dealership sales process, communication preferences, lead handling processAll things being equal, most dealerships prefer to have potential customers contact them on the phone or submit an email lead before visiting the showroom – and it’s obvious why. Connecting directly with shoppers lets dealerships control the sales process and provides an extended opportunity to market to customers, even beyond the point of purchase.

But it usually doesn’t work that way.

Half of consumers don’t believe there’s value in contacting a dealership prior to visiting, with most citing it as an unnecessary step in the car buying process. Others prefer more private means of communication like chat and text messaging. What’s more, increased smartphone ownership across all demographics has only extended this gap, forcing dealerships to adapt.

Reconciling defined sales processes with new consumer trends can be difficult, but rather than push customers to communicate in ways that might be uncomfortable to them, it’s important to work with your team to meet shoppers on their own terms.

Be Present To Win

When it comes to emerging communication channels, the biggest opportunity – one that’s often missed – comes from simply being present. If your dealership isn’t available to customers through chat, text and other mobile-centric platforms, it’s missing out on a growing audience of car shoppers. To get started, take inventory of the communication channels you have at your disposal, including the text and chat features available on Cars.com, and assign members of your team to start managing the ones that are most relevant. Work to be “online” every single day.

Account For Alternatives

If a shopper prefers to have an email or text conversation instead of calling your dealership, by all means let them. Being overly aggressive or insisting to switch mediums (i.e., “You’ll have to call us”) can drive would-be buyers away and promptly end conversations. As an alternative, build new steps into existing sales processes to account for all types of communication. That way, you can audible on the fly while continuing to build rapport with shoppers.

Track Conversations Across Channels

It’s common for shoppers to bounce between research tools, dealership contacts and communication channels in the weeks leading up to purchase. For example, an individual may begin a chat conversation on Cars.com, reach out the next day over text, and then finally call the dealership a week later before visiting. By monitoring conversations across channels through a CRM tool or other system, your dealership can track interactions, cut out redundancies and provide a more personalized buying experience.

Though not every process can change, keeping consumers at the forefront of decisions and respecting communication at every step along the way will ultimately lead to happier customers and long-term success for your dealership. For more mobile communication tips, check out our recent blog post, 6 Smartphone-Friendly Best Practices To Increase Your Dealership’s Show Rate.