A Lot-Up is Still an Appointment

Is a customer who did their research online but didn’t book an appointment still an appointment? The idea that the customer did their research online – blocked off their schedule and plans on coming to the dealership with intentions to buy – just didn’t set an appointment with “you,” is still an appointment is not new. More so, it’s the idea that the closing rate for walk-ins should be roughly the same as the closing rate for an appointment. The customer isn’t just stopping in for the thrill of it. The customer is coming in to purchase a vehicle. Yet, the closing rate for an appointment vs. walk-ins tends to be something nobody talks about. How many deals are you losing by not having a solid process for handling walk-in appointments? Perception is reality and the customer does in fact have an appointment, you just don’t know about it….

Think about it for a moment. The customer who walks in has still done their research. They most likely have even been on your website looking at the vehicles they are interested in. Or have even secured financing. This is not to say your Sales Consultant or F&I Manager couldn’t make the switch in the box to using one of your lenders. The point is why is the closing rate lower for walk-in “appointments” vs. traditionally “scheduled” appointments? 

To break this down, the first question is, what’s the difference between a scheduled appointment vs. a customer making their own appointment to purchase a vehicle? Does it even matter that the customer scheduled their own appointment – showing up to the dealership on a Saturday – vs. scheduling an appointment online with a BD Agent or Sales Consultant? Knowing that 95% of the customers, regardless of having an appointment online or not, have done their research online (and may have actually called in) before visiting the dealership, what difference does it make? At the end of the day, you still have a customer on the lot who intends to purchase a vehicle. And, after all, the hours on your door don’t say “by appointment only,” do they?

Yet, when this does happen, we spend so much time asking, “where did you hear about us” to figure out which site or vehicle they landed on, which offer they saw and what they’re expecting for their trade. Whereas, what if we approached the scenario with a strong wants and needs analysis instead? This is about having a solid process. A process that lends itself to working whether or not you knew about the customer’s appointment. Even if the customer did have an appointment scheduled, how many of them actually purchase the vehicle they inquired on? Most do not. And this is because your Sales Consultant or Sales Manager performed a critical part of the process, a Wants and Needs Analysis. 

You see, it doesn’t matter whether or not the customer had a “booked” appointment you knew about or simply showed up. The fact is that the customer came into the dealership to purchase a vehicle. How many customers simply go into the dealership for the fun of it? Not very many. But if we don’t take the time to understand what their needs are, the closing rate will be less than half or worse than what the closing rate is for an appointment. Heck, even when you break down the closing rate on appointments booked with a BD Agent or Sales Consultant, they could be marked inactive due to: “unable to finance,” “not in the market,” or “not interested in what we have,” which while some of these might be the real reason, it surely cannot be the reason for more than 50% of the customers that walk into the dealership to purchase a vehicle. And sure, it’s not realistic to think you’ll close 100% of the walk-in traffic, but what if you closed 10% more sales by having a solid Wants and Needs Analysis? With the understanding that regardless of whether the customer had an appointment or not, they came into the dealership to purchase a vehicle. And honestly, who cares? They’re here to buy! Vendors and technology have done us a disservice with over-analysis and when it shifts our focus to senseless detail instead of all-important retail, all is lost.  

Bottom Line: whether the customer had a physical appointment booked or not, they had an appointment to purchase a vehicle in their mind. And if we’d taken the time to perform a strong wants and needs analysis with the customer, how many more deals could we have closed? It’s no secret that most customers don’t simply show up to the lot for the thrill of it. They came intending to make a purchase. But if we don’t have a solid process and simply go through the motions – the worst being not going on the test drive or completing the wants and needs analysis – then sure, you’re not going to have a strong closing rate. 

What’s the difference in your process for an appointment you know about vs. one you do not – other than it’s in the CRM?

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