showroom and digital) for dealerships, dealer groups, OEMs and industry suppliers in Canada and the U.S.


About The Business Office

President of F-I Resource and a National Trainer and Consultant for Wye Management:
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