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Do EVs need a different sales process? Guest opinion

Martin Hill, CEO of Dealerweb

It may be a truism that the only constant in motor retailing is change. The vehicles motorists are buying, how they are powered and the ownership model evolve at an ever-faster pace.

The Society of Motor Manufacturers and Traders (SMMT) new car registrations figures for January showed battery electric vehicle (BEV) registrations jumped 54.4% on the year before.

Change is here, and dealers of all sizes have to quickly adapt their sales processes to address the booming EV market.

Over the last 20 years, the internet has changed the car buying process. Motorists used to make multiple visits to a dealer to inform their purchase decision. Today many buyers will arrive at the dealer with a vehicle and purchase price in mind.

The growth of digital retail and click and collect shows that buyers are far more likely to make their mind up in their own time and are increasingly happy to transact online without ever seeing the vehicle.

However, buying an EV for the first time is a significant step away from the ICE technology many people are used to, and dealers can help close the sale by supporting buyers through the decision-making process.

Google data suggests the average car buyer has more than 900 digital interactions, ranging from seeing an advertisement to car reviews and YouTube videos. Each of these touchpoints can reinforce the service message and start to personalise the buyer’s experience.

Using enquiry management platforms will help build a picture of the customer and a single point of truth that the whole team can use to deliver a unique car buying experience. Dealers can create points of experience that will result in a much higher chance of making the sale and securing their future business.

Sales teams must be knowledgeable on the latest grants from government subsidies to some councils providing free parking for EVs. Customers will need detailed information on battery range, charging times and infrastructure, and understanding the vehicle’s technology.

How many dealers are using over the air software updates as a reason to connect with customers once they’ve purchased the vehicle?

While EVs have less need for servicing, there are still aftersales opportunities that generate revenue from brakes to tyres.

Once the lockdown lifts, dealers should also consider longer test drives to help address some of the concerns that buyers may have. The driving dynamics of EVs can help to convert sceptical customers.

Understanding a buyer's day-to-day driving and lifestyle will help match them to the appropriate EV product or explain that an EV isn't right for them and suggest a suitable ICE product.

Dealers can also add to the ease of the buying experience by creating relationships with home charger installers and EV charging networks. Smoothing this part of the journey can add real value and peace of mind. It will also create another revenue stream for the dealer.

The tools are there to help dealers create a buying experience that is second to none.

Long-term relationships can be built with customers by helping them manage the transition to EVs and its an opportunity that won’t be here forever.

Author: Martin Hill, strategy director, Dealerweb 

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