Could you use a tool that identifies where prospects are in the purchase funnel and increases the likelihood they’ll set – and keep – an appointment? Online credit applications may be the answer. Learn how you can use secure credit applications to drive more traffic and streamline the sales process.

Why Buyers Use Secure Credit Applications

Automotive shopping sites such as Cars.com offer secure credit application products that integrate with your listings. These forms allow shoppers to begin working toward the purchase of a specific car or indicate their interest in learning more about the financing and vehicle options you have available. Either way, you know these prospects are serious about buying a vehicle and close to making a purchase decision.

“What they want to do is make the sales process as quick and painless as possible so they can minimize their time at the dealership,” said Ralph Ebersole, Cars.com’s director of automotive consulting and dealer training.

What happens if a person has poor or less-than-ideal credit? A sale is still possible, though you may have to request a higher down payment, pursue special financing or, if your store offers it, suggest a buy-here, pay-here option. The advantage for you is that you understand at the outset how much the prospect can afford to spend and which vehicles at your dealership are viable choices. You also save the time you otherwise would have spent with shoppers looking at cars they ultimately won’t be able to take home and spare the customer from a potentially embarrassing, frustrating experience.

How Secure Credit Applications Help Land the Appointment

To drive optimal results from your credit application, include it in your sales process. When customers call about one of your listings, encourage them to go online and view the actual ad so you can discuss the vehicle in detail. This step both ensures you are providing information on the correct vehicle and provides you with a natural opening to direct the buyer’s attention to the link for the credit application.

What if the shopper’s inquiry arrives via email? Respond as you normally would, only be sure to include a link to the secure credit application and explain how it can expedite the sales process and help the customer spend less time at the dealership.

“This approach is far better than sitting back and waiting for secure credit applications to trickle in,” Ebersole said. “Dealers tell us it increases lead submissions and identifies ready-to-buy shoppers who keep their appointments.”

What Next? Bring Your A-Game and Don’t Assume the Sales

Respond to online credit applicants as soon as possible. Prospects will appreciate knowing you’ve received their application and that you’re ready to provide the attention and service they want. Keep in mind that these shoppers have given you sensitive information: Failing to reply or delaying your response signals a lack of interest in the business and squanders an opportunity to build rapport and earn buyers’ trust.

Although the buyer’s intent may seem clear, don’t skip ahead in your procedures and attempt to sell the car during your initial outreach. As with every prospect, your focus at this stage remains on answering questions, qualifying the shopper and setting the appointment. Resisting the temptation to rush ahead helps to keep you in control and minimizes the risk of a mistake made in haste that jeopardizes the deal. As much as car buyers want to expedite the shopping process, they don’t want to be steamrolled by an aggressive salesperson eager to make a quick commission.

When responding, be sure to continue to merchandise the vehicle, calling attention to its unique and noteworthy features, and sell the value of buying from your store. You’ll also want to qualify the customer, both to demonstrate your commitment to helping find the right match and to win repeat or referral business. Asking these questions helps to create a genuine dialog during which you can suggest an appointment or alternative cars that might be a better fit. You could say, for example:

  • This sounds like the car for you. If you’re ready to schedule a test drive, I could have it washed and ready to go as soon as you arrive. Is 6:15 or 6:30 p.m. this afternoon more convenient for you to visit the store?
  • I wonder if you’ve considered [Option A] or [Option B]. Based on what I’m hearing about your current and anticipated needs, these choices seem worth considering. When you come in to test drive the [Original Choice], I could also have them washed and ready to go once you get here. Would a morning, afternoon or evening appointment work best for your schedule?
  • Is it that one specific vehicle you are looking for or the nicest one like it?

Maximize the Opportunity

Armed with a completed secure credit application, you have a full picture of the prospect. Not only do you have his or her contact information, but you also know exactly how much he or she can afford. This insight positions you to deliver in-depth service, whether you work to move used-car shoppers to a new model with all of the features and amenities they wanted or to save the sale by directing a new-car prospect to a less expensive, similarly equipped certified used alternative.

“Car buyers who submit a secure credit application give you a unique opening: ‘I’m in the market. Help me buy a car.'” Ebersole said. “It is a rock-solid appointment, and very few customers will cancel or not come in.”

Additional Resources

Looking for additional tips you can implement in your store today to drive more traffic with your online advertising and desk more deals with your internet sales processes? Check out Cars.com’s DealerCenter. Here, you can read previous editions of our DealerADvantage newsletter or listen to archived recordings of our DealerADvantage Live webinar series.