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The Rise of Digital Car Sales

Everyone knows that buying a house and a car are two of the largest purchases anyone will ever make in their life. When people are looking for a new home their first stop is the internet before any viewing is made – the same now applies to cars and for sales staff this is a massive change to the way their role is performed.

For years the process of buying a car was a long one that involved visiting numerous showrooms and dealing with many different people. Sales staff had the chance to build long lasting relationships with their customers who would regularly visit the dealerships to view new cars. Today thanks to the internet the car buying process has dramatically changed, so much so that customers know what they want before even stepping foot inside a showroom. According to an Auto Trader study carried out this year the majority of people will have already decided what car they want to purchase before they visit a dealership. As a result sales staff need an enhanced skill set in order to meet customer expectations. Nowadays it’s more than customer service, communication and negotiating skills - while these are still key - they also have to be skilled digital practitioners and understand the intricacies of the products they are selling.

Since the internet came into our lives people have changed the way they buy any products. Before the internet the only way someone could research a product before they made a purchase would be by asking someone they knew who already had a product what it was like. Nowadays though when it comes to buying a car, customers are likely to spend around 3-4 months doing research before making a purchase, and the car showroom is the last part of this research and buying process.

It’s not only the role of the car salesperson that is changing it’s the dealerships too. With many dealerships located in obscure and difficult to reach places, many customers prefer to do their research online in the comfort on their own home. Manufacturers are already coming up with ways for customers to view their cars without having to travel for miles and miles to do so. Hyundai introduced a new concept at Kent’s Bluewater shopping centre last year which allows customers to look at cars on an IPad, there were no sales staff in the store, only advisers. Swedish manufacturers Volvo cut out the dealership and the salesperson altogether when they sold their Special Edition XC90’s online, and they have since announced they plan to do more online sales in the future. This means that all dealerships are going to have to keep up with the constant changing digital landscape, which begins with a well laid out clear and responsive website that customers can easily navigate find what they are looking for.

The all-new Volvo XC90 Special Edition was sold online

With so many changes to the way people are searching and buying cars today the role of the salesperson has had to change.  At Lookers our sales staff are at the forefront of our business, they are there to connect customers to their ideal car, negotiate and organise delivery as well as offer advice on aftersales options too.  So how are Lookers dealing with the massive changes in car sales? And what affect does this have on the car salespersons role?

We spoke to some of our sales staff from across the company including staff from newly acquired Benfield to get their views on how the role is changing.​:

Matthew Spencer

Matthew Spencer has been working in sales at Lookers Vauxhall Star City for the last year. Matthew has had many years’ experience in sales having worked in retail and training;he has also worked for Motorpoint. We spoke to Matthew to find out how the car industry differs to other sales roles:

What makes Lookers different than previous sales roles you have worked in?

In a number of ways, the Lookers ethos towards customer is similar to some of the previous positions I have had – this was a big attraction to me. The main difference is probably down to the fact that most people look forward to buying a car, but not to dealing with the salesman.

What skills do you need to be a good car salesperson?

Be adaptable and a good listener, have empathy be trustworthy and of course knowledgeable. You also need to be self-aware so that you can put yourself in the customers shoes. I always treat people the way I want to be treated myself (or the way I would want my family to be looked after).

What attracted you to this role?

Customer interaction is a big thing for me. The earnings potential is also a factor.

Are you finding that customers are much more knowledgeable about the type of car they want now before they come into the dealership?

In some ways yes. There is a lot of information available to customers but I don’t feel that it always helps as much as it could and can cause confusion. A number of review websites give information based on an opinion rather than facts so the job of the salesperson is to educate/re-educate the customer without coming across as being pushy.

Andy Bruce Lookers CEO has said he wants to change the way Lookers sales staff are paid so it is no longer basic salary with high commission and rather a higher salary with an element of bonus based on customer satisfaction – What do you think of this?

For the industry to change, this is probably a necessity as that will start to attract people that would maybe have looked elsewhere previously. I do feel that it would make a big difference to the customer’s opinion of the industry though so I think it would be a good thing.

What do you like most about your job?

I work in a nice dealership that looks great. There is also a good team of people that work here which can then have a knock on effect to customers.

Is there anything you would change about the role/working environment?

The fluctuations in monthly pay can be difficult at times, so something to level that out would be good help but I know that this is traditionally part of the role.


Daniel Thompson

Daniel Thompson began working for Benfield’s Skoda/Kia dealership in January this year, before this he worked voluntary for the company at the weekends where he gained experience of the industry. Soon to be joining the Lookers group, we asked Daniel his opinion on the car buying process:

What skills do you need to be a good car salesperson?

Friendly, open-minded, never pre-judge, be up for any challenge

What attracts you to this type of role?

I never wanted to work in an office type role doing the same thing day in day out, I prefer this environment as you get to meet so many different people and do different things.

Are you finding that customers already know what model they want before they visit the showroom?

Yes absolutely 90% of the time we just help steer them in the right direction.

Do you think it’s important to have a good website to attract customers into the showroom?

Yes, most customers do online research before coming into showroom so it is important to have a well laid out clear website.

Andy Bruce Lookers CEO has said he wants to change the way Lookers sales staff are so it is no longer basic salary with high commission and rather a higher salary with an element of bonus based on customer satisfaction – What do you think of this?

I think this is a good idea as sometimes when you’re on commission you feel as though you are rushing to get things done. This would help deliver a better experience to the customer and they will trust us more.

What do you like most about your job?

Meeting new people and seeing them happy when they leave with their new car

Is there anything you would change about the role?

No, well maybe having Ferrari’s as company cars!

Marcus Mollison

Marcus Mollison has worked for Lookers Vauxhall Selly Oak dealership since February this year, this is his first sales role and so far he has been thoroughly enjoying it. We asked Marcus why he chose this role, what skills were needed for it and what he enjoyed most about it:

What skills do you need to be a good car salesperson?

Intelligence, Humour, People Skills, Charm, Confidence and Hunger to achieve and learn

What attracts you to this type of role?

What attracted me to this role was the way everything is always changing the way this job keeps you on your toes, I feel this is important in life as no day is ever the same you always a have a different day when you walk through the doors in the morning.

Are you finding that customers are now much more knowledgeable about the type of car they want when they visit the showroom?

YES! When customers come in now they already know so much about the product as they have scoured over the internet looking for the perfect car

Do you think that having a new responsive website is helping the sales process or hindering it?

Both really, It helps in a way buy the customer can easily get the answers they want and know exactly what they are buying which makes them feel far more comfortable about when they come in to buy but also can put people off if it doesn’t have the specifications they need.

Andy Bruce has said he wants to change the way Lookers sales staff are paid so it is no longer basic salary with high commission and rather a higher salary with an element of bonus based on customer satisfaction – What do you think of this?

As long as it rewards the good sales executives and doesn’t hinder them I’m all for it. We now live in an age where a customer’s complaint can destroy a business so I agree with Mr Bruce we should be paid on how well we sell to our customers.

What do you like most about your job?

The best thing I like about my job is that I get to work with great people and I get to meet new people every day and no day is the same.

Lookers are doing all they can to try and help their sales staff with the changes in the car buying process. As well as transitioning to a new pay structure which encompasses customer service goals, they also have plans to make their showrooms more digital. In some dealerships such as Glasgow Audi customers can take their car in for an MOT or Service and watch the whole process via an ‘Audi Cam’ and ask the technician any questions via a two way audio link.

By Jenna Niblock